Bristow Group Announces Strategic Partnership for AAM Service in Saudi Arabia

The collaboration with The Helicopter and Jet Company is only the latest AAM initiative from Bristow, which is steadily moving beyond rotorcraft.

Vertical flight solutions provider Bristow Group, which operates rotorcraft worldwide, is looking to bring a new category of aircraft to the Middle East.

The company’s Arabia Aircraft and Maintenance Services subsidiary on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with The Helicopter and Jet Company (THC), a provider of commercial helicopter services wholly owned by the government of Saudi Arabia, to explore advanced air mobility (AAM) initiatives and “other collaborative vertical lift endeavors” in the country.

The MOU provides a framework for the partners to adopt emerging technologies—such as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft—and grow Saudi Arabia’s aviation ecosystem, Bristow said.

“THC has demonstrated amazing success in a short period of time,” said Chris Bradshaw, president and CEO of Bristow. “We are excited about this new agreement, and our partnership with THC underscores Bristow’s intent to grow our business in the Middle East. Bristow has collaborations with multiple leading AAM manufacturers to provide critical safety, operational, certification, and logistics expertise.”

The partnership with THC is just the latest AAM-related agreement for Bristow, which has steadily pivoted from operating solely rotorcraft. In recent years, the company has shifted focus to vertical flight more broadly, embracing technologies such as eVTOL and eSTOL.

For example, Lilium, which has a deal to sell as many as 100 eVTOL Lilium Jets to Saudi flag carrier Saudia, also signed a nonbinding agreement with Bristow that includes the option to purchase up to 50 aircraft. Under the agreement, Bristow would provide maintenance services for the manufacturer’s planned Florida AAM network.

In addition, Bristow has deals for up to 50 eVTOL aircraft from Vertical Aerospace, as many as 55 from Beta Technologies, and up to 80 from Volocopter. It also agreed on preorders for 100 Elroy Air Chaparral eVTOL cargo drones and up to 50 Electra.aero eSTOLs.

The new additions will serve customers in the U.S. and other regions within Bristow’s network—including, potentially, Saudi Arabia.

“This agreement will also allow us to help transform Saudi Arabia’s general aviation industry through our forward-thinking work, cementing our role as a regional leader and an increasingly global player,” said Arnaud Martinez, CEO of THC.

The Middle East is quickly becoming a hotbed for AAM activity, with manufacturers attracted by the high levels of investment and cooperation by the Saudi government and the companies it backs. Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation, Lilium, Volocopter, and EHang are among those looking to fly in the region. 

Some are even eyeing Saudi Arabia. Lilium, for example, is working with airline Saudia to launch a nationwide eVTOL network. Another German manufacturer, Volocopter, is looking to build its own network in the planned smart city of Neom.

In addition, Joby this month signed an exclusive six-year deal to operate electric air taxis in Dubai, shutting out competitors such as Archer and Embraer’s Eve Air Mobility that had previously announced plans to fly in the city.

Archer is now looking elsewhere within the United Arab Emirates, working with the city of Abu Dhabi and local operators Falcon Aviation and Air Chateau to bring AAM to the country. China’s EHang also intends to expand operations to Abu Dhabi and across the UAE.

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