Bristow Helicopters

Bristow Helicopters Limited is a British civil helicopter operator originally based at Aberdeen Airport, Scotland, which is now part of the U.S.-based Bristow Group (NYSE: BRS, S&P 600 component) which in turn has its corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, US.

Bristow Helicopters Limited
IATA ICAO Callsign
Fleet size490
Parent companyThe Bristow Group
Traded asNYSE: BRS
S&P 600 component
HeadquartersAberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom
Key peopleJonathan E. Baliff (CEO)
RevenueUS$1.67B (FY 2014)[1]
Operating incomeUS$177M (FY 2014)[1]
Net incomeUS$187M (FY 2014)[1]
Total assetsUS$3.54B(FY 2014)[2]
Total equityUS$1.77B (FY 2014)[2]

Bristow Helicopters Limited holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence, it is permitted to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 seats or more.[3] The U.S. division of Bristow is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Part 135 air carrier.

On 11 May 2019, Bristow Group entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, affecting North America operations, but leaving overseas operations unchanged. After an aggressive expansion earlier in the decade, demand was cut back as crude oil prices dropped and Bristow Group’s total debt stood at $1.44 billion by 30 September 2018. Bristow completed the UK's Eastern Airways sale on 10 May, and still wants to sell its interest in Australia's Airnorth, hoping for $230 million combined.[4]


Bristow Helicopters Limited was established in June 1955 by Alan Bristow.

From 17 February 1965 and onwards, it operated the Westland Wessex 60 ten-seat helicopter in support of North Sea Oil industry off-shore installations.[5]

During the late 1960s, Bristow operated a fleet of Hiller UH-12 training helicopters based at AAC Middle Wallop which were used to train flight crews for the UK Army Air Corps.

In 1985, it was acquired by British and Commonwealth Holdings plc.[6]

In 1996, Bristow Helicopters was purchased by Offshore Logistics, an American offshore helicopter operator which operated as Air Logistics in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, and was structured as a reverse takeover. The group now operates and maintains a global fleet of over 400 aircraft. In 2006 Offshore Logistics re-branded itself as 'The Bristow Group'.

The Bristow Group expanded their portfolio in April 2007 with the purchase of Helicopter Adventures, a Florida-based flight school, Helicopter Adventures was subsequently renamed Bristow Academy.[7][8] The deal also provided the Bristow Group with the world's largest civilian fleet of Schweizer aircraft.[9]

Bristow (formerly Air Logistics)

In January 2010, Bristow announced the retirement of the Air Logistics name and Gulf of Mexico operations would operate under the name Bristow. Bristow provides helicopter services, maintenance and other support services to the oil and gas industry. It operates more than 170 single and twin-turbine helicopters in the United States. These receive support, materials and operational assistance from its regional headquarters and primary maintenance facility located at the Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia, Louisiana.

Eastern Airways and Airnorth

Fixed Wing Bristow has controlling interests in Eastern Airways which is a regional airline based in the U.K. operating fixed wing regional jet and turboprop aircraft and Airnorth, also a regional airline, based in Australia operating fixed wing regional jet and turboprop aircraft. Both Eastern Airways and Airnorth operate scheduled passenger services, shuttle flights for oil and gas industry personnel, and charter services.[10]

Joint ventures

In addition to its wholly owned international operations, Bristow Group maintains service agreements and equity interests in helicopter operators in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Mexico, Norway and Russia (Sakhalin) and the United Kingdom. This allows Bristow to extend its range of services into new and developing oil and gas markets and helps provide a lower cost structure in some operating areas. Partners include:

Although not a joint venture, in 2015 Bristow and AgustaWestland agreed to develop offshore and search and rescue capabilities for the AW609 tiltrotor.[12] This could simplify a typical trip from Clapham Common to an oil rig by using just one aircraft.[13] Bristow intends to order more than 10 tiltrotors.[14]


The Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley is a detachment of the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury, from which its aircraft are distinguished by their flotation bags, rescue winches and cable cutters above the cockpit roof. The aircraft are maintained to EASA standards but are military registered allowing them to operate outside civilian flight restrictions.

All the Defence Helicopter Flying School Helicopters and Synthetic Training Equipment are owned by FB Heliservices, a consortium of Bristow Helicopters and FR Aviation, who provide 40% of the instructional staff, all the ground school and simulator staff, carry out all maintenance and provide support services.

Search and Rescue

Bristow helicopters operated Sikorsky S-61N helicopters on behalf of Her Majesty's Coastguard, the United Kingdom's Coast Guard, until July 2007 after which there was a 12-month transitional period whilst CHC Helicopter took over the contract replacing the S-61N with new helicopters.

Bristow operated four dedicated Search and Rescue (SAR) sites in the UK, on behalf of HM Coastguard. The units were located at Portland (EGDP) and Lee-on-Solent (EGHF) on the south coast of England, at Stornoway (EGPO) in the Outer Hebrides, and at Sumburgh (EGPB) in the Shetland Isles.

Northern North Sea services operated from Aberdeen (EGPD), Scatsta (EGPM) and Stavanger (ENZV).

Southern North Sea services operate from Norwich (EGSH), Humberside (EGNJ) and Den Helder (EHKD) with its support organisation based at Redhill (EGKR).

Bristow S61N's were responsible to carry out SAR tasks, operating from Den Helder Airport on behalf of the oil and gas industry.

On 26 March 2013 Bristow was awarded a 10-year contract to operate the search and rescue operations in the United Kingdom, at the time being provided by CHC Helicopter (on behalf of Her Majesty's Coastguard), the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.[15] Bristow is currently operating AgustaWestland AW139, AgustaWestland AW189 and Sikorsky S-92 helicopters in support of this contract. The AW139 aircraft are being replaced by the AW189 which was originally specified in the contract however procurement delays lead to the AW139 being introduced instead of the AW189 initially, resulting in AAR AIrlift Group claiming the first civilian registered SAR AW189, based in the Falkland Islands, in support of the UK Government [10][16][17][18]


Bristow operates a large fleet of over 450 helicopters and aircraft, which includes unconsolidated affiliates and joint venture partners.[19] Bristow intends to reduce fleet variety from 24 helicopter types to six.[13] For subsidiarie Airnorth fixed wing jet and turboprop aircraft, see Airnorth.


  • 5N-ABQ, a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer Srs1, crashed on 4 April 1967 in Nigeria during a single engine approach.
  • G-ASWI North Sea ditching - On 13 August 1981 a Westland Wessex 60 helicopter lost power to the main rotor gearbox, going out of control during the ensuing autorotation. The flight was carrying 11 gas workers from the Leman gas field to Bacton, Norfolk. All people on board were lost.[20][21]
  • on 14 September, G-BDIL a Bell 212, crashed into the North Sea near the Murchison oil platform while on a nighttime search and rescue mission.
  • On 4 July 1983, Bristow Helicopters AS332L Super Puma (G-TIGD) crashed on landing at Aberdeen. During the approach to Aberdeen from the North Hutton platform, a loud bang was heard, followed by severe vibration. A PAN call was made to ATC by the crew. Shortly before landing control was lost and the helicopter struck the runway heavily on its side. 10 of 16 passengers received serious injuries. A tail boom panel had become detached in flight and damaged all five tail rotor blades. The resulting imbalance to the tail rotor assembly led to the separation of this unit and subsequent loss of control.
  • G-BJJR a Bell 212 that crashed with the loss of two crew on approach to the Cecil Provine in 1984.
  • VR-BIG Aerospatiale SA-330J Puma 5 December 1991 in Mermaid Sound, Dampier, Western Australia, after a pick-up from departing LNG tanker in night VFR conditions, entered vortex ring state and ditched. Stayed afloat for over 2 hrs.
  • G-TIGH on 14 March 1992 at 1950 a Bristow's Tiger (Super Puma) ferrying passengers from the Cormorant Alpha to the flotel Safe Supporter, lost altitude and crashed. Of the two crew and 14 passengers on board, one crew member and ten passengers were lost.
  • G-TIGK on Bristow Flight 56C between Aberdeen and oil rigs in the North Sea. On 19 January 1995 the AS 332L Super Puma helicopter was struck by lightning. The flight was carrying 16 oil workers from Aberdeen to an oil platform at the Brae oilfield. All people on board survived.
  • G-BJVX North Sea Crash - G-BJVX, a commercial Sikorsky S-76A helicopter operated by Norwich-based Bristow Helicopters, crashed in the evening of 16 July 2002 in the southern North Sea while it was making a ten-minute flight between the gas production platform Clipper and the drilling rig Global Santa Fe Monarch, after which it was to return to Norwich Airport. The 22-year-old helicopter was flying at an altitude of about 320 feet (98 m) when workers on the Global Santa Fe Monarch heard "a loud bang". No witnesses were actually watching the aircraft at the time, but some saw it dive steeply into the sea. A witness also reported seeing the helicopter's rotor head with rotor blades attached falling into the sea after the body of the helicopter had impacted. The accident caused the death of all those on board (two crew members and nine Shell workers as passengers). The body of the eleventh man has never been recovered.
  • G-JSAR Eurocopter Super Puma SAR - ditched in the North Sea on 22 November 2006. G-JSAR was operated from Den Helder Airport in the Netherlands on behalf of oil companies. All on board survived uninjured [22]
  • On 12 August 2015 a Sikorsky S76C+ with registration number 5N-BGD returning to Lagos from an offshore rig with ten passengers, all oil workers, crashed into the Lagos lagoon close to the 11.8 kilometres (7.3 mi) long third mainland bridge, the longest of three bridges connecting the Lagos mainland to the Island. The helicopter was five minutes away from landing at the Muritala Muhammed airport in Lagos. Four oil workers and the two crew died while six others were rescued alive.

See also

  • Whirlwind (novel) - A novel by James Clavell, first published in 1986, which was closely inspired by the true struggle of Bristow Helicopters to escape the revolutionary forces and get their employees and equipment out of the unstable, deteriorating situation in Iran. Much of the story mirrors these and other contemporary events.
  • Bristow Norway - (formerly Norsk Helikopter) is a Norwegian helicopter company that transports crew to oil installations in the North Sea.
  • Petroleum Helicopters International


  1. BRISTOW GROUP (BRS) annual SEC income statement filing via Wikinvest.
  2. BRISTOW GROUP (BRS) annual SEC balance sheet filing via Wikinvest.
  3. UK CAA - Operating Licence Holders
  4. Dominic Perry (13 May 2019). "Bristow bows to inevitable and enters Chapter 11". FlightGlobal.
  5. Swartz, Kenneth I. (16 April 2015). "Setting the Standard". Vertical Magazine. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  6. British & Commonwealth acquires remaining interest in Bristow Helicopter Group
  8. Smith, Dale. "Training Profile: Bristow Academy" page 27-31. Rotor&Wing, July 2011.
  11., 9/4/2012 press release: Bristow to acquire assets and minority equity interest in Cougar Helicopters
  12. AgustaWestland and Bristow Sign Exclusive Platform Development Agreement for the AW609 Tiltrotor Program AgustaWestland PR, 3 March 2015.
  13. Johnson, Oliver. "Charting Bristow's Course" Vertical, August 2015. Archive
  14. Huber, Mark (3 March 2015). "Bristow Commits To Being Partner and Customer for AW609 Civil Tiltrotor". Aviation International News. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  15. "Bristow Group to take over UK search and rescue from RAF". BBC News. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  18. "Lee-on-Solent Starts Live Operations with New AW189 Search and Rescue Helicopters". Bristow Group. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  20. Report No: 4/1983. Report on the accident to Westland Wessex 60, G-ASWI, 12 miles ENE of Bacton, Norfolk on 13 August 1981
  21. 4/1983 Westland Wessex 60, G-ASWI Appendices

Further reading

  • Bristow, A. & Malone, P. (2009). Alan Bristow Helicopter Pioneer: The Autobiography. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 978-1-84884-208-3.

Bristow sites:

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.