Airborne Logistics as Essential as EverBy Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 06/09/2020 - 10:58
Q: How has COVID-19 and the fall of oil prices impacted your fleet’s operations?
A: At the moment, our fleet is undergoing a process of change. We are adding top-of-the-line helicopters to our fleet. These are equipped with the most sophisticated technologies that address the needs of the new oil and gas operators arriving to Mexico. We hold contracts with almost all of them, with the exception of Petronas, although we are going through a tendering process with them. 2020 will see a total of three new additions to our fleet. One is a new Airbus H145 that we got in January. A second new Airbus H145 should have arrived by now, but was unfortunately delayed by circumstances related to COVID-19. It is scheduled to arrive in August. By the end of the year, we will also receive a new Airbus H175, which can comfortably carry up to two pilots and 16 to 18 passengers. It is the most sophisticated helicopter in the market and is designed for the longer flight times involved in deepwater operations. With these additions, we continue to bet on maintaining our technological leadership in the industry. We want this to continue differentiating us from our competition.
We have been able to sustain our company policy of growth and acquisitions through these complicated times thanks to our history. The company will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. We began flying for PEMEX in 1983 and throughout the years, we have experienced a number of crises, including oil price crashes and changes in political parties. We have built up the company’s monetary reserves to absorb the shock of difficult times such as that which we are currently experiencing. The reliability of PEMEX payments to its vendors is back to a low point given the current industry context, but we hope it will soon recover. All PEMEX contractors and suppliers are suffering equally and braving this storm together. Meanwhile, our reserves and financial stability have allowed us to keep our workforce and operational volume intact through the crisis. It is unfortunate that our government is the only one in the OECD without a robust recovery package for businesses; there is barely one for individuals and families. Despite this, our commitment to Mexico remains as strong as ever.
In regard to COVID-19, we have been prepared since January, when we bought all the equipment and began cleaning our helicopters to comply with all existing sanitary measures. We disinfect our personnel and our vessels before and after each flight. We bought additional specialized equipment, such as stretchers with isolation chambers, to transfer infected patients. We have had to transfer COVID-19 patients from platforms and ships to hospitals in Villahermosa, Ciudad del Carmen and Dos Bocas. We knew from the beginning of the year that the virus was going to reach our shores. It was not a matter of “if” but “when,” and that is why we prepared before other companies.
Q: How has the number of private operators grown within your portfolio?
A: The percentage of private operators and their operations have continued to grow in our portfolios. We have won 10 of 12 tenders offered by private operators for helicopter services in Mexico. In the process, we have definitely captured the majority of that market segment.
Today, all of our operations are functioning except our line of business covering executive jet flights, which is operating at 1 percent, and our helicopter executive flights, which have been suspended since January. Other than that, our fleet has remained operational, although flight hours have been reduced due to the possibility of COVID-19 contagions. Thanks to our increased involvement with private operators, we have had the opportunity to contribute to recent deepwater discoveries through our contracts with Repsol, ENI, BHP Billiton and CNOOC, among others. Our proximity to private operators has allowed us to make special arrangements for companies to take a combination of charter flights from Houston to platforms that remain operational while complying with COVID-19 measures.
Q: What industry needs do your latest acquisitions respond to?
A: They address the need for longer offshore flights with a higher degree of comfort and safety. These new helicopters become more efficient as they travel longer distances, ranging between 120 and 200 nautical miles without a need for refueling. Longer distances take a physical toll on the vessels, which these new helicopters are able to withstand. It also responds to increased deepwater activity, which takes place within sites that may be further away from the coast. Most Mexican deepwater activities take place 60 to 90 nautical miles from shore, but some of them are taking place as far away as 150 nautical miles. These new helicopters represent the latest generation of Airbus units. Their state-of-the-art redundant safety systems are the most advanced and are designed to travel safely to shore in the event of a malfunction. Some are even built with triple redundancy. This is part of risk mitigation. Nevertheless, nothing guarantees that you will never have to deal with an emergency water landing, which in deepwater areas can be extremely risky. We further mitigate risk by training our workforce and by making sure our technology is up to date. For example, our helicopters have also been equipped with dry-run capabilities, which allow helicopters to stay in the air for up to 60 minutes in the event of an oil shortage or leak.
Transportes Aéreos Pegaso has offered executive air transport services since 1981. In 1983, it won its first PEMEX contract to shuttle passengers and cargo to platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. It has completed more than 1.1 million flight operations.