Columbia Helicopters Sees Record Profits as Customer Base Diversifies

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Helicopter Company Pursues Opportunities Beyond Aerial Firefighting and Logging

Columbia Helicopters, Inc., is having its highest revenue year in company history, as it continues to diversify beyond aerial firefighting, and logging.
    “We made a strategic decision several years ago to grow the company into new areas, rather than rely primarily on firefighting and the logging industry,” said Todd Petersen, the Portland, Oregon-based operator's Vice President, Marketing. As an example, he cited a contract with the US Transportation Command to support US Military and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
    “Our mission in Afghanistan is non-tactical; hauling personnel and supplies,” Petersen explained. He added that Columbia, which has been in Afghanistan since July 2011, now has five helicopters in-country, including four Columbia Model 107s, and one Columbia Model 234 Chinook, which was added last November as the mission expanded.
    The other significant growth component Petersen cited is the company's expanding helicopter airframe and engine maintenance business. To date, most of the business has come from foreign military agencies, operating the Chinook helicopter. Petersen noted that the company's single largest maintenance customer is the Royal Australian Defence Force.
    “We have been working with them for about four years. They send components in for work, and we send teams to Australia to work on the helicopters. We also have a separate maintenance team in Afghanistan to support the Australian helicopters deployed there.”
    To support its expanding engine maintenance business, Columbia opened a new engine test cell in August of this year. “We are seeing a lot of growth in our engine accessory shop, particularly for the General Electric CT58, which powers the Columbia 107 and the Sikorsky S61,” said Petersen.
    The record fire season in the Western US has also kept Columbia Helicopters busy, with five helicopters working throughout the year. In addition, the company continues to support logging jobs in Alaska and British Columbia. Oil field operations, currently in Peru and Papua, New Guinea are also at record levels for Columbia.
    In a further development, Columbia Helicopters, which operates a total fleet of 12 Columbia Vertol 107’s and 7 Columbia 234 Chinooks, will be taking delivery within the next few months of an additional10 Model 107s--built by Boeing Vertol and Kawasaki--from the Royal Swedish Air Force. They could potentially be refurbished to meet Columbia Helicopters requirements.
    The increasing business has caused the company to add 200 employees over the past 18 months, mainly engineers, pilots and mechanics.
    Columbia Helicopters is a member of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA), the Washington-based trade association representing the commercial operators of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft engaged in aerial wildland firefighting.

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