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British International Helicopters

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

British International Helicopters
British International Helicopters.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
HubsCoventry Airport, Newquay Cornwall Airport, RAF Mount Pleasant
  • BIH (Onshore) Ltd
  • British International Helicopter Services Ltd
  • Patriot Aviation Ltd
Fleet size10
Parent companyRigby Group PLC
HeadquartersCoventry Airport, Warwickshire, United Kingdom

British International Helicopter Services Limited (BIH), owned by Rigby Group PLC, is a British-owned helicopter operator. It operates a fleet of 10 helicopters covering Search and Rescue, offshore, defence, charter and flying training activities from its bases at Newquay, Coventry and RAF Mount Pleasant – Falkland Islands.

It operates from Newquay using two Eurocopter AS 365N2 Dauphin helicopters on behalf of the Royal Navy Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) based at HMS Drake in HMNB Devonport. A Sikorsky S-61 helicopter is also used on occasions for FOST duties.

In 2015 BIH as part of a wider group won a $275 million 10 year contract to operate from RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands with the contract commencing in 2016. Two Sikorsky S-61 helicopters are used for everyday military transport and land logistic support around the islands, where there are few roads and a 12-mile strip of sea separates the two main islands. Search and Rescue is conducted using two AW189 helicopters.[1]

Coventry Airport operator BIH (Onshore) Ltd functions as BIH's utilities division, servicing an operational workload that includes Police and Air Ambulance capability, commercial helicopter support including surveying, pipeline patrols, TV mast calibration, load lifting, forestry and national park services and film work. BIH (Onshore) Ltd also maintains BIH's VIP and commercial charter business, flight training for both commercial and private pilots and helicopter engineering across a wide range of helicopter and aeroplane types.


The company was originally British Airways Helicopters until its privatisation in September 1986, when it was sold to publisher Robert Maxwell and subsequently renamed British International Helicopters (BIH).

In 1993 CHC Helicopter acquired 40% of BIH's voting shares, and raised their shareholding to 90% within a year. BIH became the UK subsidiary of CHC, as Brintel Helicopters Limited. In October 1996 Brintel acquired the Cardiff-based Veritair Limited.

The current incarnation of the company was formed in 2000 with the backing of 3i Group PLC and the Bank of Scotland, through a management buy in of the non-oil related operations of Scotia Helicopters and CHC Helicopter, with the Bank of Scotland providing funding of £22million.

One of the company's Sikorsky S-61 helicopters at Tresco Heliport
One of the company's Sikorsky S-61 helicopters at Tresco Heliport

In 2006, BIH finalised a secondary management buy-out financed by a syndicate of investors led by Matrix Private Equity Partners, with the backing of Finance Cornwall and Chrysalis Venture Capital Trust.

As a result of the loss of a South Wales Police helicopter air support contract, the business of British International at Cardiff was sold in May 2008 to the management team led by Captain Julian Verity. The new company Heli Charter Wales Limited is trading as Veritair Aviation.

Veritair Limited changed its name to British International Helicopter Services Limited in October 2008.[2]

In June 2013, the company was acquired by The Rigby Group PLC subsidiary Patriot Aerospace to supplement its existing aviation activities.[3]

Cessation of passenger flights

On 1 August 2012 it was announced that the service between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly would be withdrawn from 1 November 2012.[4] A Judicial Review triggered by the Tesco supermarket group over the sale of Penzance Heliport to Sainsburys created a period of delay which affected the finance to replace the fleet of helicopters.[citation needed]

BIH flew seasonal and year-round domestic scheduled services from its main base at Penzance Heliport (EGHK/PZE), with services to St. Mary's Airport (EGHE/ISC), and Tresco Heliport (EGHT/TSO), Isles of Scilly. It used two Sikorsky S-61 helicopters from a pool of nine of the type that it owned. The flights ceased on 31 October 2012.


Accidents and incidents

Although British International Helicopter Services Ltd. (including its time under the Veritair banner) has suffered no accidents since its inception in May 2000, the following events were experienced by its predecessors:

  • 16 July 1983

A British Airways Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N G-BEON crashed into the southern Celtic Sea en route from Penzance to St. Mary's Airport in low visibility. The crash killed 20 of the 26 passengers and crew (see 1983 British Airways Sikorsky S-61 crash), making it the worst UK Helicopter accident until the 1986 British International Helicopters Chinook crash.

  • 6 November 1986

A British International Helicopters Boeing 234LR Chinook crashed on approach to Sumburgh Airport, Shetland Islands, killing 45 (see 1986 British International Helicopters Chinook crash).

  • 13 July 1988

A Sikorsky S-61N ditched into the North Sea, no injuries (see 1988 British International Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N crash).

  • 21 April 2000

A Veritair Eurocopter AS355 operating for South Wales Police crashed into a house in Cardiff when the tail rotor drive failed.[8]


  1. ^ "BIH win MOD Falklands SAR contract". Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  2. ^ Companies House – English Company 02575976
  3. ^ "Patriot Aerospace Group buys British International Helicopters". 20 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Penzance to Isles of Scilly helicopter flights ending". BBC News. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  5. ^ "British International Helicopter Services Ltd". CAA. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  6. ^ "DTV Movements page". Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  7. ^ "BIH (Onshore) Ltd". CAA. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Rotor failure caused helicopter crash". BBC News. 25 April 2000.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 January 2021, at 19:09
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