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British International Helicopters

One of the company's Sikorsky S-61 helicopters at Tresco Heliport

British International Helicopter Services Limited (formerly Veritair Limited) is an airline based at Penzance heliport, in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, with headquarters located at Sherborne, Dorset. It operates seasonal and year round domestic scheduled services to the Isles of Scilly. Its main base is Penzance Heliport (EGHK/PZE), with services to St. Mary's Airport (EGHE/ISC), and Tresco Heliport (EGHT/TSO), Isles of Scilly. It uses two Sikorsky S-61 helicopters from a pool of nine of the type that it owns.

A secondary base operates from Plymouth Airport using two Eurocopter AS 365N2 Dauphin helicopters on behalf of the Royal Navy Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) based at HMS Drake in HMNB Devonport. A Sikorsky S-61 helicopter is also used on occasions for FOST duties.

BIHL also operate two Sikorsky S-61 helicopters from RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands, where they are used for everyday military transport and land logistic support around the islands, where there are few roads and a 12 mile strip of sea separating the two main islands.

British International (as Veritair Limited) holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence, which permits it to carry passengers, cargo, and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats.[1]



The company was originally British Airways Helicopters until its privatisation in September 1986, when it was sold to publisher Robert Maxwell and subsequently renamed to British International Helicopters (BIH).

In 1993 CHC Helicopter acquired 40% of BIH's voting shares, and raised their shareholding to 90% within a year. BIH became the UK subsidiary of CHC, as Brintel Helicopters Limited. In October 1996 Brintel acquired the Cardiff-based Veritair Limited.

The current incarnation of the company was formed in 2000 with the backing of 3i Group PLC and the Bank of Scotland, through a management buy in of the non-oil related operations of Scotia Helicopters and CHC Helicopter, with the Bank of Scotland providing funding of 22million.

In 2006, BIH finalised a secondary management buy-out financed by a syndicate of investors led by Matrix Private Equity Partners, with the backing of Finance Cornwall and Chrysalis Venture Capital Trust.

As a result of the loss of a South Wales Police helicopter air support contract, the business of British International at Cardiff was sold in May 2008 to the management team led by Captain Julian Verity. The new company Heli Charter Wales Limited is trading as Veritair Aviation.

Veritair Limited changed its name to British International Helicopter Services Limited in October 2008.[2]


On 1 August 2012 it was announced that the service between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly would be withdrawn from 1 November 2012.[3] A Judicial Review triggered by the Tesco supermarket group over the sale of Penzance Heliport to Sainsburys created a period of delay which affected the finance to replace the fleet of Helicopters.


The British International Helicopters fleet consists of the following aircraft (at February 2009)[4]:

  • 2 x Eurocopter AS 365N2 Dauphin
  • 9 x Sikorsky S-61 of which 3 are currently non operational and are stored at Plymouth Airport

Details of the fleet registered with the Civil Aviation Authority are

  • G-ATBJ Sikorsky S-61N 1965
  • G-ATFM Sikorsky S-61N 1965
  • G-BCEB Sikorsky S-61NM 1972
  • G-BFFJ Sikorsky S-61N 1978
  • G-BFRI Sikorsky S-61N 1978
  • G-CHCR AS 365N2 1991


  • Penzance Heliport
  • St. Mary's Airport
  • Tresco Heliport

Accidents and incidents

Although British International Helicopter Services Ltd (including its time under the Veritair banner) has suffered no accidents since its inception in May 2000 the following events were experienced by its predecessors.

  • 16 July 1983 a British Airways Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N G-BEON crashed into the southern Celtic Sea en-route from Penzance to St. Mary's Airport in low visibility. The crash resulted in 20 of the 26 passengers and crew losing their lives (see 1983 British Airways Sikorsky S-61 crash), making it the most serious UK Helicopter accident until the Sumburgh disaster.
  • 6 November 1986 a British International Helicopters Boeing 234LR Chinook crashed on approach to Sumburgh Airport, Shetland Islands with the loss of 45 lives (see Sumburgh disaster).
  • 13 July 1988 a Sikorsky S-61N ditched into the North Sea, no injuries (see 1988 British International Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N crash).
  • 21 April 2000 a Veritair Eurocopter AS355 operating for South Wales Police crashed into a house in Cardiff when the tail rotor drive failed.[5]


External links

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