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the world. Wes Lematta stepped down as the president of Columbia Helicopters in 1992 but continued to be very involved with the company, the Portland community and the helicopter com- munity. Lematta served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors until he passed away in late 2009. After his passing, Wes’s wife Nancy suc- ceeded him as the Chairman of the Board. Wes’s brother Jim Lematta still serves on the Columbia Helicopters Board of Directors and several of his children work for Columbia. Wes Lematta has been widely recognized in the heli- copter community for the great vision and per- severance that he first showed as a teenager hauling wood to make ends meet. In 1990, Wes was awarded the Helicopter Association International’s (HAI) Lawrence D. Bell Award for helicopter management leadership. The citation noted Lematta’s “vision, professional- ism and unbending dedication to safety in all operations” and how he “not only demonstrated the many uses of the helicopter, but also eased the way for other industry entre- preneurs (Jensen, 2003).”

Other awards include the

Pathfinder Award from the Boeing Museum of Flight and HAI’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award. Wes and his wife have also been widely recognized as great philanthro- pists in both the helicopter and local Portland communi- ties. Wes and Nancy made a major contribution to help start the Helicopter Foundation International in 1983 along with donations to several Portland area hospitals. The Lematta’s also donated three million dollars to a Portland area cancer center and one million dollars to the Oregon State University College of Forestry to endow the Lematta Professor of Forest Engineering (Brown, 2009). In 2009, Oregon State Lawmakers voted to designate Columbia Helicopters home airfield Wes Lematta Field at Aurora State Airport. If you had asked Wes Lematta what made Columbia Helicopters so successful he would have told you it was the people. Lematta credited his brother Ed (who lent him the money for the first helicopter) as the real founder of the company. Wes also made sure to note that the many dedi- cated pilots, maintenance personnel and support staff were the reason that Columbia was able to seamlessly complete many very complex and demanding jobs. If you ask the employees of Columbia Helicopters what made the compa- ny so successful they will tell you it was Wes Lematta. There seems to be unanimous agreement among the Columbia employees that Wes Lematta’s leadership was the key. Undoubtedly Lematta’s determination and integrity have

purveyed the company allowing it to operate a unique fleet in some of the most remote areas that helicopters go. Today Columbia Helicopters is one of the premier heli- copter operators in the world thanks to its founder, Wes Lematta, a true Rotorcraft Pioneer. abcd


Bernstein, M. (2009, December 24). Founder of Columbia Helicopters dies. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from founder_of_columbia_aviation_d.html

Brown, C. (2009, December 24). Former Philanthropist of the Year Lematta dies. The Columbian. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from 2009/dec/24/former-first citizen-dies/

Jensen, F. (2003, Fall). HFI Interview with Wes Lematta. Rotor Magazine. pp. 50-53.

Petersen, J., Vezmar, J. & Skinner, D. (2007). Flying Finns: Columbia Helicopters the First Fifty Years. Portland, OR: Columbia Helicopters and the Evergreen

LT Brad McNally is a 2001graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy. After serving two tours in Coast Guard Naval Engineering he attended Naval Flight Training in Pensacola, Florida. He was previously station at the Coast Guard Air Station in Atlantic City, NJ

where he was an aircraft commander in the MH-65C Dolphin helicopter. He currently resides in

West Lafayette, IN with his wife Monica and son Brett where he is assigned as a graduate student at Purdue University pursuing a Masters Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.


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