helicopter in flight
As global demand for renewable energy sources increases, helicopters such as this Uni-Fly AW169 are seeing increased use for installing and servicing wind turbines, which typically are sited in remote areas or offshore.

Offshore-wind Helo Ops Pick Up Slack from Oil and Gas

While the offshore oil-and-gas segment looks to recover from its current slump, offshore-wind helicopter operations are increasingly gaining interest from the rotorcraft industry, according to Milestone Aviation Group. The helicopter lessor noted that offshore wind is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of approximately 25 percent, leading some experts to predict that, by the end of the century, the energy supply mix will likely be split equally between fossil fuels and renewables.

Last year, Europe alone added 560 offshore wind turbines, and those operators have realized that helicopters are the most efficient method of bringing maintenance crews to them. Typically those flights require highly skilled pilots to hover their helicopter above the turbine platform and lower down technicians and cargo. With the height of the wind turbine blade tips and average wind speeds of more than 25 knots, such missions can be challenging.

Danish helicopter operator Uni-Fly has conducted more than 50,000 of these missions to date. The company, in partnership with CHC, was selected to provide offshore service for Hornsea Project One, a 174–turbine farm under construction off the coast of the U.K. When completed in 2021, this wind farm will provide enough energy to power one million homes.

AgustaWestland's AW169

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AgustaWestland's AW169

For decades, the Sikorsky S-76 has been the gold standard in corporate helicopters. With more than 800 sold since its introduction in 1979,

A helicopter that is well suited to the specialized requirements of offshore wind servicing is the Leonardo Helicopters AW169, of which Milestone is the world’s largest owner. Uni-Fly operates two of the medium twins provided by the leasing company, and company CEO Jorgen Erik Andersen credits Milestone’s support and help in creating the winning bid. “Its extensive relationship with the OEMs was key for a successful entry-into-service plan with the best financial structure for our company,” he said. “The Milestone team worked to deliver the uniquely configured aircraft spec necessary to support the Hornsea Project One.”

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