The Helicopter Co.: From timesaving mobility to luxury tourism
In 1984, when I was living and studying in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, I used to visit New York City frequently.
Back then, Pan American Airways, which was the world’s largest airline until it went out of business almost 30 years ago, used to operate a charter helicopter service from John F. Kennedy International Airport to downtown Manhattan.
At the age of 22, it was the most enjoyable experience for a student like me flying by night over the most spectacular skyscrapers of New York City. This service was meant to accommodate busy senior executives who wanted to beat the heavy traffic to reach their appointments on time in the Manhattan financial district, but, in my case, it was for fun only! Years later, I used this service when I was living and working in London, where I had to be in certain meetings with clients in the countryside. Also, through the BMG Foundation, we used to fly royals and other VIP guests to participate in the annual polo events at different clubs in the UK.
For someone who has used this type of service many times since 1984, it was music to ears when I heard a few years back about the formation of The Helicopter Co. (THC) by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) with SR565 million ($150 million) in paid-up capital. As part of its strategic intent, the PIF aims to generate sustainable returns by developing new standalone sectors and services as part of the country’s Vision 2030 program.
Like other companies and ventures set up by the PIF, THC has a compelling business plan with promising returns. It presents an ambitious plan for its operations, endorsing its mission to offer reliable, ground-breaking transport solutions. THC will cater to emerging demand in highly time-sensitive business mobility and luxury tourism and untapped existing demand for urban aerial transportation.
I hope the government will open the door to the private sector to apply for licenses to take advantage of this promising business.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini
THC’s fleet will include 50 helicopters by 2025, including AW139 and H125 models. Being the first and only helicopter operator licensed to operate commercial flights in the Kingdom, THC will offer super busy senior executives, high net-worth individuals and affluent tourists different helicopter transportation services, including aerial work, private charters and luxury tourism for sightseeing trips. It will also offer an emergency air ambulance service when needed, especially in remote areas.
In my opinion, THC is a service that is overdue for a country like Saudi Arabia. In addition to providing busy officials and executives with timesaving mobility, especially between King Khaled International Airport and the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, it will support luxury tourism services for those who want to experience flying over the historic AlUla, the mountainous landscapes in the south and the shores of the Red Sea. I hope the government will open the door to the private sector to apply for licenses to take advantage of this promising business.
• Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.