1. Home
  2. News and views
  3. Customer interviews
  4. View from the cockpit

View from the cockpit

Release date:
August 2022
PHI Air Europe’s’ director and accountable manager, Kyriacos Petsas and inset images of yellow helicopters
PHI Air Europe’s’ director and accountable manager, Kyriacos Petsas, on his love of flying helicopters, navigating the global pandemic and the benefits of working with Air bp.


Did you set out to pursue a career in aviation?


I don’t come from a family of aviators, but I was always interested in flying and was about 17 or 18 when I got my private pilot’s licence (PPL). After finishing school and completing military service, which is mandatory in Cyprus where I grew up, I then travelled to the UK, Australia and the US where I worked as a fixed-wing and rotary pilot. I returned to Cyprus in the late 90s and joined the police force as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, before joining PHI International in 2016. The business specialises in helicopter transportation and services – from oil and gas support and marine pilot transfers to mineral exploration and search and rescue. PHI was looking to expand its presence in Europe and approached me about helping them manage operations in Cyprus, as well as across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.


What does your working day look like?


My position currently is very much office based in terms of managing operations. We have a team of 25 here in Cyprus, so I oversee the team, liaise with existing clients and am always looking for new business as we are looking to grow our portfolio throughout the region. We currently operate four to six flights a week to a location approximately 130nm southwest of our base at Larnaca International Airport.


Having just established PHI’s base in Cyprus COVID-19 hit, how have you navigated the last couple of years?


Having received our European Air Operators Certificate (AOC) in 2016, we officially started operations specialising in offshore helicopter transportation in 2019. Then the global pandemic hit, which meant business pretty much ground to a halt as the oil and gas sector in Cyprus is still very much in its infancy. In 2021 work started picking up again and we’ve been going from strength to strength ever since. The future looks promising – there are plenty of opportunities in the pipeline.


How many helicopters are in the PHI Fleet?


Globally PHI has more than 200 helicopters ranging from Airbus H145s and Sikorsky S92s to Leonardo AW139s, AW109SPs and Bell B412s.


What particular challenges do you face in terms of safety and security?


Safety is a number one priority for PHI and we are really proactive in ensuring a safe, reliable and professional service. As a global business PHI has more than 70 years combined experience, so we are constantly applying our expertise and assessing new safety measures and practices within our day-to-day operations. We also pride ourselves on our safety track record – from flight operations to airworthiness and staff training we have so many safety procedures in place to mitigate the risk of any incidents happening.


How do you benefit from your relationship with Air bp?


Our relationship with Air bp is integral to our operations. I originally met Air bp’s GA sales and marketing manager for East Med, Giannis Tzevelekos, about four years ago and am happy to say we have an excellent and close-working relationship with the local Air bp team here in Cyprus. They are incredibly supportive and regularly go above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate our requests and assist us with their expertise.


How are you embracing sustainable growth in PHI?


Sustainability is a huge topic of interest and it’s here to stay. PHI has a dedicated sustainability department and we have regular weekly calls to discuss how we can operate more sustainably. We haven’t refuelled with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) yet, but it’s certainly something we would like to explore.


You work in a high-pressure environment, how do you unwind?


I have three children, 10-year-old twins and a 14-year-old, so when I ‘m not working I try and spend as much time as possible with my family. It’s not always relaxing… but they are growing up fast so it’s important I give them any free time I have. When I have more spare time on my hands, I would really like to do more flying. However, I’m certainly not complaining, I really enjoy my work and I have plenty of support from our parent company. Plus, I’ve relished the challenge of going from working as a pilot to managing a business. It’s been a steep learning curve, but an exciting one.


What is it about flying helicopters that appeals over fixed-wing aircraft?


The easiest way to explain it is that it suits my character. I thrive on adventure, adrenalin and new challenges. Fixed wing flying certainly isn’t boring but it’s also not as challenging as flying helicopters where you fly at lower altitudes so really have to navigate the landscape and you can see everything going on around you. Plus, working as a search and rescue pilot and being part of a team helping others was really rewarding. Although I’m now working more on the commercial passenger transportation side of things for me helicopter operations are still an exciting sector to be in.


What does the future hold for PHI?


The last few years have thrown up their fair share of challenges with the pandemic but we’re very much coming out the other side of that now and as a business we’re in a strong position. We are now focused on growth throughout the region. PHI has always had a strong presence in the US and Asia Pacific, so now it’s about expanding our presence throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We have the right people on our team and I am very enthusiastic about what lies ahead.