Case Study: Cougar Helicopters

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“Using Blue Sky Network equipment and service, we were able to dramatically lower our cost, improve service to our customers, and position ourselves for new business.” 

—Rick Burt, General Manager, Cougar Helicopters

Overview

Cougar Helicopters Inc., is Canada’s premiere off shore oil and gas helicopter service provider supporting the oil and gas fields off the coast of Newfoundland. The company operates the S-92 helicopters that fly daily along the North Atlantic Coast, an area that experiences some of the world’s most demanding weather conditions including freezing precipitation, and IFR conditions. With daily service to destinations 200 nautical miles offshore over freezing cold water and icebergs, Cougar has maintained their goal of uninterrupted service, minimum down time and superior cost efficiency. Cougar saves their customers time and money through risk management, innovative approaches and continuous improvement. Along the way, Cougar has blazed trails in the helicopter service area and set industry standards. Cougar Helicopters Inc. is known in the industry as one of the most highly organized, capable, efficient and professional helicopter operators in the world.

The Challenges

For Flight Following in the North Atlantic, Cougar used a custom-made satellite helicopter tracking solution utilizing Inmarsat C. The cost of this custom helicopter tracker was about $25,000 per aircraft and provided only tracking capabilities. The mapping functionality was very basic and only available for viewing on one computer. The monthly operating cost was also quite high. The communications component to the solution was an antiquated High Frequency (HF) radio system. The HF radio, weighing approximately 30 lbs., was quite heavy and only about 80% reliable. Weight is an important factor in a helicopter, where every pound of equipment on the aircraft relates to one less pound of payload carried.

In St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, three oil companies working about 200 nautical miles offshore use Cougar Helicopters. Not only is Cougar responsible for helicopter tracking, they also provide the tracking services for the offshore supply vessels. In addition, Cougar provides the Passenger Location Services (PLS) to the oil companies. The Passenger Movements tracking and communications service manages the passenger check-in services for all personnel going offshore, whether by helicopter or by boat. Cougar was unable to integrate their existing tracking system into the PLS system.

The Solution

Cougar was able to easily address the various challenges they were experiencing in the Canadian North Atlantic using Blue Sky Network’s solution. The global satellite-based voice and data system from Blue Sky Network provided Cougar the solution they needed to effectively and efficiently manage their operations worldwide.

Blue Sky Network replaced the older, custom built Flight Following system with a new state-of-the-art, global voice and data communications system that integrated with Cougar’s existing PLS system. All Cougar helicopters and related supply vessels are equipped with BSN D1000 and D1000C Satellite Communication System Tracking and Messaging Units along with the C1000A Satellite Phone providing confidential global voice communications to the entire helicopter fleet through the Iridium satellite network. The light weight and versatility of the Blue Sky Network communications equipment is easier to use, less expensive to manage, and works on any type of aircraft, boat or ground vehicle.

Working with the market leader in aviation mapping, Flight Explorer, the web-based interface allows for tracking of the helicopters and workboats from any computer with an Internet connection. This valuable aircraft tracking tool eliminates the need to call the vessel to update their location or find out if they made it out ahead of the approaching bad weather; managers just login and locate the supply vessel or helicopter. In the past, logistics managers spent a good deal of their time determining where cargo shipments were in relation to their route. With Blue Sky Network’s live helicopter tracking system, they can now find the cargo shipments easier, and give their customers access to information to track the location of shipments. Cougar provided its customers with a more reliable product and service at reduced cost. With Blue Sky Network, Flight Following is now safer, more reliable and flexible.

The Results

“The benefits of a Blue Sky Network solution consist of increased customer satisfaction, significant direct cost savings, improved communications, higher levels of control through in-house tracking and complete data integration with Passenger. Location Services. The Blue Sky Network Solution is so flexible that we have received the maximum benefit from all of the available features including the feature rich SkyRouter.com system.”

– Rick Burt, General Manager, Cougar Helicopters.

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