A HELICOPTER pilot training business has been sold in a seven-figure deal and the new owners are keen to step up its presence in charter flights for wealthy customers ahead of the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

Scotia Helicopters' majority shareholder John Pearson is retiring and said he was "very pleased" to have struck an agreement with Heli Air Scotland.

The move marks the first foray north of the Border for Heli Air, which already operates out of seven sites around England.

Charles McCann, managing director of Heli Air Scotland, said: "We have been looking to get into Scotland for a long time.

"There is a kind of unwritten rule in the small aviation business that you don't come in and compete against an incumbent.

"So we have been trying to acquire Scotia for the past two years.

"John was just about ready this time and wanted the business to grow and prosper.

"A lot of individuals want to buy a little helicopter business because it subsidises their own flying, but John wanted the business he founded to grow."

Mr Pearson said: "I am very pleased that I have been able to pass on Scotia to like-minded people, and can only wish the new owners every success."

Mr McCann said Scotia had employed two full-time staff and concentrated on pilot training.

Heli Air Scotland expects to have eight people within 12 months as it expands into charter work plus maintenance and sales.

It will also move from its current office at Cumbernauld Airport to a dedicated hangar at the site, with adjacent office space.

Mr McCann said: "[The deal] gives us a foothold in the central belt with the big potential next year around the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games for charter work.

"That is potentially very big, but the Scottish leisure industry is desperately in need of helicopters for VIP stuff."

Mr McCann told how the business was recently employed to film a number of tourists driving Land Rovers around Glen Coe, and he believes there is a great deal of potential in the high end visitor market north of the Border.

He indicated a charter to take two wealthy businessmen to whisky distilleries on Islay had already been booked for later this summer, with the Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye another popular destination for clients.

Mr McCann – who uses his own helicopter to complete the eight-minute journey between his home in Lanark and work in Cumbernauld – said there were no plans to compete in the oil and gas charter market.

But he pointed out that Heli Air Scotland had recently been asked to bid on a contract to supply transfer services to a lighthouse.

He said: "That would not have come to Scotia as people knew all they did was pilot training."

Heli Air was advised by a Kytra Consulting team led by Claire Darroch.

She said: "This is a fantastic deal for Heli Air but also for Scotland as it brings a major aviation player into the market here and with their expansion plans it will provide new highly qualified technical employment opportunities to the central belt."