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On the job and above expectations


Offshore oil & gas exploration occurs in one of the most challenging environments in the world, placing huge demands on the people and machinery that work there. The H175 is proving itself more than capable of meeting these demands, and, after more than two months in service, the first operator NHV says the helicopter is performing above expectations.

Article: B. Cece

On the H175 demo tour in May 2014, NHV Chief Executive Officer Eric van Hal said that pilots, employees and customers were all impressed by the aircraft’s capabilities. “We’re looking forward to having this helicopter in our fleet,” he added. “So let him come!”

That moment arrived on December 11, 2014 when NHV received the first two H175s becoming the first operator of this new generation of helicopters. The aircraft were put into service in Den Helder, Netherlands, just one week after delivery.

“From then on, we performed at least two commercial flights and a couple of training flights each day,” says Pieter Broos, NHV base manager in Den Helder. “Flight hours rose, the number of flights increased, and we built both the operational and technical experience of the team. It soon became clear that the H175 is living up to its reputation.”

Pieter Broos, NHV base manager in Den Helder

Battling strong winds and heavy rain

Den Helder is located in the part of northern Holland known as Kop van Noord-Holland. From there, the H175 helicopters are mainly used for transporting crews and supplies to oil and gas platforms. Conditions over the North Sea can be harsh, especially in winter: to reach the offshore platforms, helicopters need to perform safe long-distance flights through strong winds, heavy rain and rapidly changing weather conditions – precisely the sort of challenging environment the H175 was designed for. The most difficult mission NHV performed with the H175 was in winds of 55 knots, while the longest-range flight carried seven passengers plus luggage 175 nautical miles without refuelling.

Passenger- and pilot-friendly

The H175 offers the largest cabin compared to other helicopters in its class and a very low vibration rate.

According to Broos, this is exactly what passengers and crew appreciate most: “The comfort levels are unprecedented and passengers are very pleased with their new air-taxi. In addition to low levels of noise and vibrations, the H175 has large windows, comfortable seating, personal lighting and air-conditioning.”

Rob Molenaar is a logistics superintendent at Wintershall, an oil company using the H175 to transport workers to its offshore platforms. He confirms that Wintershall’s employees are very happy with the new aircraft: “The cargo space is large and there is easy access. Passenger seating is comfortable thanks to the back supports.”

Fleet availability at all times

By February 2015, only two months after entering service, the aircraft had flown 415 hours in 230 flights thanks to a fleet availability of 90%. In August 2015, the H175s had accumulated more than 1,000 flight hours and transported more than 12,000 passengers.

“The comfort levels are unprecedented and passengers are very pleased with their new air-taxi.”

“Due to the high level of reliability, we’ve been able to adhere to tight flight schedules without delays. This results in a less hectic work environment, and the ability to carry out more flights per day than before”, says Broos.

Furthermore, maintenance needs are below the original target. Inspections made after the first 400 flight hours were performed without any need for unplanned maintenance. Much of this success is due to the maturity campaign that was completed prior to the aircraft’s entry into service. Something the customer very much appreciates.

“Years ago, Airbus Helicopters began to involve its customers more during the preliminary design phases of a new helicopter type,” Broos explains. “As we can see now, this initiative has definitely borne fruit.”

The close collaboration with the customer continues after delivery. A dedicated organization was set up specifically to provide top support to H175 customers. A team of Airbus Helicopters employees is available around the clock to respond to requests or questions and can also provide technical support on site. The goal is to guarantee safety and fleet availability at any time, seven days a week.

“The level of support offered by Airbus Helicopters during the preparatory work for entry-into-service and the first months of operation was unrivalled," says Broos. "It soon became a real partnership between us and we’ve grown closer and closer to each other each day.”

3 Questions for Rob Molenaar, logistics superintendent at oil company Wintershall:

1) How was the introduction of the H175?
We performed almost 200 flights with only one preventive unplanned downtime. This is the best introduction you could imagine.

2) What were the passengers’ first impressions?
Our oil rig workers are very satisfied. They find the helicopter comfortable, quiet and well-engineered.

3) What do you appreciate most about the aircraft?
If I had to choose two characteristics, I’d say the speed and the extended range, which means less refuelling is required. Rotor heating and a cover on the radio console in the passenger cabin would be nice additions, but all in all it is in honour to have the H175 in our service.

Belgian based NHV Group, a fast growing international helicopter service provider, delivers offshore crew change services in the North Sea, Africa (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria) and selected locations world-wide. In addition, NHV operates in the market segments of Search and Rescue (“SAR”), Maritime Services, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (“HEMS”) and onshore aerial work. NHV has been flying a variety of Airbus helicopters since 1997 and has ordered a total of 16 H175s to be delivered over the period 2014 to 2018.

The H175 is a medium-sized twin-engine helicopter for a full range of missions, including airlift duties for oil & gas operators, search and rescue, emergency medical services, public services and VIP and executive transport. The 7-metric-ton category rotorcraft offers a maximum cruise speed approaching 160 kts, the Helionix® avionics suite and a maximum take-off weight of 7,500 kg.