GVHL operates over India’s vast landscape on heli-pilgrimage and charter operations with its newest star, the H130, in pride of place. Here we take a look at the company’s culture of safety and how it handles high-volume flights to India’s sacred temples.
Its three largest cities exceed 17 million inhabitants each, its topography reaches from Indian Ocean beaches to frozen Himalayan peaks, and its territorial expanse is literally a subcontinent: to fly in India requires intimate knowledge of its unique features, from high and hot conditions to navigating high-density cities.
With over 210,000 accident free flight hours in heli-pilgrimage, charter, aerial survey, oil and gas, and utility services, Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd. (GVHL) is India’s largest private helicopter operator. The company’s areas of operation cover the whole of India, from Katra, Kedarnath and Amarnath in the north, to Barmer and Mumbai in the west, Goa in the south, and Bihar and Vizag in the east.
GVHL counts a fleet of eight aircraft from the Airbus Helicopters line: four H125 are used in passenger transport and aerial work, two H155 for VIP and offshore, an H135 which doubles for VIP and medical support services, and an H130 – with a ninth expected for delivery in the second quarter of this year – used exclusively for heli-pilgrimage work.
“The H130 is proving to be an excellent performer,” says A.J. Baker, CEO of GVHL. “The heli-pilgrimage region is in mountains and valleys at high altitude, so weather changes need to be monitored constantly. Heli-pilgrimage is a high-tempo operation with hundreds of passengers transported each day; managing the loading and unloading process is quite an intense activity.”
The H130 improves upon its EC130 predecessor in elements designed for passenger comfort. Enhancements include a vibration control system, improved air conditioning, a cabin interior with a full flat floor, and new energy-absorbing seats. Its spacious cabin and lightweight body have made it a favorite for use in sightseeing services and shuttle and charter operations around the world.
Baker praises the enclosed Fenestron tail rotor of this newest addition to the fleet as an advantage to safety, while adding that its operational characteristics are a bonus on pilgrimage missions. “The aircraft’s reliability and its smooth ride are positives, especially for our type of operations,” he says. “But one of the highest impact features is the additional passenger seat, which adds great benefit in high-tempo passenger transport activities.”
To ensure greater access to critical support and services, GVHL became the first customer to include a Smart Parts-by-the-Hour HCare support package. “Our H130 is used for intense operations and we wanted the assurance of guaranteed, rapid access to spares and support so that we can maintain optimum aircraft availability,” Baker says. “Being under PBH also ensures a smoother budgeting process, as our scheduled maintenance requirements are fully catered for.”
Having access to local support from Airbus Helicopters’ offices in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore provides the operator with innumerable advantages. “We are seeing clear efforts from the Airbus Helicopters India team to proactively assist us with areas of our business,” Baker says. Early this year, for example, GVHL engaged the manufacturer to deliver ICAO standard Safety Management System (SMS) training. “Our entire safety approach is geared towards adopting best practice for the industry at an international level, along with engaging in a process of continual improvement. We have a sound SMS in place and are expanding our safety and audit training programs across the company, which contributes strongly in promoting our safety culture.”
With its second H130 on the way, the company takes pride in its place on the stage of India’s helicopter operations. “The first flight of our H130 was special,” says Baker. “It was the first of our aircraft operating at Katra in full company colors. It really stands out as the new star on the helipads.”
Airbus Helicopters International Services (AHIS) offers safety training, among other services, to customer centers and operators worldwide. Early this year, the consulting service received a request – via Airbus Helicopters’ customer center in India – to deliver classes on flight safety and SMS* to operator Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd. (GVHL). Over the course of five days in March, 18 members of management and key departments attended personalized lectures at GVHL’s offices in Mumbai.
Led by AHIS instructor Didier Massat, GVHL’s staff – including CEO A.J. Baker and the company’s senior executives – attended classes designed to raise awareness of safety policy and objectives. The week’s syllabus, based on ICAO** standards, was broken down into more than ten areas, including hazard identification, risk management, mechanism of accident, and a phased approach to SMS implementation. Sharing Airbus Helicopters’ worldwide experience and best practices, Didier Massat led an open discussion session on the final day of classes.
"I would like to submit that the program was excellent and delivered good learning value,” said Capt. Rajiv Kumar, Head of Safety at GVHL. “Didier’s presentation was very good. His mastery of the subject was evident in the way the program was delivered and the way the discussions were guided and managed. His vast experience in the field gave him an advantage, as he could quote examples from within our industry, thereby bringing credibility to the delivery. Didier Massat was an excellent instructor."
AHIS’s customer-focused services are part of Airbus Helicopters’ larger priority to support flight safety by offering innovative solutions to customers worldwide.
*SMS: Safety Management System
** ICAO: International Civil Aviation Organisation