European Air Crane – Hope, Faith & Charity

Did you know the Italian division of Erickson Inc., is European Air Crane? This division specifically works in aerial firefighting as well as national emergencies.

Some say that the colors on the Italian flag stand for hope (green), faith (white), and charity (red). The colors in this application are interesting in the context of aerial firefighting and fire suppression, a role played by European Air Crane because their work is about the safety and protection of people in the country. If there is ever a time to have hope and faith, along with the desire to help others through charity, it would be in a challenging time like wildfire.

In Italy, wildfires kick into gear between June through October, and continue in the wintertime from February to April, with a winter firefighting season in the Italian Alps, with about 350 wildfires per year, each averaging about 50 acres of burn. European Air Crane also begins service via their main customer Vigili Del Fuoco, the national firefighting agency, also known as the Fire Brigade.

Did you know that European Air Crane is the only EASA certified and authorized operator for use of the Erickson S-64 helicopter in Europe?

The President of European Air Crane S.p.A is Anna Maria Blower. She grew up with the organization as her father Gian Franco Blower started operating the S-64 Air Crane® helicopter in Italy in 1999 and founded the company in 2005. He left the company in 2008. She said, “He’s been in the business for over 50 years. Thanks to his many aviation connections he became acquainted with the S-64 and saw an opportunity for it in Europe and proposed it to the Italian Civil Protection. He is a pilot as well, although, he no longer flies.” Blower said that he has always been involved with the Helicopter Association International (HAI) as a past president and chairperson.

Like father, like daughter, she followed in her father’s footsteps. She started at the company in 2004 and worked as the Marketing Director. She has been the President since 2019. She said, “The structure is simple, I have an administrator, a director of finance, three employees for the operations/control center, and 13 pilots.” She noted that the pilots are Italian.

They also have a partner organization called SIMA. Blower is the President of both European Air Crane and SIMA, although SIMA has a general manager, Patrizia Milano, who oversees aircraft maintenance. The official name of the aeronautical maintenance company is S.I.M.A. S.p.A. Società Italiana Manutenzione Elicotteri and they are known for their technicians.

Between SIMA and European Air Crane, they cover the country with aerial firefighting services using the S-64 Air Crane® helicopter, six in total all owned by the Fire Brigade, of which three are operated by European Air Crane and maintained by SIMA.

It is mission-critical that the aircraft and pilot support the correct certifications to follow the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and Milano handles all certifications through SIMA. EASA is much like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States.

Photo Credit: Dan Megna

The roles of Blower and Milano are interesting because while they work in traditional offices, they do go to the airport hangars routinely. Also, during high season, there are logistics to manage throughout the day as they send aircraft and pilots out to fires. The country of Italy, while long and narrow, has a width of 381 km (237 mi) and a length of 1,185 km (736 mi). It is about the size of Arizona, although with different dimensions.

Like many places in the world now, the climate is hotter and drier. Fire has become more predictable and serious than ever before and both governments and private companies must be prepared to protect the land and residents.

Blower said that one of the worst fires that she remembers happened in 2007. She said it was a human-caused fire that took place in a campground near the city of Peschici on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, famous for its seaside resorts in the Province of Foggia. She said that while they were there to fight the fire, it was severe and there were 10 deaths. She said, “People were running into the ocean to save themselves.”

While it is positive for European Air Crane that their business is growing, it is unfortunate for the growth in wildfires in the country. There are competitors that operate fixed-wing aircraft as well and they can both support the Fire Brigade.

Some of their projects (as listed on their website are):

  • Fire tank refilling with a dynamic snorkel (France)
  • Transport and removal of lattice towers for Terna Rete Italia (Cagliari, Italy)
  • Transport and assembly of power line for Swenska Krafnat (Sweden)
  • Fire tank refilling with pond snorkel, sweet water (Albenga, Italy)
  • Firefighting operations
  • General Delivery heavy loads on roof top, commercial shopping center la Bufalotta (Rome)

There are many more projects that they have done over time, each diverse and in both Italy and nearby countries.

Northern Italy, 2009 | Photo Credit: Oscar Bernardi

European Air Crane and SIMA do hire helicopter pilots and mechanics, and they also provide training through their own training schools, who educate S-64 Air Crane® helicopter pilots and mechanics. Additional maintenance, including parts, is provided by Erickson, Inc. headquartered in Oregon.

The need for aerial firefighting support is great and will continue to be important to countries like Italy and others in Europe. Both Blower and Milano travel to the United States for their jobs and are fluent in English and Italian. Like the Italian flag, through their important roles, they bring hope, faith, and charity to the people of Italy during fire season and beyond.

For more information about European Air Crane, visit