The Erickson Story
The new Erickson of today is primarily comprised of two Oregon legacy aviation giants—Evergreen Aviation (McMinnville, Oregon) and Erickson Aviation (Central Point/Medford, Oregon). The companies were led and founded by two remarkable Oregonians with memorable personalities, but very different in approach and style.
Jack Erickson founded Erickson in 1971 with a focus on logging that evolved to an eventually much bigger market of firefighting. The Erickson reputation for trustworthiness and toughness was built on the hard work of men and women from southwest Oregon in the Central Point/Medford area and the iconic Sikorsky S-64, a giant in the aircraft industry. The blazing orange “Aircranes” are viewed as beacons of hope in the midst of boiling wildfires, and the Aircrane named “Elvis” is revered in Australia for having saved several firefighters’ lives. Given the heavy lift capabilities of the Aircrane, and the thinking that goes into complex project troubleshooting, Erickson’s earnest employees claim, “If we can’t do it, it can’t be done.”
Del Smith founded Evergreen Aviation in 1960 and earned his stripes establishing a legacy of extensive contacts within the Department of Defense for missions in service to the United States for nearly 50 years. His leadership within the aviation world was broadly recognized and he built a world class aviation and space museum that features iconic aircraft starting with the Wright Brother’s early flight models and the museums draw nearly a million visitors every year. The breadth of his collection is testament to his broad circle of influence in the aerospace industry and devotion to promoting flight. Unfortunately, the company faced struggles with waning contracts and a diminishing reputation, but many of the talented employees and workhorse aircraft were acquired by Erickson Inc. in 2013.
Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. was founded in 2007, with the intent to build and grow a global helicopter aerial service provider. The initial group of investors saw the concept of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Understanding that bringing two specialty companies—and acquiring the Oil and Gas expertise of Brazilian-based Air Amazonia in 2013—has created an organizational opportunity to be a full-services provider for firefighting, government services, and commercial services such as oil and gas, construction, and special project work. Doug Kitani began his tenure as Erickson’s CEO in August 2017.
The company continues to leverage its diverse fleet of 69 aircraft for light, medium, and heavy lift work as well as people and cargo transport. With the idea that 1+1+1>3, the company is diversifying its capabilities to build out seasonal fluctuations and manage a portfolio comprised of 30% O&G; 20% firefighting; 20% commercial and 30% defense.
Erickson Incorporated History: Innovating for 50 years
1945 First Helicopter Hoist
1960 Evergreen Airlines is founded by Del Smith, an early provider support to SpecOps Community and became an industry leader in Government Services.
1969-1971 Jack Erickson leased an S-61 from Wes Lamata (currently Columbia helicopter) for a pilot program with the United States Forest Service (USFS) testing the concept of helicopter yarding of cut timber for mountain timber harvesting operations.
1971 Erickson Air-Crane is founded by Jack Erickson. He pioneers heli-logging techniques, then expands into powerline construction and firefighting.
- Purchase of three S-64E from Sikorsky Aircraft Co.
- Use conventional Cable chokers utilized requiring ground crews to wrap cables around fallen timber and hook them to the aircraft long line.
1973 Erickson extends its capabilities to external aerial loads in congested intercity applications for HVAC removal and replacement in high-rise buildings.
1974 Erickson invents the anti-rotation devise to stabilize loads. These innovations further improve HVAC performance and the new agility allows the company to enter into building power line towers.
1975 Erickson creates the ‘Shock & Pendant’ for repetitive long line harvesting operations. This device decouples the load from the aircraft, eliminating the inherent low frequency vibrations from the rotor system and dampens the effects of cable stretch.
1992 Erickson purchases the intellectual property of the S-64 from Sikorsky aircraft and assumes the responsibility as the aircraft manufacturer. As the Type Certificate holder for the Aircrane, Erickson builds the first tanked helicopter.
- First production F-model rolls off line at Erickson facility in Central Point, Oregon.
- Erickson creates the 2,600 gallon fire suppression system as a bolt on accessory for the S-64.
1993 The USFS Camp Pendleton proof of concept project is adopted and establishes the first USFS exclusive use Helitanker contract.
- Erickson improves the fire suppression system to include its ability to deliver hydro mulch and seed for land reclamation after a fire.
1998 Erickson invents the first helicopter application of water cannon capabilities for firefighting.
1999 First commercial sale of an S-64E outside the USA to the Korean Forest Service.
2000 Erickson invents the “Sea Snorkel” for dynamic filling (scooping) of the fire suppression tank utilizing salt water obtained from oceans or other water sources.
- The advent of the hydraulic grapple eliminates the ground crew / choker setters from logging operations by utilizing a grapple powered by the aircraft systems. The pilot now controls the grapple from the left forward seat and retrieves the logs.
2001 Aircrane “Elvis” saves the lives of 14 firefighters in Australia.
2003 Erickson sells four S-64F models to the Italian Forest Service which includes upgraded glass cockpits and hybrid digital / analog AFCS systems.
2008 Erickson establishes the AIRS (Aircrane Incident Response Systems) with the Los Angeles City fire department as an exclusive use disaster preparation plan.
2010 First commercial Aircrane sale to a utility company including spare parts and crew programs.
- First S-64 glass cockpit upgrade to include Night Vision goggle capabilities.
2012 Erickson Incorporated becomes a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
2013 Erickson acquires Air Amazonia and Evergreen Helicopters
2015 International reorganization of three business units: Commercial Aviation Services, Government Aviation Services, and Manufacturing and MRO.
2015-2016 Testing-launch of the Composite Main Rotor Blade
2017 Emerged from bankruptcy under new private ownership operating as a small business.
Erickson History Photo Gallery