Oceania Aviation occupies substantial premises across Auckland’s Ardmore Airport in New Zealand, covering a broad range of helicopter and fixed wing services across multiple hangars and specialist workshops. Its largest hangar, often referred to as the “Helicopter hangar”, is a state-of-the-art facility providing heavy maintenance and related services for most turbine-powered rotorcraft types.
With a 1,000 square metre footprint and housing three specialist helicopter divisions, Oceania’s Auckland Helicopter hangar is New Zealand’s leading specialist rotary maintenance facility. Performing much more than just line and base maintenance, the three specialized teams that work in the hangar work on a huge range of projects from both local and international operators across maintenance, upgrades, customizations and component overhauls. The hangar also houses their Part 148 Manufacturing division, which designs and manufactures specialist role equipment for operators needing to expand or upgrade their mission profiles.
Over the last 12 months, Oceania’s Helicopter hangar – despite global disruption across economy, transport and travel – has maintained a healthy level of demand for its teams’ services, which can be credited to the scope of work that can be carried out within the facility. While the demand for customization and upgrade projects saw some reductions during the initial ‘hit’ of COVID-19, Oceania Aviation was deemed to be an “Essential Services provider” within the local New Zealand market. This meant that urgent maintenance and repair work for aircraft operators carrying out essential work (such as EMS, firefighting and agricultural services) continued to keep the hangar busy.
With New Zealand now also being considered a “safe haven” compared to many countries around the globe who are still battling the pandemic and experiencing ongoing lockdowns, the demand for international work is also stepping up. Helicopter operators are recognising the reduced risk and chance of delays by sending their helicopter work down to New Zealand from abroad, where the staff have been back to “business as usual” and at full capacity since April last year. In fact, the Helicopter Projects team, which provide maintenance, upgrades and customisations, estimate a 60/40 split of international to local helicopter work that comes through its division. A high level of international demand is also seen by the Manufacturing and Components teams.
The Helicopter Projects division at Oceania Aviation carries out a broad scope of work, from both line and heavy maintenance, through to helicopter upgrades and refurbishments, reconfigurations, and customization work. According to Tony Riley, the Helicopter Projects Manager: “We definitely see a good mix of projects coming into the hangar. Many projects are from customers that want to add functionality to their existing aircraft or that have recently acquired a helicopter and require upgrades to suit their mission type. We also carry out a number of major inspections and these projects often come with additional requirements for interior or exterior customization”. Many upgrade projects require paint restoration work or full repaints, which the team can facilitate on behalf of the customer.
Alongside individual customer jobs, a recently finalized fleet management partnership with Air Methods in the USA (facilitated through Oceania’s parent company Salus Aviation and US-based sister company Heli-Parts Nevada) means that the Helicopter Projects team is now seeing a steady stream of Airbus helicopters come through the hangar for reconfiguration and refurbishment, which then become available for sale. The majority of aircraft that go through customization and completion for immediate sale tend to go overseas, given the scale of the international market. During this process, the Oceania team manage the export process on behalf of the buyer or seller, looking after everything from gaining Export C of A via the NZCAA, to organizing freight and logistics for the aircraft.
When it comes to aircraft types, Oceania’s Part 145 scope means that it can work on projects across most turbine powered helicopters. It sees high demand for Airbus, Bell, and MD aircraft, although larger types also come through the hangar. Recent projects include a 12-year inspection and a new full interior fit out for an EC120, two BO-105s which went through completion and Export C of A for sale into Russia, and the 12-year inspection and upgrade of an AS350B3+. “It’s an exciting part of the industry to be involved in,” says Tony. “A recent S-76B project proved a great challenge, starting with translating its Japanese Logbooks! We carried out its 3000hr/5-year inspection and fitted a new leather interior. It was extremely rewarding being able to fly the end result”.
Role Equipment Manufacturing and Design
Oceania Aviation’s Airborne Systems division also occupies significant premises within the Helicopter Projects hangar. This is where the team develop, manufacture, test and gain certification for a wide range of role equipment which allows operators to increase revenue and expand their mission capabilities. The Part 148 certified Manufacturing division was established as a direct result of industry demand within New Zealand for specialist role equipment and has since expanded significantly, with a high proportion of customer demand coming from international markets including the USA, Asia and Australia. One of the factors that makes the team’s offerings so unique is that when developing new systems, they collaborate with the operator throughout the entire process – from the very first design prototype, right the way through to the final manufacture and installation of the role equipment. This means that key operator requirements are comprehensively met, from cost-efficiency through to safety and optimal functionality.
The Airborne Systems team have developed and gained certification (working closely with approved Part 146 companies) for a number of unique role equipment products, including spray systems, cargo pods, pilot seat shift kits, cargo hooks, bike racks and more. Thanks to particularly high industry demand from Airbus Helicopter operators, it holds Supplementary Type Certificate’s (STCs) and specializes in AS350 equipment – offering ready-to-order (and customizable) AS350 cargo pods, seat shift kits, bike racks and spray systems. Its NZCAA STCs are automatically accepted in Australia and have been validated in several countries throughout Asia as well as the USA, thanks to bilateral agreements with fellow regulatory bodies. The AS350 cargo pods are already both FAA and Transport Canada approved, and due to ongoing requests, the team will shortly be working on FAA validation for their AS350 spray system.
According to Tony Van Tiel, manager of the Airborne Systems division: “The customer is at the core of everything we do. It is important that we work with the operator throughout the entire development process, making sure that we manage costs to the customer’s expectations and ensure that they walk away happy, and will return time and time again.”
Dynamic Component Overhaul
Occupying a slightly smaller footprint, but still an extremely valuable and busy facility, is Oceania Aviation’s Helicopter Components workshop. The highly specialized and factory-trained team led by Duncan Moxon deliver comprehensive overhaul, inspection and repair services across a wide range of component types, including main and tail rotor gearboxes, swashplates, mast assemblies, rotor hubs and hydraulic servos. In terms of OEM capabilities, the Components team specialize in the repair and overhaul of MD Helicopters, Bell, Schweizer and Dunlop components – as well as carrying out calendar inspections on AS350 components. The workshop’s in-house NDT facility allows all components going through servicing to be thoroughly inspected for underlying issues, ensuring the highest quality work and results.
The customer base of the Components workshop is currently skewed slightly towards Australia, the Pacific and New Zealand,with the team able to provide overnight freight for customer and lease/exchange modules throughout the Pacific region. A number of Components customers in other countries within Asia-Pacific recognize that it can be extremely time-efficient and cost effective to send their components down to New Zealand for overhaul and repair. This is especially the case in today’s current environment, with international freight channels still functioning well and New Zealand able to operate at full capacity when compared to other markets.
In component repair and overhaul, timing is of extreme importance and Oceania Aviation understands that any time for an aircraft spent on the ground translates to lost revenue. This is why the Components team prides itself on superior turnaround times as well as offering a comprehensive pool of exchange and lease modules, which effectively reduce any AOG for customers. The team offers a range of customized repair solutions for component work, including the ability to repair on-site (rather than in the Auckland workshop) if required, which can further save on downtime. Their primary goal is to get the customer back in the air as fast as possible, while ensuring a quality and cost-effective overhaul solution.
The One-Stop Shop Concept
While Oceania Aviation’s Helicopter Projects hangar specializes in custom projects, manufacturing and component overhaul, its vast capabilities and facilities across other aftermarket services and locations mean that Oceania Aviation has the unique ability to act as a turnkey aviation support provider. Just across the airfield from the Helicopter hangar is a custom-built Blades facility, as well as Oceania’s Avionics division, Fixed-Wing maintenance hangar and Turbine Engines workshop. Instead of having to work with multiple providers to have their aircraft serviced, Oceania Aviation’s customers save both time and money by allowing the MRO provider to look after their aircraft from nose-to-tail, so they can simply look after flight operations while leaving the rest to the experts.
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