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IMAGINE YOU’RE A HELICOPTER OPERATOR AND THE PHONE RINGS. WHEN YOU PICK IT UP THE CONVERSATION GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS.


Caller: “Hello, I represent the community of Pangnirtung.”


You: “P-a-n-t-y – what? I’m sorry, what was the name again?”


Caller: “Pangnirtung. Do you know where that is?


You: “I’m sorry, I do not. Should I?”


Caller: “It’s a small village located on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut in Northern Canada, just outside the Arctic Circle. It’s one of the most remote and sparsely settled regions in the world.”


You: “Oh, OK. Remote, ice, polar bears … got it! So what can I do for you?”


Caller: “Well our entire village relies on diesel generators for power and we recently had a fire destroy four of them, leaving many residents with no electricity at all. As you can imagine, no power in this area with temps hitting -17° is a problem. We have a line on several new generators, but they are 160 miles away in the town of Iqaluit. We believe the only way to get them to our remote community in a timely manner is to have them lifted in by helicopter. Is this something that you can do?”


You: “Sure, that’s what we do. We specialize in moving heaving things, in very hard-to-reach locations, and in extreme conditions.”


Caller: “That’s great. What would be involved in the process?”


You: “Well, first we would do some research on the area and its resources, and then some logistical planning. Then we would mobilize the nearest S-64 Aircrane, tools, and crew.”


Caller: “Where’s the nearest helicopter located?”


You: “British Columbia.”


Caller: “British Columbia? That’s like 2,200 miles away! Did I mention we’re in a crisis situation? How long would it take for your team to get here?”


24 July 2015


You: “Well, once we pull the trigger on the project, we will mobilize the aircraft, crew, and gear, load them onto an Antonov Russian cargo plane, and fly over. How does 48 hours sound?”


Question to Rotorcraft Pro Readers: How many helicopter operators in the world can have that type of response to such a giant, formidable task?


Answer: Very few. Maybe only one. TEAM COMMITMENT


Although I imagined what the above conversation might have sounded like, the details are true; Erickson completed that actual job in May 2015. This real relief event captures the Erickson spirit that first began in 1971 when the company’s founder, Jack Erickson, opened shop with the original goal of using helicopters for timber harvesting. This can-do attitude has guided the company’s growth from one leased Aircrane in 1972, in support of logging and utility operations, to owning the type certificate for the S-64 and manufacturing that model. Oh, and they also operate over 80 helicopters of varying makes and models (as well as fixed-wing fleet) from all corners of the globe.


Pioneering team spirit permeates throughout the company, akin to people wearing the colors of their college alma mater. At Erickson, that color goes by the nickname Big Orange, and the level of loyalty and commitment to the cause has been coined “bleeding Erickson orange.”


CHANGING GEARS


For nearly 40 years, Erickson’s business load was literally picked up and carried almost entirely by the S-64 in the form of heavy-lift helicopter services and firefighting. For all intents and purposes, Erickson was really just a helicopter operator with very unique talents and capabilities. However, in 2007 the sale of Erickson to ZM Equity Fund, along with the appointment of Udo Rieder as CEO, would forever change the company’s direction and trajectory. From that moment on, Erickson would no longer just be a heavy-lift helicopter operator, but also moved toward becoming a global growth company.


PLANTING INVESTMENT SEEDS AND DIVERSIFICATION


Today, because of its leadership and the hard work of its people, Erickson has successfully diversified its business through both acquisitions and by further developing some internal core skills built up over decades. Traditionally, most of the company’s eggs were in the utility and firefighting basket. In past years approximately half the company’s revenue could come from firefighting, a potentially volatile revenue stream often dependent on Mother Nature.


That diversification effort may be partially insulating the company at this very moment. Although certain U.S. states (Washington, Oregon, and California) are experiencing above- average fire seasons, nationally in 2014, only 3.6 million acres burned. That’s almost half the 10-year U.S. average of nearly 7 million acres. 2015 is predicted to be a similar below-average year.


Although firefighting may represent less of the overall business for the company, its S-64s are in high demand. With 9,600 horsepower, 47,000-pound MGW, and the ability to fill a 2,650-gallon water/foam tank in less than a minute, the newest S-64F has taken firefighting performance to new levels of efficiency and cost effectiveness. Outside the U.S., Erickson has S-64s on firefighting contracts in places like Europe, Greece, Turkey, and Australia.


Two recent moves impacting diversification came through acquisition. First, in a $250 million deal, Erickson stunned the industry by purchasing legacy helicopter operator, Evergreen


Helicopters. This position not


only quadrupled its fleet and dramatically increased its capability, but also created instant access to new revenue streams derived from other forms of work like medevac, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), HVAC, government, and Department of Defense contracts to name a few.


Additionally, the purchase of Air Amazonia in South America brought access to Latin American oil and gas support business. This new market penetration has successfully opened doors for the company to new projects. For example, a Q2-2015 contract with Group


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