Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 27th 2015 Contents Throughout the tropical blue/green waters of the Caribbean
there are thousands of individual islands. Some are tiny, unde-
veloped outposts of natural habitat. Others are quite large with
vibrant populaation and business centers, and alluring beach resorts
that attract visitors from around the globe. MMany islands are gov-
erned as territories of foreign countries; others have formed their
own governmments to establish themselves as sovereign island
nations. But common among almost all is their dependence on the
almighty tourist dollar to create jobs and sustain their economies.
At the south of thee Lesser Antilles island chain, and just seven
miles off the coast of Venezuela and mainland South Ammerica,
lies the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
Tourism here, at the eastern boundaary between the Atlantic
Ocean and the Caribbean, is certainly an important cog in the
economic wheell, but with the discovery of oil off the T&T coast
in the late 1960s, the country found a bigger forttune underneath
its waters. Commercial oil deliveries began in 1972, and today,
T&T is the largest oiil-and-gas producer in the Caribbean.
As the industry flourished, the need for reliable offshore heli-
copter support became apparent, and, in 1989, the T&T gov-
ernment partnered with The National Gass Company of Trinidad
and Tobago to create National Helicopter Services Limited
(NHSL) to provide it.. (The government was an 82 percent share-
holder, with the utility company owning the remainder.) Thhe
assets of the T&T Ministry of National Security Air Division
Helicopter Unit became the new NHSL, and flight operations
began the following year.
“NHSL was formed for the purpose of providing offshoore helicopter
services to the oil-and-gas sector and other commercial entities, as
well as [to contiinue] services to government - particularly in an emer-
gency or disaster situation,” said Marc Dasennt, NHSL's chairman.
The company's headquarters are in Couva, on the west coast of
Trinidad, about 200 miles south of the capital city of Port of
Spain. With a fleet of seven Sikorsky S-76 aircraft, NHSSL moves
an average of 70,000 passengers annually, providing the off-
shore oil-and-gas sector with crew changes and medevacs,
while also offering medevacs in critical cases for locals and vis-
itors tthroughout T&T and the smaller nearby islands. The com-
pany has also completed long-distance missionns as far away as
Montserrat (over 400 miles north of T&T) to help evacuate a vil-
lage following a vvolcanic eruption; and to Grenada, where
crews were required to fly repeated 120-mile (193-kilometer))
legs over water to provide aid and support after a hurricane hit
“The distances we typiically operate make the S-76 the ideal
platform,” said Homer Solomon, the company's director of
operaations. “The safety systems, speed, reliability, and fuel effi-
ciency of the machines ensure that our clients enjoy the most effi-
cient offerings possible. From where I sit, it is truly the best com--
bination to have in order to best satisfy the varied travel and
operational experiences sought by oour clients.”
A SIKORSKY FLEET
NHSL has flown Sikorsky helicopters since it began operations.
Over the years, it has flown 12 S-76s (including the S-76A, the
S-76A++, the S-76C++, and the S-76D), logging more than
“OOur longstanding relationship with Sikorsky was based on the
reliability and robustness of the S-76 llegacy, and the value that
they place on their customers,” said Joshey Mahabir, NHSL's
general manageer and CEO. “Our operations are indeed very
small when compared to other international operators, butt we
are nonetheless treated as equals.”
The seven S-76s currently in the NHSL fleet include three
Siikorsky S-76C++ and four S-76D aircraft, which all meet the
standards of the International Associatioon of Oil & Gas
Producers (OGP). The fleet averages 550 hours per month, with
the S-76D currently aveeraging 100 hours per month.
“The S-76D is a natural progression for NHSL, as we have full
confidencce in the S-76 platform based on its performance, safe-
ty, and operational availability,” said Dasennt. “Its safety features
stand out against all others in its class.”
NHSL completed the first-ever ccommercial revenue flight with the
S-76D in February 2014, and since then its S-76Ds have flown
2,7500 hours - with an estimated availability above 90 percent.
“As far as we could find, that was the fasstest that anybody had
ever clocked that many flight hours,” said David Martin,
Sikorsky's director ffor the commercial energy & oil sector. “[The
S-76D] gets up and goes to work every day.”
NHSL's chieef pilot is Sean Reid, who has many years of experi-
ence flying the S-76. “The [S-76] D model has maany advantages
over the legacy aircraft,” he said. “The fuel burn is noticeably
less, which allows foor more payload to be carried over the same
distance; the cabin is quieter; [and] vibration levels loower - mak-
ing this the most comfortable S-76 variant.”
To achieve this performance, Sikorsky engineeers incorporated
the latest technology into the all-composite main and tail rotor
blades, which reduuced the noise and increased efficiency. The
gears inside the transmission have been what Sikorsky reefers to
as “super finished” to contribute to the reduction of in-cabin
noise levels. Finally, an acttive vibration control system greatly
reduces vibrations throughout the airframe.
The aircraft is powwered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada
PW210 turbine engines with dual-channel FADEC. These pro-
vide aa significant increase in power while reducing fuel burn;
they consume an average of 630 to 640 poundds of fuel per hour
(92 to 94 gallons).
How do the new engines and the S-76D perform in the hot and
humid conditions of the tropics? “The Pratt & Whitney engines
are more than up to the task,” said Reidd. “Most helideck take-
offs are effortless with very little exposure time after rotation.”
Perhaps tthe most visually evident improvement to the S-76D is
found in the cockpit, in the form of the Thaless Top Deck avionics
suite. This fully integrated glass panel cockpit is the first of its
kind to be ooffered by a helicopter OEM, and advances helicop-
ter piloting to now be on par with flying the latest business jets.
The Thales system utilizes an intuitive finger-controlled cursor
device that alloows the pilot to easily scroll through and select the
various system functions required. “The suite iis very different to
anything that has been in any [previous] S-76 cockpit,” said
Reid. “It is a beauutiful system that enhances cockpit ergonomics
and situational awareness like never before. Most thinngs are no
more than two clicks away.”
A health usage monitoring system (HUMS), adapted from the
one used in the Sikorsky S-92, provides maintenance personnel
and Sikorsky engineers with a daily statuss report from a number
of aircraft components and systems.
“This S-76 is a modern helicopter,” said Reid. “The cockpit is
more ergonomic and the ability to select and control the infor-
mation that yoou need is ideal and in keeping with modern indus-
try standards. The performance is more than adequaate, giving
confidence that you have that power when you need it. Sikorsky
has exceeded expectations with regard to the AFCS [automatic
flight control system]. The system makes flying the aircraft a
dream with a significant improvement in flight control accuracy.”
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
NHSL has 178 people on staff, including 33 pilots; 23 licensed
aircraft engineers; 25 Mechanics/Technnicians and 15 support
personnel. Set in a somewhat rural setting, the NHSL main facil-
ity is quite large and houses the administrative offices, meeting
facilities, passenger processing area, aircraftt control tower, and
an expansive hangar for housing and maintaining the fleet.
One hundred yards accross a large aircraft movement apron and
grass departure corridor is a smaller complex. This serves as a
remote passenger processing/loading area to relieve conges-
tion during busy periods.
Just beyyond the smaller complex is a multistory framework under
construction, which will house the University of Trinidad and
Tobago Aviation Institute (UTTAI) once its completed later this
year. The institutte is a multi-faceted strategic initiative in which
NHSL, the University of Trinidad & Tobago, Caribbbean Airlines
Limited, Metal Industries Company Limited, and the Trinidad and
Tobago Civil Aviation AAuthority are partnering to provide expert
training for technical personnel in the areas of aviation mainte-
nance and engineering. Sikorsky Aircraft is also exploring
opportunities to lend support to the institute, which will be the first
of its kind in the region.
“There is a shortage of qualified personnel in the aviation sector
and more so in the rotary [wing] arena,” said Mahabir. “This part-
nnership would provide that level of personnel to fulfill this gap.”
The success of UTTAI is extremelyy valuable for T&T to ensure the
stability and growth of the region's aviation industry, and is of
paarticular interest to NHSL due to its external maintenance work.
For the past 10 years, NHSL has beenn the maintenance provider
for the National Operations Center (NOC) Air Division, which
is a nationall security and law enforcement aviation element that
also provides disaster relief, search-and-rescuee (SAR) and med-
ical transportation throughout T&T.
“NHSL provides maintenance, air crew training, gguidance
and oversight for professional aviation management for the
air operations unit of NOC,” saidd former NOC executive
director Garvin Heerah. “They have been partly responsible
for the developmentt of the air operations unit of the NOC.”
The NOC helicopters include an S-76A++ and a new S-76D
eaarmarked for counter terrorism, and it recently inked a deal with
Bell Helicopters for four 429s and a SAR-configured 412EPI.
Going forward, NHSL is optimistically focused on growth and
pursuing new oppportunities, not just in the local T&T market, but
throughout the Caribbean and South America. In thhat vein, while
there are over 60 oilrigs dotting the waters around T&T,
ExxonMobil recently made a ssignificant oil discovery many miles
south of T&T -120 miles off the coast of Guyana - that may requiire
a significant volume of traffic to be taken much further afield.
“We are moving to upgrade our fleet of aircraft with the newer
S-76D, and are looking into the future with the S-92 as the
Trinidad & Tobago exploration moves into the deep water
blocks and further offshore,” said Mahabir.
A recenttly completed four-month drilling contract with Exxon
Guyana, which utilized two S-76Ds, has given NHHSL a toehold
in the country. “We keenly look forward to business opportuni-
ties in Guyana, as we arre there for the long haul,” said
Mahabir. “Of course, this would mean more aircraft, and as
such we have already started the discussions with Sikorsky on
In order to meet some of the reqquirements of working farther off-
shore, NHSL is also developing deepwater SAR capabilities.
“We havve started our SAR program with the acquisition of a
fully equipped aircraft [an S-76C++], which woulld be opera-
tional in Trinidad by the end of August 2015,” said Mahabir.
NHSL is understandably commmitted to anticipating and
adapting to the rapidly changing needs of its commer-
cial customers. Butt it also understands its responsibility to
the residents and visitors of T&T, as well as their islannd
neighbors, in providing an enhanced level of emergency
response and rescue capabilities.
Theeir dedication to this is particularly
evident in the development of its new
deepwater SAR role. “Thiis is just the
beginning of our entry into this mar-
ket,” said Mahabir. “We will be
moving full speeed ahead in develop-
ing our full potential to fill the void in
Credit: Excerpt from
August/September 2015 Vertical
Story and Photos by Dan Megna.
Originally designated S-74 during develop-
ment in the mid 1970s, its designation was
changed to S-76 in 1976 in honor of the
Two of NHSL's S-76Ds - but there are
subtle differences between them. The
closer aircraft has slightly larger rear
cabin windows, a customer option
offered by Sikorsky after
serial number 37.
The technology and engineering applied to the
tail rotor significantly reduced the external
acoustic signature of the S-76D.
HELICOPTER OPERATOR PROFILE
The high tech glass cockpit of the S-76D, featuring Thales Top Deck avion-
ics suite. The two dome objects on the center console are the Cockpit
Control Devices for controlling the various panel displays via finger acti-
vated switches and a trackball.
NATIONAL HELICOPTER SERVICES LIMITED
Over Tropical Wate r s
David Martin, Sikorsky's director, energy and oil sector; John Gow,
Sikorsky aftermarket manager, Latin America; Joshey Mahabir,
NHSL's general manager and CEO; Adam Schierholz, deputy
regional executive Latin America and Caribbean; and Albert
Rodriguez, Sikorsky account service manager.
The NHSL S-76D rear has seating for 12 passengers,
each seat with integrated shoulder restraints.
NHSL's expansive hangar provides ample room for maintenance
as well as housing aircraft.
The large red roof building is NHSL's main office and hangar facility.
The framed building beyond the smaller red roof building is the future
home of Trinidad and Tobago Aviation Institute.
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt AUGUST 27 • 2015
AUGUST 27 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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