Milestone Aviation planning to use US Ex-Im finance for helicopters

Sikorsky S-92The Export-Import Bank of the US is set to guarantee around $200 million in financing for helicopter leasing company, Milestone Aviation Group.

Although US Ex-Im is a regular financier of commercial aircraft leasing companies, this is the first time that it has supported a helicopter leasing company. The deal is still awaiting approval from Ex-Im’s board of directors.

The money will be used to support the export of nine Sikorsky S-92 helicopters (pictured) that will be leased to Bond Aviation Group (part of European helicopter operator Avincis), Bristow Group and Brazillian operators, Lider and Omni Taxi. The helicopters will be based in the UK, Norway and Brazil.

As it is guaranteed by the US government, Ex-Im debt is one of the cheapest forms of aircraft finance available. The bank rarely lends directly, instead typically guaranteeing a loan made by a commercial bank. The bank that will lend the money to Milestone – which launched in August 2010 – has not been disclosed, but Deutsche Bank, which has led a number of Milestone debt issues, is the favourite.

Although US Ex-Im has guaranteed loans to many commercial aircraft leasing companies, it rarely supports companies with less than three years of financial accounts.

US Ex-Im also supports helicopter operators that buy US-made helicopters. The two most recent Ex-Im loans were a $40 million guarantee loan for Omni, financing three AW139s that was arranged by TD Securities, and a $60 million loan for Mexico’s Aeroservicios Especializados via Airfinance.

Terry Spruce

Terry is Senior News Editor and writes for both Corporate Jet Investor and Helicopter Investor. He is also responsible for our helicopter guides. Terry has been an aviation enthusiast since the early 1970s. He is a lapsed Private Pilot and ex-Piper Cherokee owner. He has flown a number of light aircraft and is comfortable sitting in the co-pilot's seat or the back of any aircraft. Before moving to journalism he was a banker for 20 years. You can contact him at: or follow him on twitter @Terry_Spruce

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