Bristow Targets Lower MRO Costs Through eVTOLs

Bristow Group has placed orders for Embraer's Eve air taxi and a number of other electric-powered aircraft.
Credit: Embraer

SAN JOSE, California—Bristow Group believes the emergence of simpler electric-powered advanced air mobility vehicles represents an opportunity for a significant change in the traditional aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) model.

Currently one of the world’s largest helicopter operators, Bristow has signaled strong interest in the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) and short take-off and landing (eSTOL) sector by announcing collaborative agreements with several developers of electric-powered aircraft.

In December, Bristow partnered with Overair in a deal involving the acquisition of up to 50 of the California startup’s Butterfly—a five-passenger eVTOL with a 100-mil. range that is targeted at FAA certification in 2025. The Overair agreement follows similar recent deals between Bristow and Electra Aero, Embraer’s Eve Urban Air Mobility and Vertical Aerospace. Also covering joint work, the deals include provisional commitments for Bristow to add up to 250 eVTOL and eSTOL aircraft from these companies.

Speaking at the Vertical Flight Society’s Transformative Vertical Flight 2022 electric VTOL symposium in San Jose, California, David Stepanek, executive vice president, sales and chief transformation officer at Bristow Group, says “as we progress with our partners on the OEM side, we want to avoid things that need MRO. Frankly, most of our maintenance is done in the field using a progressive maintenance process. A lot of it is done on the line at night so the aircraft are available for the next morning’s flight.”

This approach is “the most efficient, cost effective way to do it. To do that you have to build a robust aircraft that you can maintain without a D check or 1,200-hour check or whenever that scheduled maintenance happens to be,” Stepanek says. “If we can consume that out in the field, then there’s lower capital invested. You have higher reliability and higher availability of your assets, and you need less of them—that’s the objective here,” he adds.

Although Stepanek concedes “there will be things that need to be either disposed of or overhauled—such as blades and some of the moving components,” he adds that “we hope that there’s less requirement for MRO.”

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.