|Founded||1957, Portland, OR|
|Headquarters||Aurora, Oregon, U.S.|
|Key people||Wes Lematta, Founder
Stan Wilson, Chairman of the Board
Jim Rankin, President & CEO
Columbia Helicopters, New Zealand, LTD
Columbia Helicopters, Incorporated, or CHI, is an aircraft manufacturing and operator company based in Aurora, Oregon, United States. They are known for operating tandem rotor helicopters; in present times, exclusively the Boeing Vertol 107 and Boeing 234. These helicopters are used in Streamwork and forestry including Heli-Logging, oil exploration, fire suppression, construction, government support, film production, disaster response and many other activities. In addition the company operates a large FAA Repair Station supporting customers around the world.
Founding and early days
Columbia Helicopters was founded on April 24, 1957 by Wes Lematta with a single Hiller 12B helicopter. With help from his brothers, Wes supported his young company with many odd jobs ranging from carrying Santa Claus to trapeze acts. He performed most of his flying on the weekends while still working as a truck driver during the week. Lematta gained great notoriety on September 15, 1957 rescuing 15 sailors from a sinking dredge near Coos Bay, Oregon. For his heroic actions the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded Wes the Army Air Medal.
Direct Visual Observational Control
After purchasing the more powerful Hiller 12E, Wes began to operate more lift jobs. One of these large jobs was working on the John Day Dam on his company's name sake Columbia River. Here Wes began performing precision lift jobs by using a longer than average cable. The concept was the pilot could lean out the side of the aircraft and see directly where they are placing the load. A few years later Wes' brother Jim was flying a Sikorsky S-61 in the Colorado Rockies. Jim was so cold he was forced to land. In need of an enclosed cockpit Columbia went on to develop the first pilot bubble window.
"First in Heli-Logging"
Jack Erickson, of Erickson Air-Crane fame, and Wes Lematta were able to demonstrate the first financially successful run of helicopter logging, or "Heli-Logging" in 1971. This was done with Wes' Sikorsky S-61, registration number N318Y, on a U.S. Forest Service log sale near Taylorsville, California in the Plumas National Forest. The following year the 107s were used. Amusingly, since the project used Wes' helicopter and Jack had purchased the timber, both Columbia Helicopters and Erikson Air-Crane claim to be the first successful "Heli-Loggers". Another unusual feat was to pull a hoverbarge on snow, ice and water in 1982.
As of December 15, 2006 Columbia Helicopters has purchased the Type certificate of the Model 107 and Model 234 from Boeing. Currently the company is seeking FAA issuance of a Production Certificate (PC) to produce parts, with eventual issuance of a PC to produce both aircraft.
CHI in the Movies
Columbia Helicopters aircraft have appeared in several motion pictures:
- More American Graffiti
- Starman - KV-107 N185CH can be seen in company colors hauling away actor Jeff Bridges' space ship.
- King Kong Lives - BV-107 N191CH, a former US Navy CH-46, carries away King Kong in his cage.
- Runaway Train
- Under Siege - KV-107 N192CH flies Tommy Lee Jones' band out to the Battleship.
- Demolition Man - BV-234 N241CH serves as a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park - BV-234 N241CH flies in a large cage to capture dinosaurs.
- X2: X-Men United - KV-107 N192CH performs various flight sequences and serves in the background of several scenes.
- Straight Up: Helicopters in Action - CHI BV-234 N239CH demonstrates the lifting capability of the Super Grapple during Heli-Logging operations
Columbia currently operates 8 Boeing-Vertol Model 234s and 14 Boeing-Vertol 107-IIs tandem rotor helicopters. Many of the latter were obtained from New York Airways. In addition to the flying fleet CHI in 2005 purchased 8 surplus Canadian Forces CH-113 Labrador helicopters for fleet expansion. For fleet support CHI operates 2 Beechcraft 200C Super King Airs. When the 234s operate internationally, five containers are used for support tasks.
In October 1991 Columbia Helicopters bought four Boeing Vertol 107II-14 from the Swedish Government, all formerly operated by the Swedish Air Force as the HKP 4A.
In December 2012 Columbia bought four Boeing Vertol 107II-14s (originally Swedish Air Force HKP 4As, modified from 1988 to 1991 to Swedish Navy standards as HKP 4Ds), two Boeing Vertol 107II-15s (HKP 4Bs) and four Kawasaki KV-107IIA-16s (HKP 4Cs) from the Swedish Government, all ten formerly operated by the Swedish Navy.
Wes Lematta Field at Aurora State Airport
On May 26, 2009, the Oregon State Legislature passed a resolution identifying Columbia's home airport as Wes Lematta Field at Aurora State Airport. Wes Lematta is the founder of Columbia Helicopters located on the north eastern corner of the field.
- Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight
- Boeing CH-47 Chinook
- Columbia Helicopters Heliport
- Columbia Aviation Heliport
- "Aviation industry exec to lead Columbia Helicopters". Portland Business Journal. November 11, 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
- "Happy birthday to Columbia Helicopters! Oregon-based company celebrates its 50th anniversary" Vertical (magazine), 18 April 2007. Retrieved: 24 August 2012.
- "Columbia Helicopters Celebrates its 50th Anniversary". 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2007-08-23.[dead link]
- "The hover barge" Columbia Helicopters. Retrieved: 24 August 2012.
- "Type Certificate Data Sheet No. 1H16" (.pdf). Federal Aviation Administration. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
- "Type Certificate Data Sheet No. H9EA" (.pdf). Federal Aviation Administration. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
- "Columbia Helicopters Acquires eight CH-113 Labrador helicopters from Canadian military". RotorHub. RotorHub.com. Archived from the original on 22 December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- N111NS on Airliners.net
- Huber, Mark. "Erickson and Columbia: Keeping The Big Blades Flying" AINonline, 5 October 2014. Accessed: 18 October 2014.
- Columbia Helicopters Website: Company History. Retrieved on 2008-12-12.
- "Columbia Helicopters Adding Army Surplus Heavy Lift Helicopters" Aero-News, March 30, 2014. Accessed: April 18, 2014.
- Oregon Legislature Renames Aurora State Airport in Honor of Wes Lematta
- Senate Joint Resolution 8
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