Understanding and embracing the power of people

Kristi Gonzalez, Senior VP of Administration for Erickson Inc., spoke to AirMed & Rescue about the company’s distinguished history and passion for innovation

November 30, 2022

With Erickson celebrating its 50th Anniversary, what do you think are the most significant achievements of the company during this time?

Erickson has earned a well-known reputation for its ability to innovate and its people. Our achievements over the last 50 years are a result of those two things coming together to make the seemingly impossible, possible. Erickson has taken a legacy aircraft developed during the 1960s and maintained its relevancy by making over 1,000 changes to its airframe, instrumentation, and payload capabilities. Inventions like the Sea Snorkel, which enables pilots to fill the S-64 Air Crane® Helicopter’s 2,600-gallon fire suppression tank with fresh or saltwater in less than a minute (without compromising engine performance), make Erickson a trusted partner in aerial firefighting, and enhances our ability to fight fires and protect lives all over the world.

What core values do you look for when attracting and retaining talent?

Erickson’s values are safety, teamwork, tenacity, integrity, reliability, and selfless service. We want employees who embody and live these values; employees who encounter challenges and desire to work to find a solution, will find themselves at the core of our innovative culture.

You have strong links with the military; do you find it is a natural progression for veterans to join Erickson, and how does that experience enhance the Erickson family?

The military’s mission is to protect and serve the people. Many veterans come to Erickson because they want to continue that mission, but in a different way. Erickson boasts a veteran population of more than 20 percent, and we find that most of those employees embrace our values and mission because they can identify with them.

Do you find the passion that your employees have is key to developing innovative products and solutions, and how do you foster that?

There is a saying at Erickson that has been around for decades, which is that Erickson employees “bleed orange.” Their passion for the S-64 Air Crane®, and aviation in general, fuels the drive to keep moving forward and developing better ways to utilize our aircraft. When someone says, “Erickson cannot do that,” we want employees to answer, “why not?” We help to foster that mentality by encouraging all employees to offer solutions to everyday problems. Some of the best products at Erickson are the direct result of an employee on the ground who believed in an idea and felt comfortable enough to bring it forward directly to the decision makers. This level of empowerment enables our employees to find fulfillment in their roles and is a major reason Erickson can proudly say almost 15% of our employees have been with Erickson for 20+ years.

What does the future look like for Erickson?

Erickson is one of few operators to own the type certificate of the aircraft it operates. We use the experiences of our field crews to inform changes and improvements to our aircraft. These updates, upgrades, and integrated options can make a pilot’s job easier in what are often unpredictable conditions, long hours, and uncertain situations. They have also made the S-64 Air Crane® a valuable aerial firefighting asset sought after by many sovereign governments, including Italy, South Korea, and Greece. To support the needs of those governments, and other customers, Erickson is looking to expand capabilities to build additional aircraft while still working as an operator, enabling us to keep the S-64 Air Crane® relevant and ensuring its ability to meet the essential need of protecting lives and property.

Erickson is one of the only operators to own the type certificate of the aircraft it operates. We use the experiences of our field crews to inform changes and improvements to our aircraft.”