in General Aviation / Features

Angola restructures state oil company air division

Posted 11 March 2019 · Add Comment

Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol (Sociedade Nacional de Combustíveis de Angola – the National Fuel Society of Angola), has signed an agreement with a consortium formed by Canada’s CHC and Morocco’s Heliconia to restructure its aviation subsidiary, SonAir.

Sonangol is the exclusive licensee for oil and gas exploration and exploitation in Angola and offshore on its continental shelf, but invested in diverse areas of the Angolan economy during the oil boom.
The company is now looking to move away from these non-core activities, which range from banking to real estate, to focus on oil and gas – including exploration, research, development, marketing, production, storage, and the transport and refining of hydrocarbons.
The regeneration of SonAir represents a microcosm of the restructuring of the parent company – with a renewed focus on the core business of supporting oil and gas.
High costs had an impact on the viability of SonAir’s operations, and fixed-wing services were scaled back. In 2018, the airline ceased operating the thrice-weekly services that had been flown between Luanda and Houston using two Boeing 747-400s operated by Atlas Air.
SonAir’s rotary-wing operations were severely disrupted following a fatal accident in the North Sea in 2016, after which the commercial Airbus Helicopters Super Puma fleet was grounded for an extended period. The accident happened when a Super Puma, operated by CHC, suffered a catastrophic main rotor separation while operating from the Norwegian Statoil Gullfaks B oil platform.
With eight AS332 and 16 H225 Super Pumas forming the backbone of its fleet, SonAir was left with just five smaller Eurocopter Dauphin AS 365N3s and nine Sikorsky S-76C+ and S-76C++ helicopters operational, forcing oil companies to rely on boats to transport personnel to and from offshore rigs.
In its agreement with CHC and Heliconia, Sonangol required its new partners to conduct an internal audit and evaluation of SonAir’s structure and services and then to find a transport solution for Angolan oil operators who had previously used SonAir’s helicopters to fly personnel to offshore platforms.
It was anticipated that this would lead to the formation of a consortium of CHC, Heliconia and SonAir that would re-launch operations by Sonangol’s air carrier.
 

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