[ACCI-CAVIE] The UAE’s helicopter, jet charter, and MRO service operator, Abu Dhabi Aviation (Stand 1120), has established local operating companies in Ghana and Cyprus to cover West Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, as the drive for new project work with international oil majors Eni, BP, Chevron, Exxon, and Total continues.
“We’re doing our best to win tenders and to get local content in different countries,” Abu Dhabi Aviation (ADA) Commercial Department director Mark Pierotti told AIN. “It makes sense, and we [want] to keep our fleet modern and up-to-date.”
ADA is an approved aviation service provider for major oil and gas companies around the world and continues to expand internationally in Europe, Africa, and Asia as well as the Middle East. “In the past two years, we’ve moved aircraft into Cyprus, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Zambia, and Malaysia,” he said.
ADA has added a number of new Leonardo AW139s, as well as two Airbus H145s. “We’re up to 65 aircraft,” he said. “The majority is rotary-wing, with the new Airbus and the new Leonardos in that number. Our fixed-wing Dash 8s are working hard as well, conducting regional flights in central Asia.” Leonardo Connection
Pierotti said the company has a special relationship with Leonardo. “The oil and gas industry is really embracing the AW139,” he explained. “We quickly realized its importance.” ADA has added three AW139s and two AW169s in the past two years.
The company has considered larger aircraft such as the AW189 and Bell 525, but Pierotti said larger variants had yet to establish their market feasibility.
He added that ADA restrategized when Covid hit. “We looked at where it could affect us and where we could find opportunities and we managed to capitalize on them,” he noted. “Covid did affect us. Staff became sick and restrictions really hit our operation; pilots and engineers were marooned in different countries. We couldn’t get them back for projects. Nevertheless, we reacted and did very well in 2019 and 2020.”
ADA’s two new projects in Malaysia and Angola involve four AW139s. It placed two AW139 oil and gas helicopters with Sazma Aviation in Malaysia, which supplies national oil company Petronas with offshore oil and gas. ADA provides aircraft, spare parts support, and consignments, and power by the hour.
“ADA is looking to expand with Sazma with more AW139s,” said Pierotti. “In Angola, we supplied Bestfly in July with two brand new AW139s straight from the factory, PBH, and training for their pilots, also for the oil and gas industry. We are continuing to work with both companies as new customers. Bestfly is hoping to expand further with Eni and Chevron, with AW139s and AW169s.”
Cyprus has also been an important territory, signaling the company’s entry into Europe. “We worked with Synesis Aviation, and we supplied the AW139 for oil and gas tenders,” he said. “We continued our relationship in Europe with Spain’s Pegasus Aviation, supplying them with firefighting aircraft.”
The government of Abu Dhabi owns 30 percent of ADA, while UAE national shareholders, including a number on the Abu Dhabi Securities Market, control the rest. The group includes global charter operator Royal Jet, Maximus Cargo Airline, ADA Millennium Consultancy, Abu Dhabi Aviation Training Company, and Adaire Real Estate Company.
UAE Government Contracts
In the UAE, ADA provides service for several governmental bodies, ranging from the Abu Dhabi Police Aviation Division to the UAE Presidential Guard Command to the Presidential Flight. It also works with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which has a number of affiliates that also require both onshore and offshore lift. In Saudi Arabia, customers include Aramco, the Saudi Red Crescent Authority, and the Red Sea Development Company.
In September 2021, ADA followed up on an April letter of intent with a formal offer for Falcon Aviation, the rival helicopter, fixed-wing, and MRO operator in the UAE capital. “There is nothing more to add at this stage,” Pierotti said in September.
With the situation in Afghanistan winding down, Pierotti said ADA had to bring aircraft home. “That was a long project that [recently] ended,” he said. “In India, we found a new customer with Thumby Aviation, who are taking a Bell 412.”
He said Nigeria had proved a successful venture and that ADA had three aircraft there. “Ghana is still in our vision as are other West African countries,” noted Pierroti. “All the oil and gas companies are issuing tenders, and we will compete in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal.”
On Bell aircraft, ADA has placed two older 412s into South Africa with Ultimate Helicopters, which operates in Zambia. It also developed its MRO and AOC qualifications by adding the Airbus H135 to its AOC, as well to its Part 145 maintenance rating.
The renewables market stands as a key part of the company’s strategy, as it investigates alternative business lines and revenue sources. “The alternative energy market requires helicopters for windmill assembly, cable and windmill inspections, cleaning, and maintenance,” said Pierroti. “We are trying to get into West Africa and Northern Europe, and they’ve all got offshore wind farms.”
In the next 12 to 24 months, ADA hopes to win a contract for renewable energy helicopter use, cleaning, and wind turbine assembly. “Many of the areas are in the north of Europe, and that means competing with the big names in Scotland, in particular, Norway, Belgium, and Denmark,” he said. “We know that’s challenging because the British and European companies are strong there, but it is something we’re considering. Our strength is still the Middle East and our core customer remains ADNOC; ADA is still the biggest in MENA.”
Pierotti sees the Dubai Airshow as an important event for the company. “All our group companies are going to have a strong presence there,” he concluded. “Our leadership has the vision to take the ADA Group into the future, and we offer reliable and capable aviation services worldwide.”
by Peter Shaw-Smith