The Italian-made helicopter had its maiden return flight yesterday from New Plymouth Airport to the Maui A platform for Maui operator Shell Todd Oil Services. This was followed by another trip to the Tui floating production storage and offtake vessel Umuroa for Tui operator Australian Worldwide Exploration.
Helicopters NZ has a 30-year partnership with STOS and has just started working with AWE.
General manager Dennis Laird said this AgustaWestland 139 was the first helicopter of its kind to be used in the New Zealand or Australian oil and gas sectors.
"It has the range and the speed we need for remote operations, such as those planned in the Great South Basin [where joint ventures headed by ExxonMobil and Austrian firm OMV have just started their operations]," Laird told PetroleumNews.net at New Plymouth airport yesterday.
The AgustaWestland 139's state-of-the-art componentry and electronic management systems made it the most sophisticated aircraft of its type on the world market, according to Laird.
Powered by two Pratt and Whitney 1872-horsepower engines, it can carry up to 15 passengers, or up to 1500kg of freight. It has a maximum speed of 150 knots, a maximum range of 933km, and can fly for up to four-and-a-half hours at a time.
The new helicopter also met Shell's stringent safety guidelines, with key features including electronic sensing of all critical aircraft components, a traffic collision avoidance system, and the capability to fly with a single engine in all phases of flight, Laird said.
Helicopters NZ, which owns Helicopters Australia in Perth, plans to expand its Australian activities.
The company has no oil and gas clients in Australia, providing services only to the mining industry, although it does work in Aceh, Indonesia for an ExxonMobil joint venture.
Helicopters NZ has another AgustaWestland 139 due to arrive in September, which it may use in either Australia or New Zealand, according to Laird.
The Nelson-headquartered company has grown significantly over the past 13 years. In 1995, it had a fleet of 19 helicopters and annual turnover of about $NZ13 ($A11.3 million). Now it has more than 40 craft in New Zealand, Australia and South-East Asia, with turnover of about $NZ45 million ($A39 million).