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Sunday, April 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Bristow Group Buys Flight School, Sets Up Training Academy

HELI-EXPO 2007

In what may have been the most intriguing development of this year’s Heli-Expo, Bristow Group struck a deal to buy one flight school and said it is looking at taking over another to get back into the training business.

Bristow President and CEO Bill Chiles, said the offshore-services company was to buy Helicopter Adventures by the start of this month for $15 million and the assumption of $5 million of debt. The flight school, which operates in Titusville, Fla. and Concord, Calif., will be renamed Bristow Academy. Calling it "both a strategic move and a sound investment," Chiles said the idea came to him when he realized the integral part it played in training Bristow’s cadre of offshore pilots.

"We’ve been talking about the pilot shortage," he said, "but we weren’t doing anything about it."

"For the first time in many years, I now have a boss," joked Patrick Corr, Helicopter Adventures’ president and founder. "

Bristow is also in talks with New Iberia, La.-based Vortex Helicopters to acquire that flight school and incorporate it into Bristow Academy. Vortex works closely with Bristow’s Air Logistics’ unit, also based at New Iberia, to supply offshore pilots.

Helicopter Adventures was founded in 1987 in Northern California. Demand for charters was weak, but requests for flight instruction soared, leading Corr to retool the operation as a helicopter flight school. The company eventually became the first to be certified under both FAA and European Joint Aviation Authorities regulations.

Bristow Academy will continue to use Schweizer 300CBis and 333s and Robinson R22s for primary training. Vortex would add 18 Robinson R22s to the academy’s fleet. — By Ernie Stephens

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