Gama’s right time for rotary
Gama Aviation is no stranger to rotary aviation. It has long offered maintenance services for helicopters and its co-founder is both a fixed wing and helicopter pilot and maintains a long-standing love of all things rotary.
So why has the company waited almost 40 years since its launch to buy its own helicopters? The answer is to avoid the “race to the bottom” in the business jet market, Mark Gascoigne, MD of European Air at Gama Aviation told Helicopter Investor last week.
Gama ordered three new H145s in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) configuration in 2018 and hopes to fly the aircraft on an existing EMS contract in June this year. Last week, it showed off its aircraft to the press for the first time.
“It came to a point two or three years ago where the business jet market became a cat fight; we didn’t want to play in the race to the bottom,” Gascoigne told Helicopter Investor.
“Dozens and dozens of operators [in the business jet market] are all fighting for the same pie and giving their product away. But in the HEMS [helicopter emergency medical services] market, there are only two or three major players; so, we saw an opportunity there.”
Some may question the decision to branch into helicopters now in a down market. But the stable EMS contract provides some much-needed diversification away from the overcrowded business jet charter market.
And at a time where many operators and lessors are struggling to find finance, Gama managed to secure a £20m loan from HSBC with apparent ease. Being a publicly listed company with an existing revolving credit history with the bank certainly helped.
“We are big institutional investors and banks see us as a safe pair of hands.” said Gascoigne. “We were able to secure the funding for the three aircraft relatively easily; it shows a faith in what we are doing.”
Gama’s initiative in diversifying into operating helicopters deserves praise. But we would prefer our next flight with Gama to be in the cabin of a Challenger 850 business jet rather than in a H145 on an EMS mission.