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Salus Aviation: On a U.S. growth trajectory

Avatar for Graham ChandlerGraham Chandler | January 23, 2023

Estimated reading time 9 minutes, 50 seconds.

It all started in 1992 when two tuna boat pilots began selling helicopter parts. In 1996, Oceania Aviation New Zealand was minted, establishing the business as a key player in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). 

Expansion continued through several strategic acquisitions, adding new engineering facilities in several cities across New Zealand. Multiple service center and distributorships were added to a growing suite of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partnerships. 

The business also continued to add further specialized services, including Rolls-Royce turbine overhaul, helicopter dynamic component overhaul, role equipment manufacturing, blade and composite repairs, and piston engine services. 

In 2017, the business became a subsidiary of the Salus Aviation group, which focused on global aircraft sales, leasing and a comprehensive suite of MRO services. In 2019, Salus acquired Heli-Parts Nevada (HPN), an aftermarket parts distributor and repair station based in Nevada — the group’s first expansion into the North American region. 

In 2020, Salus Aviation and Air Methods Corporation (AMC) formed a strategic fleet management partnership, with the group’s businesses working closely with the global emergency medical services (EMS) operator to optimize its aircraft divestments and acquisitions. 

Salus was in a strong position for global growth going into 2020, and despite being a challenging time in aviation, Greg Edmonds, CEO of Salus, has since established some lofty growth goals for the group, with particular focus on the opportunity to expand its North American presence. 

“We have been updating our U.S. businesses,” Edmonds explained. “HPN was originally a helicopter parts distributor, with a complementary repair station — Heli-Services Nevada (HSN) — later added to the facility. Our global growth plans have required aligning the branding of our subsidiaries throughout the world.” 

HSN has since transitioned to Oceania Aviation U.S. and remains focused on helicopter services. HPN has been rebranded Heli-Parts Network and will continue to trade in aftermarket parts, with the goal to expand its international footprint. 

“We have two primary brands operating globally — Oceania Aviation providing heavy MRO services, OEM parts sales and aircraft sales, and Heli-Parts Network providing aftermarket parts and components,” Edmonds said.

Looking ahead, expanding its fleet management business is a key growth area for the company.  

“As part of our growth strategy in the U.S., we have secured a business development manager,” Edmonds said. “Katrina Miller has joined us from MD Helicopters and will bring a strong focus on researching and securing new business opportunities, as well as securing and growing further fleet management contracts around the world and particularly in the U.S.”

The company has significant helicopter repair capabilities and aircraft sales teams both in New Zealand and America. 

“We typically buy aircraft and upgrade them, stripping them down and reconfiguring where required to optimize them before on-selling,” Edmonds explained. “The latest addition to our projects hangar in New Zealand is an ex Air Methods Corporation (AMC) EMS 206 Long Ranger, and the team here is well underway with converting this aircraft back to utility.” 

This includes a full strip and paint inside and out, along with new full interior plastics kit, fresh leather seating and carpet. The company’s partnership with AMC is fundamental in providing regular quality aircraft stock, as well as important support to the AMC fleet. Edmonds said it has been a very successful relationship to date.

Role equipment design and manufacturing has been a unique strength of Oceania Aviation since 1996 and is a significant opportunity for U.S. growth.

“Especially popular is our helicopter spray equipment, featuring carbon fiber tanks and booms,” Edmonds said. “In March, we were proud to showcase our unique AS350 spray system for the first time at the HAI Heli-Expo, which we are currently gaining U.S. FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] approval for, alongside several other role equipment products.” 

Having now attended HAI, Edmonds said he understands what this means to the industry and what opportunities it can bring for the organization. 

“We have been inundated by people wanting our system, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. 

Oceania Aviation will also have a presence at this year’s National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) Expo in December in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

“This expo is for ag operators only and will be a great opportunity to get our spray system in front of operators once more,” he said. “We look forward to being able to come and engage with the industry and customers over the four days.”

The company’s cargo pod is already certified and popular amongst U.S. operators, and bolstering this is the group’s composites manufacturing capabilities, which will allow it to bring further manufacturing in-house, as well as offer additional composite products to market. 

“Our composite products and capabilities form a significant part of our future U.S. growth,” Edmonds said.

What else is on the horizon? 

“We’ve just completed our five-year strategic business plan,” Edmonds said. “We believe much of our U.S. growth will come from adding high-demand repair and manufacturing capabilities that we already have in New Zealand to America via Oceania Aviation U.S. We will look to broaden our footprint of repair stations across the U.S. to be able to partner with more operators across the country.” 

Edmonds also expects to establish further repair stations in the Asia-Pacific region. 

In terms of ongoing innovation and technology advancements, Salus is keeping its finger on the pulse, ready to adapt and grow as opportunities arise. 

“We’ve been watching the commercial drone market for some time, along with VTOL and eVTOL advancements,” he said. “I see some convergence between the light fixed-wing and light helicopter market, which, alongside drones, could create opportunities for further MRO capabilities for Oceania Aviation.”

He added that there’s a strong move toward composite structures in aviation, which the business is already capitalizing on with its in-house capabilities. 

“We essentially provide a turnkey suite of services to aircraft owners and purchasers,” Edmonds said. “Our vision is to continue to provide ‘excellence at altitude’ as the market evolves, which requires us to be progressive and expand alongside these changes.” 

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