Enrique Zepeda
Executive Director and CEO
Transportes Aéreos Pegaso
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Insight

Growing Offshore Need for Long-Range Helicopter Fleet

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 16:12

Transportes Aéreos Pegaso has been offering its short and long-range helicopter fleet for offshore transportation in Mexico for the past 25 years. To maintain the trust of the industry leaders, Enrique Zepeda Navarro, Executive Director and CEO of Transportes Aéreos Pegaso, says security and reliability are paramount. “Regular audits take place to ensure the continued performance of its helicopter fleet and to verify that our training, maintenance, and internal procedures are all aligned with the highest safety standards,” says Zepeda Navarro. The company has maintained the same standards for the past 15 years: it must renew its fleet every ten years or every 10,000 hours. “We are constantly investing in helicopters and our focus on reliability is essential as we are only providers of long-range helicopter transportation in Mexico,” he points out. At the same time, a critical factor for Transportes Aéreos Pegaso is to have top-notch human resources management given the amount of flights its helicopters must make each day. Its 60 full-time pilots are all trained in-house to ensure they all have equivalent skill levels and qualifications, a critical factor for the firm’s CEO to deliver optimal operations. The 60 pilots and the fleet of 20 helicopters itself are divided across its main hub in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, as well as Dos Bocas, Tabasco, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas. New locations are destined to be added to serve new areas of upstream activity.

In order to adhere to international standards, Transportes Aéreos Pegaso has turned to the French helicopter maker Airbus Helicopters, formerly Eurocopter, as its leading supplier. The company has three main types of aircrafts, of which two come from Airbus. The fastest and most sought after are the EC-155s, which have played a role in PEMEX’s development of the Perdido area. Also manufactured by Eurocopter, the EC-145s are operating through a PEMEX contract in the Bay of Campeche and have a passenger capacity of ten. Furthermore, while AugustaWestland’s super-medium aircraft AW-139 does not match the speed of the EC-155, it is also an integral part of Transportes Aéreos Pegaso’s fleet and serves as an example of the firm’s entrepreneurial endeavors. According to Zepeda Navarro, his company was the first to create demand for such aircraft. After bringing the units into Mexico to be leased for a contract in December 2008, the firm helped develop the industry’s need for super-medium aircraft. The main advantage of this type of transportation versus heavy aircraft was the ability for companies to comply with the necessary regulations while optimizing the costs per trip. For example, super-medium helicopters are a midpoint between smaller and heavy aircraft since these have a maximum capacity of 16 passengers. “Regulations stipulate that heavy aircraft should carry 25 passengers including a stewardess, and must have adequate restroom capacity. Because of these restrictive measurements, super-medium helicopters are a feasible alternative to satisfy the deepwater segment’s needs at a lower cost,” says Zepeda Navarro.

Although the EC-155 helicopter is the fastest in Transportes Aéreos Pegaso’s fleet, speed is not always the most significant requirement. Range and passenger capacity are often more important for the type of missions that the company flies. As Zepeda Navarro explains, the composition of the fleet is designed to strike a balance between all the necessary requirements. “Transportes Aéreos Pegaso is currently the only company in the Mexican market that can provide enough helicopters for the oil and gas industry’s long-range transportation needs. Additionally, being the only firm with a current contract for personnel transportation in the deepwater segment, he highlights its positioning in the industry. “Some companies might offer similar services,” he says, “but they usually function in immediate niches which they are focused on conserving.” He adds that Transportes Aéreos Pegaso is not focused on competing with them as it is unwilling to lower its prices to engage in cost competition.

Zepeda Navarro is also aware of challenges that may arise in the availability of new helicopters as demand rises. “There are a limited number of manufacturers and the production chain is very busy. Parallel to this factor, producers are selling a lot of helicopters through intermediaries. These are buying all the available helicopters and trying to lease them, thereby increasing the prices and establishing a fake demand,” he states. “Fortunately for Transportes Aéreos Pegaso, Airbus Helicopters is well-aware of these dynamics, having lived through many similar cycles in the past.” The European supplier still sells to intermediaries but plans its production schedule carefully to leave space for operators. This supply stability allows Zepeda Navarro to look ahead to any new models he might need to bring in. For the moment, the company’s fleet is seen as being large enough to cover the short-term evolution of the deepwater segment. “We have sufficient capabilities to cover this segment for the next three or four years. After that, we do expect the markets to change,” says Zepeda Navarro. “We are looking for long-range helicopters, similar to the ones we have in Matamoros, to adapt to the growing needs of the Perdido region,” he outlines. Counting on the fact that the firm has already been working in this oil region, Zepeda Navarro foresees solid opportunities in the entire deepwater segment. With long-range helicopters, like the company’s EC155s in Matamoros, Transportes Aéreos Pegaso can tackle the growing needs of deepwater exploration and production. Moreover, he predicts that the development of Lakach will create other opportunities for his firm. Since Transportes Aéreos Pegaso has worked with various companies such as Noble, Seadrill, Grupo R, Schlumberger, Halliburton, CGG, among others, Zepeda Navarro expects his company’s current importance to key players will represent an advantage as deepwater activity intensifies. He particularly expects that US companies entering Mexico will come knocking, as “Transportes Aéreos Pegaso’s level of training and maintenance as well as equipment availability matches the standards of leading US transportation providers.”