Amata Holding to deploy Bell helicopters in Mergui

Tourism and hotels company Amata Holding Public Co Ltd is in negotiations with representatives of an American aviation company for a deal that could bring helicopter transportation and sea plane flights to the Mergui archipelago in Kawthaung, Tanintharyi Region in the south of Myanmar.

“We intend to start helicopter and sea plane operations around the islands near Kawthaung by the end of this year but this also depends on obtaining an air operator certificate (AOC) for helicopter services from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA),” U Sai Kham Park Pha, a consultant for Amata Aviation told The Myanmar Times.

Amata Aviation, one of seven subsidiaries under Amata Holding, is currently in talks with DCA about the AOC.

Amata Aviation plans to deploy Bell 505 helicopters from Bell Helicopter, another Textron subsidiary. It will also use Caravan Amphibian aircraft from Cessna, a Textron Inc subsidiary, for sea plane transportation to and from areas in the region that would ordinarily takes hours to reach by boat or car.

“The DCA said they will issue an AOC for helicopter services once they amend Myanmar’s Aircraft Regulations 1937. We are also working towards obtaining a permit from the Myanmar Investment Commission at the same time,” U Sai Kham Park Pha said.

The operating of helicopters is not currently covered under the country’s laws and regulations, which is why the regulations will have to be amended if Amata Aviation’s plans are to take off.

“We are still following the old laws from 1937 which has some parts that need to be upgraded, especially for the general aviation sector. Also Myanmar doesn’t use helicopters widely at present and there are only three based in Yangon and very rarely used,” said U Linn Htet, managing director of LTR Pte Ltd, a local company that represents Bell Helicopter in Myanmar.

New market

Last week, test flights on the Bell 505 helicopter took place at the Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw international airports and the company is looking forward to participating in the growth of Myanmar’s aviation market.

“The areas of oil and gas transportation, corporate and VIP travel, and tourism are what we will focus on in Myanmar,” Mr Eric Ng, business development manager of Singapore-based Bell Helicopter Asia Pte Ltd told The Myanmar Times.

Costing between US$1.5 million and US$2 million, depending on its configuration, the Bell 505 helicopter can carry four passengers and pilot.

“We see a lot of potential in Myanmar as a developing country and believe businesses will grow as the economy opens up. Myanmar needs to improve infrastructure like roads, trains and more domestic aviation,” Ng said.

The Bell 505 is already is service in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam and the company is now looking to explore Myanmar as a market.

“The main challenge is to work very closely with DCA to ensure safety and standards are maintained even as the aviation industry in Myanmar rapidly grows, he said.

“We need to work very closely with DCA to help open up air space for helicopter and private aircraft to fly, so I think that will be the number one challenge for now,” Ng said.

Tourism potential

For Amata Holding, the use of helicopters and sea planes presents an opportunity to draw more tourists to its hotel properties. The company is building 30- to 50-room resorts on the Poni and Balar islands in the Mergui Archipelago that are expected to open next year.

“As we are a hotel and tourism company, we intend to provide convenience to our guests with helicopter and sea plane transportation instead of having them ride a speed boat for three hours from Kawthaung on the mainland,» U Sai Kham Park Pha said.

Kawthaung Airport is one of three domestic airports to be upgraded as a major domestic airport that can support flights to and from countries in the region. It is hoped that in two or three years, Kawthaung Airport will be able to handle foreign flights, he said.

Myanmar National Airlines is also planning on direct flights between Kawthaung Airport and Phuket very soon so that it can bring more tourists from Thailand, U Linn Htet said.

At present though, there are only two resorts, Victoria Cliff and Tha Htay Kyun on Nga Khin Hyo Gyi and Nyaung-U Phee islands, respectively, near Kawthaung according to the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.

“More hotels are expected to come up in the region in the near future and there are already many Thai tourists who visit the area by boat. All this means there is potential for helicopter services,” U Linn Htet said.

“Most of resorts that will open in the Mergui Archipelago are expected to be targeting the luxury market, with rooms priced from US$1, 000 to US1, 500 a night. The types of travellers who will visit these hotels will be those who can afford and appreciate travelling by helicopter,” he added.

Source: Myanmar Times

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