Inverness firm PDG Helicopters will transport people and equipment to and from lighthouses around the UK and Ireland under a £13million agreement unveiled yesterday.
The company will service three separate general lighthouse authorities (GLAs) under the seven-year deal.
It is the first time the GLAs – one covering Scotland and the Isle of Man; another for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; and one for Ireland – have jointly awarded a contract for helicopter services.
Teaming up for the latest deal to appoint a single operator across all three GLAs is expected to save about £7.9million.
PDG Helicopters is the trading name of the PLM Dollar Group, which was formed in 1995 through a merger between PLM Helicopters and Dollar Helicopters.
The business was at the heart of a deal just over two years ago, when Maven Capital Partners sold shares to the management team and the Laings – the family behind Dunphail Estate south of Forres – in a £1.8million buyout.
The company boasts more than 10,000 hours of flying time every year from bases in Inverness, Glasgow, Wolverhampton and Dublin.
As well as private charter and regular contract work, it has carried out aerial filming for Hollywood blockbusters.
The new lighthouse work starts in December 2015 and there is an option which could see it extended by three years.
PDG chief executive Jerry Francis said “The award of this contract is a natural progression from working exclusively with the Commissioners of Irish Lights and we look forward to extending this vital service across the entire United Kingdom and Ireland.”
The firm currently has 17 helicopters in its fleet and employs 85 people.
It will use two Eurocopter EC 135s on the new contract, which is likely to involve about 1,000 flying hours annually.
Helicopters have been contracted by the GLAs since the 1970s for the transportation of people to remote and difficult-to-access sites and for specialised operations to carry materials to and from support vessels and lighthouses.