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The Rotary Club

Posted 21 May 2018 · Add Comment

Dave Calderwood spotlights the work of the Middle East’s largest helicopter operator.

It is hard to think of another operator in the world that has such a diverse and complete range of services as Abu Dhabi Aviation (ADA).
It is known as being the largest operator of helicopters in the Middle East, but its portfolio is so much more than that.
Just look at its fleet – a mix of AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW139 and AW109s, Bell 212 and 412s, and four Bombardier Dash-8 (now the Q400 and Q200) twin turboprop transporters. That’s 57 helicopters and still growing!
Even as recently as last November, a new order for two more AW139s was placed with Leonardo.
The AW139 is a major success story for Leonardo, fitting into the intermediate, twin-engine bracket and perfect for supporting Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas industry, flying staff and supplies to rigs. The two new helicopters join ADA’s existing fleet of 15 AW139s, and are part of a bigger order of AW139, AW169 and AW189 types, with deliveries through to 2019.
All these aircraft need a big staff to keep them flying and to manage operations, so ADA has more than 1,000 employees, including in excess of 150 pilots and 283 engineers/technicians.
As well as oil and gas support flight, ADA also provides VVIP passenger transportation, search and rescue for the UAE military, crop-spraying, with a specially modified Bell 206, aerial construction, seismic support and fire-fighting in Europe – Spain, in particular.
None of these operations are particularly straightforward, so it’s interesting to note that ADA has held the Helicopter Association International (HAI) platinum award of safety since 2006, clocking up more than one million helicopter flight hours with an enviable safety record.
Given that offshore operations frequently average seven cycles – take-offs and landings – per hour, that gives credibility to ADA’s assertion that it demands the highest calibre of flight and maintenance crews, supported by its quality assurance and training regime.
“Owning a fleet of ultra-fast aircraft and a state-of-the-art safety system has helped ADA to drive its operations to the highest level of customer service,” said company chairman HE Nader Ahmed Al Hammadi. “The services provided are driven by customer needs.”
Al Hammadi went on to talk about the latest AW139 order. “These helicopters are widely used in the UAE, the GCC and the Middle East. ADA’s AW139s benefit from the support solutions provided locally by AgustaWestland Aviation Services LLC, an ADA and Leonardo joint venture delivering thorough support and maintenance services in the region.
“The company has recently expanded its fleet to cover its contractual obligations inside and outside the UAE and to further its investment in the aviation industry.”
The maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) side of ADA not only provides servicing for its own aircraft, but is also a significant regional provider of maintenance to third-party aircraft, both rotary and fixed-wing. Not least among its contracts is the UAE military.
Such as wide range of aircraft means ADA holds maintenance and quality certifications from several regulatory authorities. In addition to its UAE civil aviation authorisations, it is approved by the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Presidency of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia (GACA), and the International Standards Organisation ISO 9001:2000.
Last year, ADA became an authorised Bell Helicopter customer service facility (CSF) for Bell 412s and Bell 212s.
“This authorisation is considered as an international certification of the efficiency of Abu Dhabi Aviation’s maintenance services that meet the highest standards,” said Al Hammadi. “Through quality customer and maintenance services we have been able to achieve 100% operational readiness on our Bell fleet.”
Bell Helicopter’s Glen Isbell, executive vice-president, customer support and services, said: “The Middle East is an extremely important market for us. As our operator network grows, it is important we provide our customers with smart and simple service solutions to accommodate the expanding region. Bell Helicopter and ADA share a rich 40-year history, accumulating more than one million flight hours on the Bell helicopter fleet.”
A lesser known side of ADA’s reach is its humanitarian and support services on a year-round basis. These include aerial application missions, aid relief support in disaster areas, including medical evacuation when required.
ADA has worked with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) to provide helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) covering Jeddah and Mecca throughout the year, including the Ramadan period and Hajj.
Beyond the Middle East, ADA continues to support on and offshore oil production and mining exploration in Ethiopia, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. Negotiations are also under way for expansion into South America and the Far East.
There’s more for this expanding company. It has a 50% stake in Royal Jet, the VVIP private jet operator, which has the world’s largest fleet of Boeing Business Jets. Royal Jet also operates Dassault Falcon, Challenger and Gulfstream private jets.
Global cargo operations are supported by a wholly owned subsidiary, Maximus Air Cargo. In addition to transporting cargo, ADA also uses the heavy jets to position its helicopters wherever they are required.
To keep that 1,000-strong staff up to speed, and to train new entrants, ADA has created its own aviation training centre. As well as pilot training, ADA also has a full set of courses for engineers and cabin crew, including crew resource management (CRM), human factors for engineers, handling dangerous goods, fire-fighting and first aid.
On pilot training, ADA has created a state-of-the-art centre with no fewer than eight bays. It includes two new full-flight simulators (FFS) from CAE. They are the very latest CAE 7000XR Series, equipped with CAE Tropos-6000XR visual systems, and were due to be ready for training in the first half of 2018.
The delivery of the new training equipment complements the existing CAE-built AW139 and B412 FFSs delivered to ADA. CAE also provides instructors and course materials.
“We are delighted to further expand our relationship with our training partner CAE,” said Al Hammadi. “CAE has been training our pilots and providing state-of-the-art equipment for more than a decade and we are looking forward to this extended collaboration for the support of our own and our customers’ growing training needs long into the future.”
It’s not just ADA’s own pilots being trained. The latest expansion has come from Falcon Aviation – another fast-growing Abu Dhabi-based aviation business. ADA will train pilots from Falcon and other regional operators of the Embraer ERJ145 airliner in its training centre, using CAE’s full-flight simulators.
Al Hammadi said: “It is an honour to provide Falcon Aviation with best-in-class training, including high-quality courseware, experienced instructors and innovative training equipment.”
This particular development has taken a while to come to fruition and the relief can be sensed in the comments of Nick Leontidis, CAE group president, civil aviation training solutions: “After months of development, it is gratifying to officially kick-off this new training programme to support our customers, including Falcon Aviation’s pilot training needs in the Middle East.”
So, what’s next for ADA? There have been reports that it is to help the Government of Kerala, a state in southern India, establish and operate Kerala Air, a state airline. That’s still in the air but you can be sure ADA won’t be standing still for very long.

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