The flagship of Helicopter Seychelles’ fleet has returned to Mahé to a jubilant staff welcome ahead of the company’s planned re-launch next month.
The $1.5 million Agusta 109C aircraft was flown more than 4,500 kilometers from South Africa, where it had just undergone a complete scheduled rebuild.
The company’s newly-recruited operational staff, in their distinctive red uniforms, greeted the 8-seater helicopter with cheers and applause as it touched down at its Providence helipad on Friday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, after a 5-day journey via Mozambique, Comoros, and Madagascar for refueling stops, the pilots cleared customs, immigration, and health inspections on Farquhar, its point of arrival in Seychelles.
Along the way, they overcame numerous obstacles including hostile weather in Mozambique, an airport fuel shortage at Pemba, and obstructive bureaucracy and corruption in Madagascar – yet still arrived in Mahé exactly on schedule.
Stops included: Wonderboom Airport (Pretoria); Kruger International Airport (Kruger National Park, South Africa); Vilancula (Mozambique); Quelimane (Mozambique); Nampula (Mozambique); Pemba (Mozambique); Pamandzi (Mayotte, Comoros); Antsiranana (Madagascar); Farquhar, Alphonse, Mahé.
The Agusta 109C is a twin-turbine engine helicopter, powered by Rolls Royce Allison 250 engines, and capable of flight at night and in poor weather. A second Agusta will soon make the same journey from South Africa to join the company’s two single turbine Bell 206 JetRangers, which are already in Mahé.
Captain Shaun Tinkler-Rose, who piloted the Agusta S7-HTE alongside co-pilot Capt Matt Hayes, thanked his team as they toasted the aircraft’s return.
“She’s performed fantastically all the way – a great machine with an important future role in this country’s tourism story,” said Capt. Tinkler-Rose.
“As flagship with full instrument flying capability, she is the only choice in Seychelles for clients needing quick and safe transfers at night or in poor weather to many of the country’s hotel resort helipads.”
Helicopter Seychelles is awaiting final approval of its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) following management restructuring and major overhauls of its aircraft and maintenance facility on Mahé. It will be the only Seychelles helicopter company to be fully compliant with stringent new European maintenance regulations recently adopted by the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority.
“We’re delighted to be coming back,” said Capt. Tinkler-Rose. “Many important clients whose businesses rely on a safe, luxurious, and flexible helicopter service, specifically wanted us to return so they have a choice.
“In a place like Seychelles, only helicopters such as the Agusta 109 guarantee the continuity of service to many of the restricted island landing sites. Safety and customer service is uppermost in our minds.”
The Agusta’s night flying capability will enable inbound visitors to be transferred direct from the International Airport to their island resorts without the necessity of spending their first or last overnight in Mahé.
Helicopter Seychelles first launched in 1993 and remains privately-owned. A 23-strong team, including European-trained pilots and engineers, will operate the new service from its base in Mahé.
A new stand-alone VIP passenger lounge will soon begin construction at the International Airport’s domestic terminal, guaranteeing faster transfers for Helicopter Seychelles’ clients. A second facility will open at Praslin airport.
Capt. Tinkler-Rose said, “It’s good to be back and we’re back for good to give premier service and, as our slogan says, to give a better view of paradise.”