Heli Expo 2018: Talking to Waypoint Leasing CEO Hooman Yazhari


Waypoint files for Chapter 11

Waypoint Leasing, one of the largest helicopter lessors, recently saw a switch up in its management.

The lessor’s founder and CEO Ed Washecka left the company and was replaced by CHC Helicopter’s Hooman Yazhari – who was general counsel and administrative officer at the operator.

Mr Yazhari took up the role officially on 5 February and since then it has been business as usual for the lessor. It has opened up a new office in Hong Kong to help expand its presence in the growing Asia-Pacific helicopter market and announced a new maintenance programme for its Leonardo AW139 fleet at Heli-Expo last week.

On the first day of Heli-Expo, we sat down with Mr Yazhari to talk about his plans for the company, his own history and his views on the state of the market.

HI: How has your first month at Waypoint been?

HY: “It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to build new relationships with people inside and outside the Waypoint team. Waypoint has a fantastic team who are all engaged and motivated and very focused on our customers. We are working in a tough industry, but the challenges which the industry currently face also present a lot of opportunities to be entrepreneurial.

“Business is good, there are parts of the industry that are challenged and oversupplied, such as the oil and gas market, but that is cyclical and there are other areas that are doing well and where we continue to expand. We are expanding internationally and finding new customers and, crucially, we are finding new customers that have not thought of leasing before.

“We are not just a financing company for these customers, we are a partner that helps them with their fleet planning, aircraft procurement, and efficient deployment of capital. We are a partner that tries to help in any way we can to achieve a win-win outcome.

“While one part of the industry might be challenged, there are other doors that we are opening.”

HI: History with Waypoint?

HY: “I was at CHC for three years before joining the company. At that time, I was a customer of Waypoint’s, and Waypoint and Milestone were CHC’s two biggest fleet providers. Throughout CHC’s restructuring process we had many interesting negotiations with both of them and came out the other side with the relationships intact, so much so that Waypoint was kind enough to ask me to join them!

HI: What sparked the change in management?

HY: “Waypoint is only five years old, in that short time span it has grown from nothing to managing a fleet of aircraft valued at $1.69 billion.

“The change in management is a natural part of the maturation of the business, as the organization moves from adolescence into adulthood. The current market disruptions also provide me and my colleagues at Waypoint an opportunity to rethink everything we do and to build on the impressive achievements of the prior leadership.”

HI: What will you be doing to grow the company?

HY: “Maybe I’d have a better answer after my first 100 days. But right now, I think that the most-important part of Waypoint’s business is our customers. So, taking time to understand their needs, appreciate their strategies and see how we can assist them is an important start.

“We also need to continue to work on everything that makes our business and the industry sustainable in this lower-cost environment. Part of that has to do with changing the way our business and the industry works as a whole. This means engaging with our OEMs, with our operator customers, with our competitors and with the end users of our aircraft, to partner and to refine a business model that works well for everybody.

“A strategy of out-running the fire of low oil prices is not going to work. Our strategy is to be a viable business regardless of oil prices and the perceived difficulties of the market. We want to continuously strengthen Waypoint to be as robust as possible in any market.”

HI: How are you looking to diversify?

HY: “Offshore wind is definitely attractive. It is a relatively young and small market which is set to grow.

“The wonderful thing I have found since joining the company is that we are already diversified away from volatile markets such as oil and gas. We have customers in adjoining markets such as utilities, SAR and private flights. And this disruption in the industry has caused us to look more closely at alternative uses, sectors and geographies for our fleet. We are not alone in the industry in spending a lot of our time defining and executing on strategies for alternative uses for helicopter assets.”

HI: Now you head up one of the biggest lessors, what are you hoping to change?

HY: “I would like to use my opportunity at Waypoint to try and bring my colleagues in the industry – the operators, the OEMs and the MROs – together to find a more-sustainable and long-term ‘greedy’ (vs short term greedy) strategy for us all to work towards.

“There are certain realities that are not industry friendly, whether they are aircraft costs, excessive supply, or that aircraft are too customized. Addressing these issues should be achieved in a relatively non-controversial way for us all to make the industry more profitable for all of us.

“While we can be successful by ourselves, we have an opportunity here to redefine the industry, to be more profitable and to innovate, but only if we work together. I want this industry to move towards a culture that holistically understands the risks that each party bears and that, in a cooperative and collaborative manner, shares ideas to make every part of the value chain sustainable. Ultimately, if we do not do this, we will all do ourselves a disservice.”

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