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Most people know about chartering private planes or yachts for luxury travel, but how much do you know about the purchasing of helicopters for personal travel use? For decades, travel enthusiasts have searched for new and exciting ways to expand on their current mode of transport. In recent years the purchasing of helicopters for personal use has skyrocketed. Now more than ever the use of helicopters for private leisure travel has aviation enthusiasts itching to invest.

Taking on the refurbishment of any machine is no easy task, but the Capital Air team has proven that the conceptualization and undertaking of an elite customization on one of the world’s most powerful single engine helicopters, can, and will be done.

Based at Rand Airport, a team of over 200 dedicated individuals, including highly experienced pilots, instructors and engineers have guided aviation enthusiasts in their dream of conquering the skies for over 3 decades. In association with its subsidiary companies, Capital Air offers bespoke, one-stop security, surveillance, and air charter services, however it’s their one-of-a-kind helicopter maintenance service solutions that has proven to be a cut above the competition with this helicopter transformation.

Earlier this year Capital Air’s Chief Pilot JP Vinagre was approached by a client, initially seeking to build on his existing flight hours. The conversation soon developed into that of sourcing a bigger machine and upgrading from his current 4-seater Robinson R44. The search for the perfect machine initially saw a possible procurement in the USA, but after the original purchase agreement fell through, it was an Airbus AS350 B3 from Cape Town which made the cut.

“I had heard from a long-standing contact within the industry, about this machine that was currently for sale. After an initial discussion with the Seller, we decided to take the opportunity to showcase this machine to the client, to which he accepted the deal. Its important for our clients to understand that we are not a sales team, our advice on purchasing the best helicopter, suited to your needs is based on years’ worth of experience from both our engineering teams and pilots, we would never recommend a machine to a client in which we wouldn’t purchase ourselves”.

A preliminary assessment was conducted prior to the purchase and apart from the cosmetic and engine upgrades needed, the helicopter was in a suitable airworthy condition to fly through to the Capital Air offices in Johannesburg, where the rebuild would take place. The project re-build commenced in early September, with a full overhaul of the helicopter beginning soon after arrival. “It was a full tear down. Basically, everything came out, from the engine, interior and just about every nut and bolt, we started from scratch.” said JP. When it comes to purchasing a helicopter there are various things to consider, cost being one of them. On average a new Airbus AS350 B3 could be purchased for approximately R50 million, however in this instance the team was able to save the client over 50% of that cost, based on years of engineering experience and contacts within the industry. Another benefit of purchasing second hand is the avoidance of drawn-out lead times which could set you back months. “Its not just about finding the right helicopter for our client but creating a worthy pilot for that machine. We want to offer our clients a fully customised, one-of-a-kind helicopter transformation experience that is suited to their every need, saving them time and money, getting them into the skies as soon as possible.”

With the procurement of a new helicopter, so came the desire to train under one of the countries top helicopter pilots. The final ground runs and first flight tests were conducted in November with Captain Vinagre being the first to test the waters in this newly upgraded, oneof- a-kind AS350 B3.

“Advice and support during the procurement process is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services we offer. Our engineers offer 24-hour support, with clients being able to contact us at any time, and whether we need to give advice over the phone or go out to assist, we are always available.” Remarked the project Engineer.

Capital Air prides itself on not only offering their clients a professional, holistic approach to helicopter aviation but is recognised as the leading all-in-one service provider that transcends their customers’ needs and wants within the industry. With a proven track record of being one of Africa’s top aviation companies, Capital Air’s level of workmanship and quality is unmatched. So, whether its sophistication or adventure you’re searching for, the team at Capital Air is ready to assist.