In case of emer­gency

He­li­copter res­cue seems like some­thing you’d see in an ac­tion film, ex­cept emer­gency res­cue is all too real and oc­curs all too of­ten. So who are the people be­hind these ser­vices and what else do they do? Jonathan Jack­son ex­am­ines the ne­ces­sity for com­pani

Business First - - CONTENTS -

– He­li­copter res­cue seems like some­thing you’d see in an ac­tion film, ex­cept emer­gency res­cue is all too real and oc­curs all too of­ten. So who are the people be­hind these ser­vices and what else do they do? Jonathan Jack­son ex­am­ines the ne­ces­sity for com­pa­nies such as CHC He­li­copters.

Nick Mair’s Scot­tish brogue is un­mis­tak­able, as his ded­i­ca­tion to CHC He­li­copters, with whom he has grown since 1999. If there is one thing he knows, it is he­li­copters. He has been in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try for over 20 years. Yet it is a dif­fer­ent facet of the he­li­copter in­dus­try in which he is in­volved: a very im­por­tant ser­vice oper­a­tion that saves lives and also links the isolation of gas and oil rigs and those work­ing on them back to the land and wait­ing fam­i­lies.

En­tre­pre­neur Craig Dob­bin, along with a group of in­vestors had the vi­sion to put he­li­copters into the oil and gas mar­kets. They cre­ated Cana­dian Hold­ing Com­pany (CHC) and went on an ac­qui­si­tion spree. While Dob­bin no longer owns CHC, he made a smart de­ci­sion and the busi­ness never looked back.

When Nick joined in the last year of the twen­ti­eth century, CHC had ac­quired He­li­copter Ser­vices Group of Nor­way (in­clud­ing Bond He­li­copters), He­likopter Ser­vice AS, Lloyd He­li­copters of Aus­tralia and Court He­li­copters of South Africa.

It was a great time to join and Nick worked through the com­pany to be­come re­gional vice pres­i­dent for the Western North Sea Di­vi­sion fol­low­ing the in­te­gra­tion of CHC’s Euro­pean and global op­er­a­tions into a sin­gle He­li­copter Ser­vices Di­vi­sion.

Tasked with leading CHC’s busi­ness units in the UK, the Nether­lands and Den­mark, Nick over­saw the oil and gas busi­ness and the search and res­cue bases in Ire­land and the UK.

To­day he heads up op­er­a­tions in

Aus­tralia and South East Asia as the re­gional di­rec­tor Asia Pa­cific.

“Aus­tralia is a rel­a­tively new mar­ket, but the his­tory goes back,” Nick says. “I put the longevity of this com­pany down to its abil­ity to pro­vide so­lu­tions to our cus­tomers. More re­cently we have made bold de­ci­sions and pre­dicted what he­li­copter types would be suit­able to cus­tomer op­er­a­tions to en­able us to get ahead of the game. And us­ing the size of the com­pany we can deliver cost ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions.”

Aus­tralia is ob­vi­ously a nat­u­ral fit for what CHC does. Af­ter the ac­qui­si­tion of Lloyd He­li­copters, the core busi­ness of emer­gency ser­vices mul­ti­plied into siz­able op­por­tu­ni­ties in oil and gas.

“We moved from Ade­laide to Perth and closer to oil and gas pro­duc­ers,” Nick says. “It’s a mar­ket that will con­tinue grow. Mean­while be­cause of the sheer size of the coun­try there will al­ways be a lot of op­por­tu­nity in search and res­cue. So from a strate­gic po­si­tion, there is growth in both sec­tors.” So what ex­actly does CHC do? “We pro­vide a crit­i­cal ser­vice. Search

“We have en­joyed the close and open work­ing en­vi­ron­ment that has been de­vel­oped be­tween both com­pa­nies as we see it is an ef­fec­tive ap­proach to do­ing busi­ness and we look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to sup­port CHC for their fu­ture en­deav­ours” Siko­rsky

and Res­cue is al­ways a ser­vice that is re­quired and we have the ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­vide ex­cel­lent ser­vice. You may just see a he­li­copter, how­ever the skill and ex­per­tise of the people who pro­vide the ser­vice is ex­cep­tional. Their ex­pe­ri­ence and train­ing gives cus­tomers a sense of com­fort. On the oil and gas side, it is also a crit­i­cal ser­vice be­cause people can’t get back to shore quickly and safely with­out it. We have skilled pi­lots and en­gi­neers who can deal with any sit­u­a­tion and that is a good place to be.”

Some­times those sit­u­a­tions are harsh. Aus­tralia is un­for­tu­nately renowned for its nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and that’s where in­tense train­ing stands CHC in good stead with its cus­tomers.

“It’s not only the people caught in these sit­u­a­tions who are ex­posed. It is our pi­lots as well. How­ever, they are trained to deal with most of the things they see. We have post event coun­sel­ing ser­vices. We pro­vide on­go­ing sup­port. They are an amaz­ing bunch of people and do a lot for the com­mu­ni­ties they are help­ing.”

There is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of train­ing un­der­taken be­cause a sig­nif­i­cant amount of skill is re­quired, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to emer­gency ser­vices.

“We can’t sim­plify re­cruit­ment; it re­quires a sig­nif­i­cant level of skill and train­ing, dili­gence in sign­ing off people at var­i­ous stages of highly pre­scribed pro­grammes. They then go into live op­er­a­tions and fly with ex­pe­ri­enced per­son­nel. The train­ing en­sures that pi­lots only go out when they have met the cri­te­ria.”

Emer­gency ser­vices are an im­por­tant el­e­ment of the CHC busi­ness, how­ever in Aus­tralia oil and gas rep­re­sents 75% of all busi­ness. The other 25% is di­vided be­tween emer­gency ser­vice and main­te­nance and re­pair.

Man­ag­ing the lo­gis­tics of this is an im­pres­sive feat. Nick’s char­ter when he ar­rived in Aus­tralia was to en­act

rea­son­ably paced growth and im­ple­ment sys­tems, pro­cesses and struc­tures to fa­cil­i­tate this. He had come from a more ma­ture mar­ket in the UK and his ex­pe­ri­ence was needed Down Un­der.

In his first year, his aim was to make him­self vis­i­ble. He made a pact to visit all bases around the coun­try. He made it to all but one, how­ever vis­ited some bases mul­ti­ple times. Ge­og­ra­phy in Aus­tralia is a chal­lenge, but Nick recog­nised the op­por­tu­ni­ties.

To keep abreast of things when he’s not on base he en­gages in ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing con­fer­ence calls within a sig­nif­i­cant com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work, but he un­der­stands that face to face con­tact is in­valu­able and at­tempts it as much as pos­si­ble to en­able em­ploy­ees to raise con­cerns.

In terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Nick is open and di­rect.

“There is no am­bi­gu­ity. I am al­ways cal­i­brat­ing mes­sages so that I can gain a full-pic­ture per­spec­tive. I will al­ways be hon­est but I will some­times give an an­swer people aren’t look­ing for. How­ever it is the truth and the an­swer I stand by. This or­gan­i­sa­tion is about trans­parency.”

As for growth, Nick says CHC is com­fort­able with the mar­kets they op­er­ate in. There is no rea­son to dras­ti­cally di­ver­sify, but should cus­tomers and sup­ply part­ners have a re­quest the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­mains open-minded.

The sup­pli­ers and cus­tomers are im­por­tant and their ideas equally so. They in­clude he­li­copter man­u­fac­tur­ers (CHC has 50 he­li­copters in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion) and sup­ply ser­vicers for parts and com­po­nents, which is a di­vi­sion within CHC.

The most im­por­tant fac­tor re­quired from each part­ner is to en­sure that CHC has the ca­pa­bil­ity in its he­li­copters to meet the de­mand of the cus­tomers.

“That quickly nar­rows the field to a rea­son­ably small num­ber of providers,” Nick says.

CHC has lasted be­cause this is a dy­namic busi­ness and re­quires con­stant change man­age­ment to stay ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion. It is the type of ser­vice that movies are made from, how­ever it is far more se­ri­ous than that. This is a busi­ness that af­fects lives and re­quires strong lead­er­ship and Nick, with the help of a very ex­pe­ri­enced and skilled team, de­liv­ers in spades and ro­tors. So, next time you see an emer­gency ser­vice he­li­copter in ac­tion, think of what goes on be­hind the scenes and thank your lucky stars that ser­vices like this ex­ist.

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