CHC CEO Talks Helicopter Industry Opportunities in 2018

By Woodrow Bellamy III | January 2, 2018
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CHC Helicopter President and CEO Karl Fessenden has a lot to look forward to in 2018. The Texas-based helicopter operator is flying new helicopters in new regions for the first time — integrating new cockpit and health monitoring technologies into its operations and continuing to streamline its fleet and cost structure.

When CHC unveiled its new brand in 2017, one of your statements was that the company will "reach beyond legacy achievements." How will you continue to "reach beyond" in 2018?

We will continue to reach beyond in 2018 by staying focused on meeting the needs of our customers while further strengthening our safety culture. We’ve invested in our global fleet with the introduction of new Airbus H175s in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Leonardo AW189s in Asia Pacific, and will continue discussing other options with current and future customers.


We have also been recognized for recent innovations such as our testing with Skytrac for a new real-time health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) and cockpit electronic flight bag (EFB) solution on a Leonardo AW139 and our APAC team’s advancement of white phosphor night-vision goggles in challenging conditions.

CHC Helicopter CEO Karl Fessenden

CHC Helicopter CEO Karl Fessenden. Photo courtesy of CHC

What initiatives or actions is CHC taking to improve safety?

One of our key year-end initiatives was launching our "Taking Care" safety campaign with employees and customers. We held stand-down events and briefings at every base during the month of December with candid discussions on how we can continue to build open and honest dialogue and further improve safety in all facets of our operation.

As you think about the operations and services across SAR, EMS, oil and gas transport and maintenance and repair that CHC Helicopter will provide in 2018, where do you see the biggest demand for your services? 

We are seeing signs of stabilization, but the market remains challenging. We expect to see new opportunities for oil and gas transport, renewable energy such as offshore wind production, search and rescue and emergency medical service needs in current and emerging markets, and our continued investment in our global maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities through Heli-One.

Considering aviation is one of the most regulated industries in the world across all segments, are there any particular regulatory issues or challenges you see impacting CHC’s operations either in the U.S. or globally in 2018 and beyond?

The regulatory picture across the world is constantly changing, which is why we have a number of key personnel allocated to roles in tracking these changes both at the regional and global levels.

We recently amended our global safety management manuals to ensure we continue to be aligned with the latest thinking from ICAO on both global guidelines to general aviation and on safety management systems. In the regions, we are seeing changes in Australia — effectively, bringing EASA and CASA closer together in the way they conduct regulatory oversight — as well as further developments in Europe in the near future with the introduction of the Helicopter Offshore Operations (HOFO) regulations.

The helicopter community also continues to engage with the fixed-wing aviation community to see where we can learn from them on areas where regulations have already been implemented. Flight data monitoring and line operations safety audit (LOSA) are two examples of activity where we are ahead of the regulatory requirements and show that regulation is just one aspect of ensuring safety.

We will also continue to focus on the safety of our people and passengers as well as our industry. We will continue our close work with regulators and also other operators through our involvement with Helioffshore to continue to drive safety efforts on a global scale.

Are there any specific areas of CHC’s operations and services that you’re focused on improving or expanding upon in 2018? 

While the outlook for our industry remains challenging, we believe the actions we took in 2017, especially streamlining our fleet and cost structure to better meet the needs of our customers, has positioned us for both short- and long-term success. We are now the only operator that provides a true global standard of excellence based on best practices gleaned from seven decades of successful operations and a culture dedicated to taking care of safety for our employees and passengers. This ensures all of our customers receive the same level of service and reliability anywhere they need to go. We look forward to continuing to build on this strong foundation in 2018 and beyond.

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