The U.S. Transportation Command (USTranscom) has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new contracts for companies providing helicopter support in Afghanistan. Recipients include AAR Airlift, $151 million; Columbia Helicopters, $87 million; Construction Helicopters, $33 million; and HNZ Group, $6 million.
Columbia Helicopters (Booth No. C811) is purchasing 10 Vertol 107-II heavy-lift tandem-rotor helicopters from the Swedish Department of Defense. The purchase will bring Columbia’s total Vertol fleet to 27.
Six of the Vertols being purchased were manufactured by Boeing while the other four were made by Kawasaki. Columbia spokesman Dan Sweet said that the company intends to deploy the helicopters worldwide as it obtains contracts for their use.
Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters lost one of its Boeing-Vertol 234 tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopters–the civil version of the Chinook–in Peru last month. The helicopter (N241CH) crashed on January 7, shortly after takeoff from FAP Captain David Abenzur Rengifo International Airport, Pucallpa, Peru, en route to Tarapoto, Peru. All seven people aboard the aircraft, including five Americans, were killed. The helicopter was contracted to Talisman Energy of Canada and was headed for a drilling site 180 miles away carrying a sling load of drilling equipment.
A pair of Columbia Vertol II tandem-rotor helicopters have been fighting record Texas wildfires at Alpine, Sonora and Brownwood. One aircraft joined the firefighting efforts on March 3 and a second was called in April 22. The Texas wildfires have consumed more than 1.4 million acres since January, with related smoke reaching major metropolitan areas.
Columbia Helicopters has broken ground at its Aurora, Ore. headquarters for the expansion of its T55 engine maintenance program. The building will include a T55-714 engine test cell to allow the MRO to provide complete engine overhaul and quick-turn-around service for troubleshooting and engine testing. Columbia has more than 26 years’ experience operating the Model 234, the civilian version of the CH-47 Chinook.
Columbia Helicopters (Booth No. 1017) announced that the Commercial Airlift Review Board (CARB) recently certified the Oregon-based company for Department of Defense (DOD) passenger and cargo operations.
With this and prior certifications, Columbia is now eligible to bid on a more comprehensive variety of contracts for heavy-lift helicopters for all U.S. government agencies.
Heavy-lift helicopters from private contractors and the military are continuing to play a critical role in restoring the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem in the wake of the BP oil spill. This month, Columbia Helicopters is flying a pair of Boeing Vertol 107-IIs equipped with brush grapples to remove sections of hard and soft boom that had been placed to protect estuaries from encroaching oil.
The threatened pink workstations are a nonstarter, but Nancy Lematta has her hands firmly on the controls of Aurora, Ore.-based Columbia Helicopters. Her late husband, Wes, who founded the company with his brothers, charted a course that she plans to follow.
Glenn “Wes” Lematta, 83, the founder of Columbia Helicopters, died December 24. Lematta and his brothers started Columbia in 1957 with a single used Hiller UH-12B in which they offered rides at county fairs. The company grew into a global heavy-lift helicopter operator that today employs 600 and operates a fleet of 30 Vertol 107 II and Boeing 234 Chinook tandem-rotor helicopters.
Oregon’s legislature voted to honor Columbia Helicopters founder and chairman Wes Lematta by renaming Aurora Airport Wes Lematta Field at the Aurora State Airport.
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