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GDHF aiming to be ‘global lessor’ with $1B portfolio

By Gerrard Cowan | July 3, 2024

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 42 seconds.

New helicopter lessor GDHF said it is targeting a $1 billion fleet portfolio, and hopes to have 20 aircraft on contract by the end of this year.

GDHF was launched in April, entering the market with an order book of 50 Airbus H160s. The company has the same owner as Chinese helicopter operator GDAT.

GDAT ordered 20 Airbus H175s — an order book GDHF has now taken over — while the new lessor also offers availability of capital for helicopter deals, including financing solutions for Leonardo AW139 and AW189 platforms to potential customers.  

GDHF is helmed by Michael York, who was previously head of emerging markets at Milestone Aviation. In an interview with Vertical, York said that while the company could not yet disclose details of its customers, 16 of its platforms have already been contracted with various operators.

The prospective 20 deal to be concluded by the end of the year will comprise a mixture of finance terms, he said, including operating leases and sale and leaseback arrangements. 

York said GDHF aims to be “a global lessor of substance,” overseeing a $1 billion dollar portfolio. The primary focus will be oil-and-gas support, but it is open to opportunities in any segment, including the wind, emergency medical services (EMS) and search-and-rescue sectors. 

“If you think about the H160, for example, it’s extremely versatile – you can do energy, EMS, search-and-rescue, corporate and VIP, and wind.”

York believes there is an unmet market need in both quantitative and qualitative terms. 

On the quantitative side, he said that about 100 S-92s in the offshore oil-and-gas market will be more than 20 years old in the early 2030s. “There will be a mechanical retirement – that’s physics, that’s the numbers,” he argued. 

And in qualitative terms, York said “we’re seeing end users demand the newest technology.” For many, the guidance of Report 690 – Offshore Helicopter Recommended Practices (OHRP) from the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) is “the gold standard,” York said. Additionally, there is an emphasis on cutting emissions and boosting efficiency, all of which are strengths of the H160 and the super mediums in the GDHF order book, he added. 

GDHF therefore aims to offer “a composition of aircraft to meet market needs in terms of replacement and new technology,” York said. The company’s USP is to “be quick and easy to do business with,” adopting an entrepreneurial and flexible approach to its dealings with customers.

“The market stakeholders I’ve talked to say this thesis is correct — the market needs a new supply of technology and capital, and they’re welcoming of a new entrant. They’re interested in an agile, flexible and entrepreneurial mindset.”

The new lessor’s goals for the second half of 2024 are to communicate its offering to the market, set up the mechanics of the business, and rapidly execute multiple deals to enter the market fully, said York. 

“It is really about establishing a critical mass portfolio, getting the first orders and deals away to customers, and proving that certainty of execution,” he said.  

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