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Eagle Copters Australasia (ECA) has acquired maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) specialist Heliwork QLD, doubling its staff count and expanding its presence northward along Australia’s east coast.
The move is part of the growth strategy of ECA’s parent company, Calgary, Alberta-based Eagle Copters. Having established its Australian outpost in 2011 (and subsequently moving it to Coffs Harbour, New South Wales), Eagle Copters is looking to expand its ability to provide fleet management for third parties around the world.
“We want to grow our customer base, we want to grow our footprint, and our overall strategy is to continue our global growth based on our value proposition — which is worldwide fleet management, and doing everything except operating and flying,” said Barry Kohler, president and CEO of Eagle Copters. “We saw with Heliwork the opportunity to grow the business with the clear thought that if we consolidate the two customer bases from these companies, the total will end up being greater than the sum of the parts.”
Heliwork is based in Redcliffe, Queensland, about 210 miles (340 kilometers) north of ECA’s Coffs Harbour base. Established in 1995, its specialty is heavy maintenance and customization, including component overhaul, non-destructive testing (NDT), composite repair, and paint work in a 50- by 80-foot (15- by 25-meter) paint shop.
“Heliwork has a reputation within the industry of providing high quality work delivered by an experienced and loyal workforce,” said Grant Boyter, director of ECA. “Heliwork co-owners John McClymont and Josh Malligan have built a solid and well respected MRO business that will dovetail nicely into the Eagle Group’s business model and culture.”
Kohler added that Heliwork will also bring an established and loyal customer base. “Hopefully the synergy between the two organizations will help us grow the client base further and provide superior levels of customer service,” he said.
The combined facilities now span over 45,000 square feet with over 40 full-time staff.
While ECA typically has had more of a focus on Bell medium airframes, Heliwork is one of the more diverse MRO facilities in Australia, working on types including the Robinson R44; Bell 206 JetRanger, LongRanger, 205, 212, 407 and 412; Airbus AS350, AS355, BK117 and SA315; MD 500; and Leonardo AW109 and AW119.
Boyter said Heliwork’s location on the edge of Brisbane provides easy access to major and regional airports including Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
“Southeast Queensland is very active when it comes to helicopters and aviation,” he said. “In fact, there’s more helicopters registered in Queensland than any other state in Australia.”
ECA and Heliwork have often been competitors in the past, providing many similar services and often targeting the same customers. As such, Boyter believes there will be good synergies from the combination of the two companies — as well as benefits to customers.
“Some customers won’t have to travel as far from where [many] aircraft are based, in Queensland,” said Boyter. “The two facilities will also allow us to balance customer needs with facility capacity and workforce planning, generally providing increased capabilities and capacity.”
Kohler said ECA has seen steady growth since its opening and said the Heliwork acquisition would allow the company to grow even faster in the future.
While ECA focuses largely on the Australian market, the company has also had success placing its Eagle 407 HP, in which the Bell 407’s existing Rolls-Royce 250-C47B engine is replaced with a 1,021-horsepower Honeywell HTS900-2, beyond the country’s borders. Two are now in operation in Indonesia, and one is flying in Papua New Guinea.
“[Eagle Copters] Australasia is responsible for all of our Asia-Pacific business,” said Kohler, “but we have a limited presence right now in Asia just because of where we are geographically.”
He added that the company is particularly keen to explore the market in China, and has had “a number of organizations” approach Eagle Copters to partner in the country.
“We just have to find the right business model and the right partner fit,” he said.
Eagle Copters already has a subsidiary in South America (near Santiago, Chile) but Kohler said Western Europe is also a potential target for expansion.
Worldwide, Eagle Copters now has a fleet of over 60 leased aircraft, and fleet management is a key growth area for the company.
“We provide a complete support model for those aircraft,” said Kohler. “We provide all the component support and all the fleet support for our customers, which differentiates us from other lessors.”
The company also offers fleet management for aircraft belonging to third parties, with Kohler estimating that Eagle Copters has about 25 aircraft on site that are either being stored or reconfigured for their owners.
As a part of Eagle Copters’ increased focus in providing asset management for customers, it has created a new dedicated customer support team, led by long-term Eagle employee Kelly Labas. The company believes this move will formalize its global approach to customer support.
“Our whole business model in terms of how we get business from anyone is based on our customer intimacy and the customer experience — it’s the completeness of our solution,” said Kohler. “The customer support team will just add structure and formality as to how customers reach out to us. I think they will see it as a centralized place to get what they need even faster than they do now.”