Big Oil Searching For Helicopters, Pilots

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With oil prices surging worldwide, rig operators in the North Sea are ramping up production, and running up against a shortage of helicopters and pilots to fly them. Bristow Helicopters, based in Aberdeen, has 10 new helicopters on order and is looking for more. "We have already had to turn down business because we did not have the assets available," Bristow manager Mike Duncan told The Scotsman. "It not just ourselves at Bristow that are in this situation -- it is an industry-wide problem. It is not just a question of getting the physical airframe; we've got to get the crew to fly them and the engineers to maintain them." It takes up to two years to get a new aircraft delivered, and five years or more to train pilots from scratch. Jim Ferguson, an aviation journalist, told Scotland Today that the industry itself must share some blame for the situation. "This industry has a history of laying people off at times of bust," he said. "It's now boom boom boom and the people are just not available, they would far rather fly rich folk around in their executive helicopters than fly in the boring old North Sea."