Blackpool helicopter base passes milestone despite Covid disruption

The helicopter company which flies from Blackpool Airport to oil and gas rigs in the Irish sea has passed a major milestone.

By Tim Gavell
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 12:30 pm

At the end of 2020, while COVID was putting most of the world into lockdown, NHV moved into a new base in Blackpool and bringing the AW169 helicopter into the UK Oil and Gas market.

With the pandemic challenging all business operations, NHV said it nevertheless enjoyed a successful 2021 and beginning of 2022, reaching more than 1,550 flying hours with the AW169 from Blackpool, while remaining as flexible as possible to support COVID flights, collecting offshore passengers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and safely bringing them back onshore.

There is an energy-rich stretch of the Irish Sea that hosts several offshore platforms, providing the UK with oil and gas, and NHV said Blackpool was the ideal base for offshore helicopter operations.

The Leonardo AW169operated by NHV from Blackpool Airport Photo by Danny Nixon at Rotor Imagery

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NHV won the contract to provide passenger transfer services for Spirit Energy and later added ENI’s East Irish Sea operations, replacing Babcock which used to fly from the airport.

Tom Freeman, base manager of Blackpool said: “2020 – 2021 was an interesting and challenging time to set up a new base and commence operations for our new clients.

"We are delighted that we managed to succeed and are going from strength to strength primarily due to our incredibly dedicated team who strive to deliver the best service for our clients.”

The Leonardo AW169operated by NHV from Blackpool Airport Photo by Danny Nixon at Rotor Imagery

NHV has become the launch partner of the Leonardo AW169 aircraft in the UK Oil and Gas market, with the introduction of this latest helicopter type into its fleet.

The AW169 was chosen as the optimal solution when performing the required services in the East Irish Sea, given the limitations of some of the offshore helidecks. This aircraft is the latest generation twin-turbine helicopter, featuring class-leading performance and a versatile capability in the most demanding operating conditions.

The AW169 avionics system uses the latest technology in the rotary-wing industry with its design entirely managed in-house by the helicopter manufacturer, Leonardo. The AW169 features the most modern platform in the light-intermediate category, incorporating very intuitive touch screens instead of control panels, making a huge weight and space-saving.

The Auxiliary Power Unit mode is a great feature, allowing us to run one engine without the rotor blades turning, providing electrical power to systems to allow for a safer and quieter turnaround when required.

Gareth Bithell, Chief Pilot at NHV Blackpool said: “The AW169 is a very capable aircraft in the offshore shuttle environment, and in poor conditions, as it is rated to sea state 6, it also has strong

ditching capabilities and has flown in 60kt winds. At NHV, we find it can handle strong winds and turbulence with ease.”