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Above & Beyond

July 4, 2007  By Mark McWhirter

Corporate helicopters are a specialty market that has developed in the US but largely has yet to catch on in Canada. Many large urban centres worldwide have established corporate helicopter services catering to a wealthy business clientele. 

Corporate helicopters in Canada are few and far between.
Vancouver-based London Air Service has recently entered this niche
market with Canada’s first Agusta AW139, which is only Canada’s second
corporate helicopter. The other is owned by Execaire, which operates an
executive-configured Bell 427 for its Toronto clientele.

helicopters are a specialty market that has developed in the US but
largely has yet to catch on in Canada. Many large urban centres
worldwide have established corporate helicopter services catering to a
wealthy business clientele. London Air Service’s operation aims to be
on a par with, if not above, its international competition. Since its
inception just over seven years ago, London Air Service (LAS) has been
open to innovation and defying the odds. This approach applies not only
to its well-developed and ever-expanding fixed-wing operation, but also
to its new rotary-wing division.

London Air Service was
developed by Wynne Powell, who is also the president of London Drugs, a
successful and expanding pharmaceutical retail chain. The air charter
was created to give the company’s executives a convenient and
cost-effective form of transport. When the aircraft aren’t flying for
the company they are chartered out, effectively creating London Air

Since its inception London Air Service has grown to
include six fixed-wing aircraft, including four Learjet 45s and two
Bombardier Challenger 604s. The new Agusta AW139 – the first of two
$12-million helicopters – has been named “Family Spirit” to signify the
continued small community that the company represents.


addition of the first helicopter allows clients a seamless
transportation experience, no matter what the final destination.
Clients are able to fly transcontinental on the Challenger 604 then
transition to the Agusta AW139 for a short hop to the golf course or
luxury resort. Potential clients are often educated on the merits of
corporate travel as an efficient business tool – in this aspect the
helicopter is no different than the fixed-wing fleet. It is hoped that
the AW139 will generate an increase in high-end corporate traffic that
is looking for a safe and speedy way to move around British Columbia.

with London Air Service’s fixed-wing fleet, the Agusta AW139 is adorned
with the distinctive green LAS livery. The corporate identity is a
strong focus that ensures branding continuity for client identification
and recognition. Many other corporate operators shy away from
maintaining a strong identity, but this is something that London Air
Service holds closely as an asset.

Attention to detail extends
to the interior of the aircraft, where rich green embossed leather
seats are the norm. The helicopter can be configured to hold from 7 to
15 passengers in executive comfort. One of the first features that
passengers will notice is how quiet the helicopter is – noise-canceling
headphones are provided, but not required. The internal sound level is
impressive – the same as the Challenger 604.

London Air Service
has learned what customers want and feels that the AW139 is the machine
to do the job. The size of the AW139 provides a smooth and quiet ride
that allows clients to continue commerce while airborne. This selling
feature is exclusive to London Air Service’s machine and will not be
found in any other helicopter operating in Canada.

The Agusta
AW139 was selected because it was viewed as the bestsuited helicopter
for the desired role, and it has yet to disappoint. “We’re a
technology-driven company, willing to pay more for the best machine
available,” said Powell. After nearly 200 flight hours, the machine
continues to perform beyond expectations.

The ultra-modern AW139
features an all-glass cockpit. It is the first helicopter to be
equipped with a Honeywell Primus EPIC four-tube EFIS cockpit. The
helicopter is powered by the highly proven Pratt and Whitney PT-6 – 67C
engine. Each engine turns out 1,682 shaft horsepower. All weather,
night, and IFR capabilities enable the AW139 to operate in any
conditions it may encounter in British Columbia.

The helicopter
was largely acquired to ferry customers to and from the exclusive
Sonora Resort, which is a 45-minute flight from Vancouver. The resort
now offers an IFR approach allowing allweather flights into the remote

The helicopter offers an unsurpassed cruising speed
that allows clients a speedy and safe journey. Both are assets that
London Air Service holds in high regard. The large cabin of the AW139
is roomy for passengers, regardless of the helicopter’s operating
configuration. Another major selling point is the cargo payload and
luggage space. The cavernous luggage hold enables clients to transport
golf clubs, skis, snowboards or other bulk items without limitation or
hesitation. Without a doubt, the AW139 will be frequently visiting
Whistler and other popular tourist destinations.

The large
twin-engine helicopter is not cheap to charter. In fact, it is more
expensive to charter the AW139 than the Challenger 604. However, the
charter price is competitive when compared to similar operations in the
US. The premium service is not only unique to the West Coast, but to
all of Canada.

London Air Service’s involvement with Agusta has
grown to include crew training for future North American pilots and a
Canadian sales representative. Much of the company’s continued success
can be attributed to its employees and their continued commitment.
“People run the company and it is people who set the standard,” said


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