Thai Aviation Services Ltd is leveraging more than 30 years of experience through a multi-pronged expansion plan that will generate benefits for the Company, its customers, the industry and the country
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Josh Hyland
With more than 30 years of experience, Thai Aviation Services Ltd (TAS) has its sights firmly set on propulsion into new territories and new service remits, as the country’s first offshore helicopter service provider looks to capitalise on its now 100 percent Thai ownership advantage.
Incepting in 1987, the business had evolved up to 2016 when the segregation occurred alongside CHC - the world’s largest offshore helicopter service provider - but in going it alone and entirely localised, the business has demonstrated that it now has the capabilities to thrive on a similar scale without ballast.
“With the partnership separation between TAS and CHC in 2016, TAS is now totally owned by Thai nationals,” the Company’s Managing Director, Suwanawat Koeworakul affirms. “As a helicopter service provider, our core business has been focused on the oil & gas market to provide logistical support to the offshore production and exploration with crew change, medevac coverage and special cargo requirements.
“However, we have also engaged in pipeline patrol and other facets of helicopter needs to the general market as well; for example the film industry, VIP flights etc.”
With internal control also comes heightened flexibility though, and this list of services is only set to increase in the months and years to come as TAS looks to diversify into areas of tourism, fixed-wing opportunities and MRO activities for both fixed and rotary wings.
“Equipment wise, we started off with Sikorsky S76A and S61N and these aircraft were some of the first of Sikorsky’s civilian products in this part of the world,” Koeworakul adds. “Through the three decades of TAS’s history, we still utilise the Sikorsky products such as the S76a series, S76C series and currently S76D and S92A which are the latest in Sikorsky’s product line with the latest technologies.
“As for the expansion and diversification of our services, we as a Company are always looking for opportunities. Obviously the oil & gas market has slowed down but TAS is also looking at tourism and VIP services potentially in and outside of Thailand.”
With more than 30 years, TAS has the experience and expertise to capitalise on new ventures quickly and effectively, and despite its ownership reverting to a wholly Thai structure, its ambitions are very much international; with Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia all potential regions where opportunities exist.
A win-win situation
No matter how far afield TAS expands though, it will look to stay true to the core philosophies and continuous improvement drivers that have stood the Company in such good stead so far.
For instance, “TAS prides itself on operational excellence and safety records, and we are constantly looking for ways to enhance our safety systems to ensure that our employees and customers are safe while working on or using our services”, Koeworakul emphasises.
On the employee side of this spectrum, the MD affirms that TAS would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for such stringent safety management systems and general rigorous training; all of which contribute towards an enhanced offering to the end customers.
“We strive to meet and exceed our customers’ satisfaction and KPIs such as high serviceability and dispatch rate,” Koeworakul continues. “Our vision has always been to be both an employer and service provider of choice and as testament to this we have customers who have been using us for the past three decades without changing to other providers even though there are plenty of others in the market.
“The key to our success is the transparency, operational excellence, mindset, safety performances, and focus on customer satisfaction that we display within every partner relationship in order for us both to experience a win-win situation.”
This rise to prominence is all the more remarkable considering that TAS incepted in a country that had no experience whatsoever in providing helicopter services to aid the oil & gas sector. Skip forward 30 years though, and TAS has one of the strongest reputations and track records in the region; all the while remaining humble and remembering the challenging origins it emanated from.
The right thing to do
With the current, ongoing oil & gas recession, the ability - and necessity - to diversify is of paramount importance, but similarly significant is TAS’s focus on refining its internal structures so that the Company is in a prime position to strike when the market does pick up once again.
With this in mind, numerous capital investments are being made at present to not just diversify, but to consolidate its repertoire for when its core industry becomes lucrative in the years to come.
“TAS is planning to be a Sikorsky Customer Service Centre on S76s and S92s by the end of the year and we are working to get this in place. This will allow TAS to expand our services to not just providing the helicopter services but also maintenance and modification services for the region as well,” Koeworakul explains. “We are also one of the few helicopter operators in the region that now employ automation, not just in the aircraft but also on the ground and throughout other facets of aviation.”
TAS’s facilities will be upgraded to coincide with its role as a Customer Service Centre, once again epitomising the business’s commitment to always work smarter and to keep-up to-date with the market around it.
And this doesn’t just apply to the Company’s technology and senior management either, with the same dedication to improvement instilled into TAS’s workforce as well; where localisation is a critical ethos.
Koeworakul says: “This is a topic that is very important to TAS, not just from an economical perspective but because it is the right thing to do. TAS is the only helicopter operator to have an ‘ab-initial’ pilot programme, which means we hire personnel who have had zero flying time and we send them overseas to a helicopter pilot course where they will come back with a Commercial license and instrument rating.
“We have been doing this for the past 20 years as well as employing national Thai pilots from the military and retraining them to civilian standards.”
In tackling general aviation challenges that exist in Thailand, the Company hopes to have at least 85 percent Thai nationals occupying the workforce in the future as a consequence of its hiring strategy.
Of course, it can’t simply be a case of training new personnel and unleashing them on the market, however. The ever-changing and evolving nature of the Company, the industry, technologies, and customer requirements makes the notion of individual development a challenging concept to keep on top of. Being a 100 percent Thai-owned entity will go a long way in overcoming this issue though, in forming a much more linear and cohesive chain between service improvements and personnel training on these new services.
“TAS has just implemented a new fleet of S76Ds and we are rigorously monitoring the performance and all aspects of this new aircraft type,” Koeworakul offers as an example. “We are also looking at technology which could enhance our operational performance including aspects of satellite connectivity, real-time FDM and HUMS etc. Throughout, reliability and cost effectiveness will definitely play a major role when considering any additional investment in these areas moving forward.”
From a footprint perspective, the plan is equally ambitious and proactive, with an ultimate goal of expanding as far as is smart to do so. Aforementioned neighbouring countries will inevitably serve as a logical first step outside of Thailand but this could evolve further afield into new regions and even continents as long as it doesn’t jeopardise the existing - successful - model.
“TAS is and will always be looking to improve and expand our business to ensure our footprint in the aviation market and support the growth of Thailand’s general aviation sector,” Koeworakul concludes. “We will be playing our part in developing the resources in Thailand’s aviation market for both pilots and engineers, and our longevity will depend on how safe and efficient we are in conducting our operations with competent aviation professionals.
“In the future I would expect to see a successful expansion into the MRO fixed-wing and helicopter sector while targeting other areas outside of oil & gas to ensure that we are continuously growing and expanding our operations. We will also continue to judge ourselves on how good and consistent our core helicopter services remain, engaging with the aviation market to ensure that our outlook remains very promising.”