Newletter November 1996
Following the many positive reactions which we received about the first edition of Den Helder Airport News, this second issue of the newsletter continues in the same vein. In this edition, we focus in particular on our links with the international oil and gas industry, to coincide with the forthcoming Holland Oil & Gas trade fair at which we will be present, sharing a stand with KLM ERA Helicopters and opmen. This edition includes interviews with representatives of the two largest helicopter operators which use our airport facilities, and with the oil company which was the first to begin helicopter operations from Den Helder. It also features the activities of businessman Jan Sprengers, who has two private aeroplanes based at the Airport which he uses for travel throughout Europe. Amongst other things, he explains why Den Helder Airport is so important to his work in the oil and gas industry. We also report on the two recent open days which we held for local residents and our business contacts. Both were very successful events, blessed with good weather. We thank all those who honoured us with a visit on either of the open days. If you still have any questions after reading this newsletter, then you are welcome to contact us at any time, or to visit our stand (E 403) at Holland Oil & Gas, being held on 12-14 November at the RAI Exhibition Centre in Amsterdam.
Oil companies support airport's aims
Fifteen years ago, the oil companies NAM, Placid and Elf Petroland dug deep into their pockets to help get Den Helder Airport `off the ground`. "At that time, we very willingly came on board because we really wanted to fly out to our platforms from Den Helder," says Jan Treffers, Operations Manager of Occidental Petroleum (formerly Placid).
"At the end of the 1960s, we started flying out our personnel from Schiphol. At that time we owned our own helicopter, a Sikorsky S-58. Because Dutch legislation required it, we had to adapt that helicopter for flights over the North Sea. KLM undertook the necessary modifications, and from then on provided the crew and maintenance. The helicopter was painted in Placid's colours and had the registration letters PH-POC. The last three letters stood for Placid Oil Company. From 1974, we flew this helicopter out of the old municipal heliport. However, the number of flights was growing continually, since we produced our first gas in 1975. We flew PH-POC for more than five years. But eventually we sold that helicopter and teamed up with KLM to provide our helicopter flights.
In those days, KLM Helikopters operated Sikorsky S-61N and S-76 models. At the time it was the only helicopter operator in The Netherlands. So it was a real monopolist, which was not a good experience for us. Fortunately, that changed with the arrival of Schreiner. This has had a positive effect upon both prices and customer service. We now fly happily with both companies. For crew changes we do business with KLM ERA Helicopters, and for shuttle work with Schreiner Airways. Just as is the case with our supply vessels, we would also like to integrate our air transport with Elf Petroland. The first steps in that direction have already been taken."
"When the old municipal heliport had to close, we still wanted to fly out to our platforms from Den Helder. Together with NAM and Elf Petroland, at that time Placid invested heavily in order to get a new civil airport Ôoff the ground". Our participation lasted until 1990. In that year, Den Helder Airport became a limited company with the Municipality of Den Helder and KLM as shareholders. For us, the management of an airport is an activity alien to our line of business. And there is a growing trend amongst oil companies to avoid such activities. So we really only became involved in this project in order to get Den Helder Airport started. Without our support, it would not have been possible to establish a civil airport in Den Helder. The new company has risen to its responsibilities, and introduced a number of good new facilities. We see that as a positive development. But we must be careful that the costs of adding facilities are kept under control. New facilities are usually translated into higher fees. That must be avoided, given that the landing charges at Den Helder are already on the high side. And a number of years ago the opening hours were very limited. It has been a very tiresome process to overcome that, because of the number of authorities that were involved in the negotiations. However, for the time being we can cope with the recent changes in the opening hours."
"At the moment, we are having a lot of trouble with our conflict with the LVB (the Dutch Aviation Safety Authority) at Schiphol. Amongst other things, this recently privatised authority is responsible for air safety over the North Sea. However, the LVB wants the helicopter operators to pay heavily for this service. Indirectly, this cost will be passed on to the oil companies. Overnight, a heavy financial burden is now being placed on our shoulders. And we don't think that this burden bears any relationship to the product being supplied. This situation puzzles us, given that it is hardly in keeping with the government's policy of properly stimulating the offshore oil and gas industry. In short, therefore, in this matter we have a conflict. If I look to the future, I don't believe that the oil and gas industry can count on a large growth of personnel any more. Rather, it is going to stabilise and eventually decline. Moreover, there is a growing a trend to save on costs. The times when the newspaper was delivered by helicopter are definitely long over. We are going to continue to work more efficiently. Combining flights is a good example of this. For this reason, it's good that the airport management is also going to concentrate on other clients. The more users the airport has, the lower the usage costs will be. Operations Manager Jan Treffers: "We now fly happily with both companies, KLM ERA Helicopters and Schreiner Airways".
Den Helder Airport: a product of partnership
Den Helder Airport: a product of partnership
The Den Helder Airport "success story" is the direct result of close cooperation between the Ministry of Defence, the Municipality of Den Helder, KLM and the oil companies. That was the message given by municipal alderman E.E. Kip - who is also the chairman directors for Den Helder Airport - during the open day held for business contacts on 14 September. "Thanks to the positive approach taken by all those involved, something very special has been created here - something that we can be well proud of." In his speech, the alderman also paid tribute to the contribution made by his predecessor, the late alderman C. Buining, who devoted a great deal of time and energy to the development of the civil airport. The open day began with a pleasant lunch, followed by an air show and static display, in which both military and civil aircraft took part. In addition, a small exhibition was set up in the Skyline Aviation hangar. This was devoted to the Extra 400 - an executive aircraft developed by Delft Technical University - and to the Eaglet Enaer, a two-seater aircraft which is going to be built under licence at Den Helder Airport. Thanks also to the good weather, we can look back on the event as a great success.
A Lasting relationship with the oil and gas industry
Although Schreiner Airways only began helicopter operations in support of the offshore oil and gas industry from Den Helder four years ago, the company has been active in this sector for much longer. It is a long-standing relationship which, according to Director Egbert van der Grijp, began in 1954 when the company started operating in Iran.
"Our first experiences with the oil and gas industry were about 40 years ago, in Iran, where in those days we had 40 helicopters operating. Things went well until there was a revolution in the country in 1980, and all foreign property was nationalised. Three years after our launch in Iran, we also began working with the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. We are still present there today, operating a fleet which comprises both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Moreover, since 1968 we have been flying for the oil companies in Indonesia. In short, we had already built up a lot of very specific working experience before we began operations for the oil and gas industry in The Netherlands in 1992.
In 1982, we had agreed with KLM that we would not work for the oil and gas industry in The Netherlands for ten years. But as soon as that period was over, we did launch in The Netherlands. First from the airfield on Texel, then later from Den Helder Airport. However, before that time we had already been working together with KLM Helikopters for a number of years, ferrying North Sea pilots. We did that under the Airspeed banner, with helicopters which also undertook flights for oil companies from time to time."
"Currently we are active in the offshore industry - and for the Pilotage Service and the Directorate-General of Public Works - with six helicopters. Four of these are stationed in Den Helder, and two in Rotterdam. We fly for Amoco, Unocal, Conoco, Lasmo, NAM, Clyde and Occidental, amongst others. Our fleet comprises French Aerospatiale helicopters, Dauphin SA 365 N and Dauphin SA 365 C2 models. These are very well-suited for carrying out crew changes, even in poor weather conditions. Moreover, a couple of years ago we had our own hangar built at Den Helder Airport. We have settled in very well there. Den Helder Airport is a thoroughly developed and well-managed airport. Its problem is that the costs of air-traffic control are rather high by comparison with other airports. Also, as far as we are concerned the opening hours should be somewhat longer. Our clients in particular ask about this. Whilst I do not expect any further growth in the helicopter market in The Netherlands, our flights from Den Helder Airport will increase somewhat. Amongst other things, this is the result of the decision by one of the oil companies operating on the Dutch continental shelf to concentrate all its crew-change flights in Den Helder from 1 January, 1997. This means that rather more flights will take place from Den Helder Airport, and rather fewer from the airport in Rotterdam. All in all, as an `underdog` Schreiner Airways has in recent years seen a chance to prove itself in the Dutch market. To begin with, this was decidedly more difficult than we expected, but now we are fully accepted. Our market share is 45 percent. A percentage that we can be very proud of,Ó concludes Egbert van der Grijp, who is not only directly responsible for the helicopter operation of Schreiner Airways, but also shares responsibility for its European fixed-wing operations, amongst other activities.
Schreiner aviation group – Profile
Schreiner aviation group – Profile
The foundations of what is now called the Schreiner Aviation Group were laid in 1945 by 30-year old Bob Schreiner. At first, the new company was involved in the trade in aircraft and aircraft components. In 1951, the firm acquired the first aircraft of its own, which was used for aerial photography and advertising. Shortly afterwards, the company also began towing airborne targets for the forces. Thereafter, its activities continued to broaden. Thanks to its timely entry into the developing oil and gas industry, the firm has grown into a business which can now offer a complete range of aviation services. Its activities are currently divided amongst three divisions. These are Operations & Maintenance - which includes its North Sea helicopter activities - Trade & Industry, and Training, which operates a flying school and simulators in which training courses are provided for the aviation industry (Fokker, Boeing, etc.). Some 450 people are employed by the Schreiner Aviation Group, whose head office is in Leiden. Its turnover currently amounts to about NLG 200 million per year.
KLM ERA Helicopters also active in the British sector
KLM has already provided helicopter services for the oil and gas industry on the Dutch continental shelf for almost 30 years. "The initiative for this," says Director Tjapko van Wijk, "came from the oil companies, who were already busy searching for oil and gas in the 1960s. And we have also recently begun helicopter services to the British continental shelf from Norwich in England."
"The request from the oil and gas industry to operate helicopter services on the Dutch continental shelf led to the foundation, on 30 October, 1965, of KLM Noordzee Helikopters. Following intensive preparations, the first flight took place two years later. For these, Sikorsky S-61Ns were first used. Efficient and sturdy workhorses for the transportation of passengers and freight, these still form part of our fleet. Later on, Sikorsky S-76Bs were also added.
For 25 years we were the only company to provide helicopter services for the offshore oil and gas industry from The Netherlands. However, in the early 1990s we had start coping with competition. Not only in The Netherlands, but also elsewhere, great changes took place the market, which for us was a reason to seek connections with another firm so that we could strengthen our position. The choice fell on the American drilling contractor Rowan Companies. A company with 23 offshore drilling rigs and a subsidiary in the aviation industry. This subsidiary is called ERA Aviation and boasts a fleet of 100 helicopters and some 15 fixed-wing aircraft. In short, a partner which operates worldwide and speaks with the same customers as we do. Subsequently, in 1991, we jointly founded KLM ERA Helicopters, a joint venture company in which KLM has a 51 percent holding and Rowan Companies 49 percent."
"As a new-style helicopter operator, our philosophy is to follow the client to the regions in which he is going to develop his activities. For us, this means that we actually need to have a number of bases around the North Sea at our disposal, in order to be able to fly out the customer from any location. That is also the reason why, in 1993, we set up KLM ERA Helicopters (UK). Norwich was chosen as the base, where we have similar facilities available to us as at Den Helder Airport. From here, we fly five Sikorsky S-76B helicopters for Shell Expro, Lasmo, and Wintershall. Of these, Shell Expro is by far our largest client. The next step is to set up another base, in Aberdeen. We are also considering branches in Norway and Denmark. We have recently concentrated all our Dutch activities at Den Helder Airport.
Here, we have our own hangar and modern office facilities. As well as being a user of Den Helder Airport, we are also its half-owner - together with the Municipality of Den Helder. Our fleet currently consists of 15 helicopters. Five Sikorsky S-61Ns, eight Sikorsky S-76Bs - five of which are stationed in Norwich - and two Bölkow BO-105 CBS helicopters. These latter two are used as air ambulances by ANWB Medical Air Assistance. Our staff consists of 160 employees, 110 of whom work in The Netherlands and 50 in England. Ninety-five percent of our work in The Netherlands is for the offshore oil and gas industry. Our clients include virtually all the operators active on the Dutch continental shelf. The rest of our work is onshore, in particular providing sightseeing flights for business clients."
"When I look at Den Helder Airport, I think that it has developed exceptionally well in recent years. It's a fully-fledged heliport which is also increasingly concentrating on fixed-wing traffic. Thanks to the small scale, there are good and direct contacts with all the users. That works very positively. The fact that we share take-off and landing facilities which are run by a unit of the Royal Netherlands Navy does lead to a number of limitations for our clients. This affects the opening times in particular. Our wish, and that of the operators, is to achieve the same opening times as are usual at other airports. Despite this bottleneck, communications and contacts with the Navy are excellent.
If I look to the future, I still expect to see a sizeable volume of work related to the activities of the offshore industry for the next 10-15 years. But the period of growth is over. Den Helder Airport is therefore going to have to look for supplementary activities. In my opinion, these are to be found primarily in the fixed-wing sector, and in such activities as aircraft construction and maintenance. In any event, it would be very significant for this part of Noord-Holland if some additional job opportunities were created in this way. The space and the knowledge to do so are already here," according to Tjapko van Wijk.
Busy Open Day for local residents
Busy Open Day for local residents
A large number of people living around Den Helder Airport took advantage of the invitation to visit us on 28 July. The open day was organised not only to offer our neighbours a chance to see what happens at a modern airport, but also so that we could celebrate our 15th anniversary with them. After a reception in the airport canteen, the visitors could enjoy a series of demonstrations by special aircraft, amongst them a splendidly restored Catalina and a Extra 300 aerobatics aircraft (see photo). Many of the residents also took their first ever flight, making a short sightseeing trip in one of the helicopters of Schreiner Airways or KLM ERA Helicopters. Thanks also to the good weather, the day was a great success which is certain to be repeated.
Jan Sprengers swaps his car for the plane
Jan Sprengers, the founder of Sprengers Oilfield Services, makes extensive use of aircraft for all his business travel, both within The Netherlands and abroad. "Whether I have to go to Rotterdam, Berlin or Warsaw, I always take the plane. Flying from Den Helder is considerably more economical and safer than going by car," says Sprengers, who has two private aircraft of his own for such journeys.
"I have to travel a great deal on business. Sometimes I am in Germany three times a week. But I also visit such countries as Denmark, Belgium, France and Poland. In the past I always went by car, but because the roads are getting busier they are also more dangerous. Especially the German autobahns. Also, you get stuck in traffic jams more and more often. The same applies even if you take commercial flights from Schiphol. You often get caught in traffic on the way to and from Schiphol. And you also lose a lot of time because of the long waiting periods at the big airports. For those reasons, I have made a deliberate choice to use Den Helder Airport, where I have two planes of my own based. One is a single-engined Piper Arrow, and the other a twin-engined Piper Navajo which I bought recently in the United States. "Den Helder Airport is situated very centrally as far as reaching the surrounding countries is concerned. The Airport is easily accessible by road. You don't have to deal with traffic congestion, and there is good parking space available.
What's more, the traffic control is very professional so that you are in the air in no time. If I get into the cockpit at 8am, then an hour later I am already far inside Germany. You gain so much time that way that in the evening you can be back from your meeting abroad in time for dinner.
But I also take the plane if I have to go to Rotterdam. The flight only takes half an hour, and in Rotterdam itself I use public transport. You get to your meeting on time, and save yourself the frustration of traffic jams. It's also more attractive from the cost point of view, since you save many hours of travelling time. I would even dare to say that flying your own plane is more economical than using a car."
Sprengers Oilfield Services is a modern company, active in the oil and gas industry. It uses advanced specialist techniques to decontaminate oilfield equipment. ‘Our company is based on the site of the Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN) at Petten. We also have a branch office in England. ECN has special facilities in which the decontamination work is carried out. This work consists of removing radioactive scale from valves, drilling pipes, separators, tanks and other components used in the exploration and production of oil and gas. Amongst the equipment we use is the most up-to-date pipe-cleaner, which works completely automatically. This installation, which we developed and built entirely under our own management, uses ultra-high pressure water jets and special measuring equipment. We have already used it to clean out many polluted pipes. After the treatment, the components can be reused or, if necessary, dismantled. Within our company, I am especially involved with technical matters. In addition, I take care of marketing and sales. Thanks to using my own aircraft and the convenient location of Den Helder Airport, I am in a position to work quickly and efficiently. My only criticism that the opening times of the Airport, especially during the weekend, should be extended. Otherwise, it is a very professional airport which is extremely suited to business flights," says Jan Sprengers, shortly before boarding his plane and setting off to his next meeting.