Salus Aviation unveils new global branding at HAC convention
By Oliver Johnson | November 15, 2023
Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 59 seconds.
New Zealand company Salus Aviation unveiled its new branding and enhanced capabilities at the Helicopter Association of Canada’s (HAC’s) convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, last week, following several major acquisitions.
The company offers a broad range of services, from aircraft sales and leasing, to maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for components, engines, and blades; avionics repairs and installations; parts supply; and helicopter reconfigurations.
Salus Aviation’s business units include Oceania Aviation (which it purchased in 2017), Heliparts Nevada (acquired in 2019) and the helicopter division of Airwork Holdings (December 2022).
The company, owned by a group of investment bankers, was established to acquire Oceania Aviation — but its ambitions have always been much broader.
“Our strategy has always been to acquire small businesses, consolidate them into one or keep them operating separately — whichever was the appropriate thing — and then grow the global base of our aviation businesses,” Greg Edmonds, Salus’s CEO, told Vertical.
Airwork sits across the runway from Oceania in Auckland, New Zealand, and when Salus discovered that Airwork’s rotary division might be available for sale, it began the acquisition process.
“We always thought of each other as competitors,” said Edmonds. “But actually, when we went to do the due diligence, we realized that they weren’t a competitor — they were operating in different parts of the market and the industry and we actually complemented each other.”
The Airwork brand name was to be kept by that company’s fixed-wing division, so the rotary division needed a new title — and Salus Aviation was the answer. Salus’s executive team quickly realized the Salus Aviation brand needed to “go global,” with all of its business units trading under the Salus Aviation name.
The company’s appearance at the HAC convention represented a soft launch of that rebranding — to be followed by a full official launch at Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo in February 2024.
“It’s been an incredible year, merging the three businesses together,” said Edmonds. “Airwork’s [helicopter] business was ready to get out of the previous ownership. . . . Being back in New Zealand ownership gave that part of the business a whole new lease of life.”
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Today, Salus Aviation has a staff of just under 300 and has facilities and bases in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown in New Zealand; Hobart, Australia; Lima, Peru; Las Vegas, Nevada; Pretoria, South Africa; and in Guinea.
“We’ve always had a strategy to be a major player in the Pacific Basin,” said Edmonds. “Africa was a bit of a bonus when we bought Airwork, because it was never on our radar to [get into] Africa, but actually with our global strategy around the leasing, Africa and South America have become really important for us.”
The company has a fleet of 44 aircraft that it leases around the world, on both dry (providing the aircraft and maintaining it) and wet (also providing the crew) contracts.
The vast majority of those aircraft — 28 — are Airbus BK117s, and most of these are working on emergency medical services (EMS) contracts around the world.
“The BK117 is a great machine — we love them, they’re reliable, a great workhorse, they do the jobs — but the new generation of pilots really want an H145 with a glass cockpit,” said Edmonds. “So our strategy is actually to transition our BKs in the EMS environments in first world countries into H145s or the Bell 429.”
The BK117s will then be taken into the African or South American markets.
The plan is to start this acquisition cycle “within 12 months” and to run it across the next few years, said Edmonds. He foresees the Salus Aviation fleet growing to “60 or 70” aircraft, primarily through adding the H145 or Bell 429 — but there will also be single-engine helicopters added to the fleet (such as Airbus EC130s or AStars), to be used in different roles.
Another branch of the business that Salus Aviation plans to grow is its heavy overhaul capability, and Edmonds said the company is in discussions “with a number of the OEMs” about getting additional approvals for overhauls.
Parts supply will be the final area of focus — primarily run through the company’s facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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“We are constantly buying aircraft and parting them out and putting them through Heliparts’ network in Nevada,” said Edmonds. “We’ll continue to do that, particularly for the next few years, while the OEMs are under so much pressure to deliver new parts.”
He added that the Salus name — taken from the Roman goddess of safety and welfare — was extremely important to the company.
“The whole ethos of our business, we talk about excellence at altitude,” said Edmonds. “Excellence at altitude is all around the Salus ethos of welfare and safety and making sure that everything we do is excellent. So the operator has 100-percent confidence that any component that comes from us, any maintenance that has been done, any product that we provide, is not going to fail in service.”