AIN – “Milestone’s financing model brings new capital for industry”

February 13, 2012, 11:30 PM – Milestone Aviation Group (Booth No 7010), a helicopter financing company, made a splash at Heli-Expo this year, announcing a $480 million deal with Eurocopter (Booth No. 1917) for 16 EC225s, a contract with Sikorsky Aircraft (Booth No. 6148) for three S-92s (terms not disclosed), and a $125-135 million leasing agreement with major operator Bristow Group for five large helicopters.

Milestone chairman Richard Santulli is used to catching the aviation industry’s attention. His previous job was as founder and CEO of NetJets, which developed the fractional ownership model for business jets. Milestone has provided $500 million in financing for helicopters since opening its doors in 2010.

Santulli said Milestone’s model is different from that of the leasing companies that have been a staple of the airline world for years. “They buy 50 airplanes. That’s all they do,” he told AIN. “Our business is developing partnerships and relationships with operators. Our major paradigm is to provide financial capital to good operators.”

Milestone can offer either lease arrangements or 100 percent financing for helicopter purchases, and works with large operators seeking more flexibility in deploying capital or small operators without the capital to grow. The only requirement is that the helicopters be used in revenue-generating missions rather than executive transport.

The oil and gas industry is playing a large role in Milestone’s growth. When petroleum companies put out tenders or solicitations, operators bidding on the work must include the serial number of any helicopter they intend to use to provide the service. If the operator doesn’t have the lift capacity in its fleet, it may not have the wherewithal to put down a deposit for a delivery position for the helicopter – or take the risk of not getting the contract. But Milestone does.

Milestone will place the order for the needed helicopter, and finance the transaction, if the bidding company gets the contract. If the operator doesn’t get the contract, Milestone is happy to take possession of the aircraft for its leasing business.

“These very good operators around the world can now bid on tenders,” Santulli explained.

CEO William Kelly added, “A lot of the oil and gas companies like that. It gives them other people to compete [for the contract].” For Santulli, the move to Milestone from NetJets has been something of a homecoming. “I started in helicopters. In 1980 I started RTS helicopters.” (Santulli’s initials.) And he brought many of his NetJets colleagues with him, which he said gives the company an unparalleled ability to size up all facets of a potential client’s operation.

As for what it’s like to start Milestone after the huge success of NetJets, Santulli said, “We’re delighted with where we are. To build something again is a nice thing.”


Corporate Jet Investor – “Turbomeca and Milestone create partnership”

Feb 14, 2012 by Terry Spruce – Helicopter engine manufacturer Turbomeca (Safran group) and the Milestone Aviation Group announced at Heli-Expo the beginning of an expansive partnership between the two companies.

Through the Global Support Partnership, Turbomeca and Milestone are jointly developing new engine support solutions and services for Milestone’s lease customers around the world. The first support program to be developed is the unique Milestone Support by the Hour (SBH) program, which will provide added value and other ancillary benefits to Milestone’s customers.

“We are excited to announce this strategically important collaboration with Milestone,” said Olivier Andries, chairman and chief executive of Turbomeca. “Milestone presents a new opportunity for us to expand our customer base through their market leading global lease portfolio of Turbomeca-powered helicopters.”

“This partnership will help a large segment of our customers to control their operating costs,” said Richard Santulli, chairman of Milestone Aviation Group. “The Turbomeca team has proven to be very creative in working with us to develop new support solutions and services. Today’s announcement is only the beginning.”

Rotorhub: Heli-Expo 2012: “Market recovery reflected in helicopter sales”

14 February 2012 – 23:19 by Tony Skinner in Dallas, US

The note of optimism sounded by the various heads of the OEMs about the recovery of the commercial helicopter during Heli-Expo had a ring of reality following the raft of contracts announced during the exhibition.

AgustaWestland, Eurocopter and Sikorsky all signed double-digit contracts for helicopters at the medium to heavy segment, while a number of operators signed for light and intermediate types.

Bond Aviation Group was one company that burnt through the corporate chequebook, coming to a framework agreement with AgustaWestland for 15 helicopters (comprising ten firm orders and five options), including AW169, AW139 and AW189 aircraft, and signing the largest single contract for the Sikorsky S-92, purchasing 16 of the aircraft.

AgustaWestland also announced that Gulf Helicopters of Qatar had signed a preliminary sale contract for 15 AW189 helicopters for offshore transport missions.

Strong sales of the AW139 also continued with the signing of contracts for four additional examples of the medium twin in Japan through its distributor Mitsui Bussan Aerospace. Two of the AW139s will be designated for the civil market and two will be operated by the Japan National Police Agency.

Further, AgustaWestland announced the first sale of a GrandNew light twin helicopter for corporate/VIP transport in the Japanese market following a contract with Kaigai Aviotech Corporation.

Eurocopter also made some significant advances in sales of its larger types, announcing the sale of 16 EC225s to Milestone Aviation Group under a €362 million (US $480 million) contract and ten EC175s to Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen (NHV).

In addition, Eurocopter saw sales of one AS350 B3e to Air Greenland, two EC130 B4s to Corail Hélicoptères, one EC145 T2 to HTM Helicopter Travel Munich and four EC145 T2 helicopters to Scandinavian Air Ambulance.

Sikorsky’s announcement of its contract with Bond for 16 S-92s was made alongside news it had sold three of the aircraft to Brazilian helicopter operator Líder Aviação and three to Milestone.

Noticeably, the one major OEM that did not issue a regular stream of contract announcements, Bell Helicopter, arguably created the biggest stir and main talking point of the exhibition with its unveiling of the 525 Relentless Super Medium Transport early in the show.



Corporate Jet Investor – “Milestone signs for three S92s”

Feb 13, 2012 by Terry Spruce – Sikorsky Aircraft has announced that Milestone Aviation Group has signed a contract to purchase three S-92 helicopters.

“In a very short time, Milestone Aviation has become one of the pre-eminent helicopter lessors and an important and highly valued customer,” said Bob Kokorda, Sikorsky sales and marketing vice president. “We deeply appreciate their business, and look forward to growing our relationship.”

The three aircraft join an inventory of seven S-76C++ helicopters and four additional S-92 aircraft Milestone has purchased since December of 2010.

The new aircraft will serve a variety of roles with operators worldwide, such as transporting workers to offshore oil and gas platforms, VIP transport including Head of State, air ambulance, search and rescue, and civil defense.

“Our most recent purchase is further testament to the quality of the Sikorsky product line,” said Richard Santulli, chairman of Milestone. “Demand for these machines is extraordinary, and they will quickly enter the field performing mission critical or utility work with operators in the oil and gas, EMS or search and rescue sectors.

Sikorsky plans to deliver the first two S-92 aircraft during the latter part of 2012; and the third aircraft in early 2013.

Brian Humphries Joins Milestone Advisory Board

Brian Humphries, Milestone Aviation
Milestone Aviation Group announces the addition of Advisory Board member Brian Humphries who brings knowledge and expertise within both the helicopter and private jet industries.  MORE >>

Q + A with Brian Humphries, Milestone Aviation Group Advisory Board Member

January 9, 2012

We sat down with advisory board member Brian Humphries who currently serves as the President and Chairman of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and Chairman of the British Helicopter Association. His past titles include CEO of Shell Aircraft International and Chairman of the International Business Aviation Council.

We asked Mr. Humphries about the current state of the helicopter industry and where he believes it is headed:

Q: What is your evaluation of the current helicopter market?

Like most industries, the civil market for rotor wing aircraft was greatly affected by the world recession. Corporate VIP outfitted aircraft took a considerable hit while bad credits and reduced cash flow reduced spending on new utility outfitted machines. Although we saw a decline, the rotor wing market was kept afloat by increased spending in the paramilitary sector coupled with sustainable growth in offshore oil and gas exploration. “Recession proof” industries like emergency medical services were sustained while civil aircraft sales for police departments and search and rescue efforts declined due to scale backs in government spending. We saw the effect of the global recession but overall, I believe the market is steady today.

Q: What is your prediction on the market forecast for the next five years?

A: I see promising growth in the next five years due to manufacturer innovation and development as well as an overall increase in demand. As manufacturers continue to innovate and provide safer, more technologically advanced aircraft, the need to replace older machines will increase. We see this with Sikorsky and the development of the S-76 with the D model and with Eurocopter and its new EC-175.  Both manufacturers claim increased performance and safety measures in comparison to the models’ predecessors. Clients will demand higher safety standards as they come available and helicopter operators will respond accordingly.

Oil companies have announced new projects in the coming years for offshore oil exploration in emerging markets and continued growth in current areas of exploration which will amount to increased demand for heavy offshore configured machines. The demand for paramilitary and civil helicopters will continue to grow, particularly in booming economies with growing populations such as China and India, as well as the continued need for EMS/SAR aircraft.

Q: What has been the greatest challenge for helicopter operators in today’s market?

A: It is the same challenge they have always faced; barrier to entry. Operators must find and secure aircraft to bid on and execute contracts. With most utility helicopters ranging from $1 – 30 million, operators often find it challenging to secure financing in order to stay competitive. Some turn to traditional debt financing that requires money down and is often restrictive on aircraft registration. Others attempt to own all of their aircraft, making it essential to turn over their fleets in order to purchase new machines. The barrier to bidding on and executing a contract is the cost of the machine. The solution lies in the financing.

Q: How do you believe the “Milestone Solution” is affecting the marketplace?

A: Milestone brings a creative financing solution to the table with what I believe to be its three most important offerings; 100% financing, the ability to finance aircraft registered anywhere in the world and contingent pricing. Milestone’s dry operating lease structures give operators the ability to bid on contracts worldwide without an upfront financial commitment. Milestone has found a way to eliminate the “barrier” by easing the financing burden on operators coupled with conveniences such as marrying up lease commencements and term lengths with underlying contracts, sale-leasebacks on existing assets and assuming progress payments on new deliveries. It is a new and unique offering to the helicopter market and we have seen it in action. Milestone’s portfolio consists of both large and small operators with fleets ranging from 3 to 490 aircraft. They are helping operators grow and become more profitable regardless of their size.

AIN – “Milestone Inks Deal with Eurocopter”

Helicopter and business aircraft leasing firm Milestone Aviation announced at the Air Medical Transport Conference yesterday that it would purchase five new Eurocopter EC130B4 helicopters. The order is valued at $17 million, with deliveries slated for the second half of next year. Milestone said it will offer these aircraft for lease to “high-quality operators.” To this end, Milestone and American Eurocopter have formed an arrangement under which “the American Eurocopter sales team will work on the front end to identify leads and assist with closing Milestone leases on these helicopters.” American Eurocopter president and CEO Marc Paganini said Milestone “brings a new option to the table for our clients by providing 100-percent financing and flexible leasing solutions” for customers. According to Milestone chairman Richard Santulli, his company chose the EC130 because it is “widely used in the emergency medical service and tour industries,” a segment where he sees a “clear-cut business opportunity.” Since launching in August last year, Milestone has leased more than two dozen helicopters and private jets valued at more than $240 million. The company has signed commitments that will push that total to more than $300 million by year-end.

By Chad Trautvetter
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Corporate Jet Investor – “Milestone Aviation Group acquires five EC130B4 helicopters”

American Eurocopter and Milestone Aviation Group announced at the Air Medical Transport Conference in St Louis, the sale to Milestone of five new Eurocopter EC130B4 helicopters. The order is valued at $17 million. Deliveries will take place in the second half of 2012.

“Our sales team worked very closely with Milestone to pull this together and we are pleased to make this announcement,” said Marc Paganini, president and chief executive officer of American Eurocopter. “Milestone brings a new option to the table for our clients by providing 100% financing and flexible leasing solutions that will help our customers get into the best helicopters in the business.”

“We are delighted to acquire the popular EC130, a widely used model in the emergency medical service and tour industries, and strengthen our relationship with Eurocopter,” said Richard Santulli, chairman of Milestone. “There is a clear-cut business opportunity to serve high-quality operators in these sectors and this announcement demonstrates our commitment to meet their needs.”

Since launching in August 2010, Milestone has leased over two dozen helicopters and private jets valued at more than $240 million. The company has signed commitments that will push that total to over $300 million by the end of the year.

By Terry Spruce

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AIN – “Milestone To Finance $80M of CHC’s Helicopters”

CHC Helicopter and aircraft leasing firm Milestone Aviation Group announced an $80 million contract today for sale-leaseback of five heavy helicopters for transporting offshore oil and gas workers in the UK, Denmark and Falklands. The deal includes the sale-leaseback of two Sikorsky S-92s and three Eurocopter AS332L2s. The first part of the transaction valued at more than $50 million has closed, with another $30 million expected to close within the next two months.

By Chad Trautvetter

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Rotorhub – “Helitech 2011: Milestone and CHC sign financing agreement”

September 29, 2011 – CHC Helicopter has signed an $80 million sale-leaseback agreement with Milestone Aviation Group, in a development described by the two companies as the commencement of a ‘significant new financing relationship’.

The arrangement covers the sale-leaseback of five aircraft, two Sikorsky S92s and three Eurocopter AS332L2s, which are currently serving oil and gas contracts in Denmark, the UK and the Falklands.

Speaking to Shephard, Milestone CEO Bill Kelly said the agreement, which was Milestone’s largest to date, was a significant development for the fledging company.

‘We are very excited to be partnering with such a great company as CHC and closing the deal pushes us out to $250 million worth of deals signed to date with another $150 to $200 million worth of letters of intent pending,’ Kelly said.

‘We are now partnering with companies around the world – from larger companies, like CHC, to a number of smaller operators – and this is really proof that our business model of providing 100% financing is really appealing for them.’

The two companies have already settled the first part of the transaction, which is valued at $50 million, and expect to close the remainder within the next two months.

The first aircraft leasing company focusing solely on helicopters and private jets, Milestone launched in 2010 with the strategy of addressing the liquidity needs of an under-pressure market through 100% operating lease financing.

The company has since leased more than two dozen helicopters and private jets, with the CHC agreement expected to push the value of the deals to more than $300 million by the end of 2011.

While Kelly noted that the company did not expect to close all the agreements associated with the current letters of intent, he was bullish about future opportunities, especially in fast-growing markets such as Brazil and India.

‘We have been operating for less than a year now and were slightly surprised that we managed to break into a company like CHC so early but they have some sophisticated owners who like to have a range of options in how they finance their operations. Given the success we have seen to date, that is certainly something that has echoed throughout the marketplace.’

In a statement William Amelio, CHC’s president and chief executive officer, said Milestone’s entry into the helicopter-leasing sector was a positive development for the industry.

‘Global capabilities, creativity and the ability to provide significant amounts of capital make them an important financial partner for CHC,’ Amelio said.