by Rob Finfrock
February 25, 2014, 3:45 AM
“We are very bullish on the rotorcraft market, and on the future,” said Milestone Aviation Group managing director Robert Dranitzke. The company placed an exclamation point on that statement on the show’s opening day, as Milestone announced its fleet has grown to 143 helicopters valued at over $2.2 billion since the company’s founding in August 2010 and it placed eight new orders for Sikorsky S-92 medium-lift helicopters, which increased the company’s total of firm orders and options for the type to 37 aircraft worth $1.2 billion. The leasing company also holds more than $3 billion in firm orders and options from rotorcraft manufacturers AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters and Sikorsky.
Today the company also holds $450 million in unsecured borrowing capacity, against a total revolving credit line of $800 million, thanks to what Dranitzke terms increased confidence from lenders.
“We’ve spent the past three and a half years educating financiers about the attractiveness of the rotorcraft segment,” he added. “Helicopters remain a relatively niche market for lenders, but as they have taken the time to learn more about the industry, banks are further encouraged to work directly with operators [to secure financing.]”
Dranitzke also noted Milestone’s ability to build a relatively large and diverse order portfolio–representing operators from the oil industry, EMS, law enforcement, and many other segments–has further encouraged investment in the rotorcraft segment. Most of Milestone’s 26 operating partners have signed multiple contracts with the company.
“From the beginning, Milestone set out to support any company that relies on working helicopters,” he said. “Whether we’re talking about EMS, search and rescue, pipeline surveillance, these are all great businesses in and of their own right, and Milestone is happy to support them any way we can. Banks often won’t do a deal for a single helicopter, but a large order shows strength,” Dranitzke concluded. “We’ve been successful thanks to the confidence of our financiers and partners.”