Columbia Helicopters, Incorporated, or CHI, is an aircraft manufacturing and operator company based in Aurora, Oregon, United States. They are known for operating tandem rotor helicopters; in present times, exclusively the Boeing Vertol 107 and Boeing 234. These helicopters are used in Heli-Logging, oil exploration, fire suppression, construction and many other activities. In addition the company operates a large FAA Repair Station supporting customers around the world.
Columbia Helicopters Inc Boeing Vertol 107 C-FHFW and Boeing 234 N245CH rest on the company pad in Aurora, Oregon.
Founding and early days
Columbia Helicopters was founded on April 24, 1957 by Wes Lematta with a single Hiller 12B helicopter. With help from his brothers, Wes supported his young company with many odd jobs ranging from carrying Santa Claus to trapeze acts. He performed most of his flying on the weekends while still working as a truck driver during the week. Lematta gained great notoriety on September 15, 1957 rescuing 15 sailors from a sinking dredge near Coos Bay, Oregon. For his heroic actions the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded Wes the Army Air Medal.
Direct Visual Observational Control
After purchasing the more powerful Hiller 12E Wes began to operate more lift jobs. One of these large jobs was working on the John Day Dam on his company's name sake Columbia River. Here Wes began performing precision lift jobs by using a longer than average cable. The concept was the pilot could lean out the side of the aircraft and see directly where they are placing the load. A few years latter Wes' brother Jim was flying a Sikorsky S-61 in the Colorado Rockies. Jim was so cold he was forced to land. In need of an enclosed cockpit Columbia went on to develop the first pilot bubble window.
"First in Heli-Logging"
Jack Erickson, of Erickson Air-Crane fame, and Wes Lematta were able to demonstrate the first financially successful run of helicopter logging, or "Heli-Logging" in 1971. This was done with Wes' S-61 Sikorsky, registration number N318Y, on a USFS log sale near Tayorsville, California. The following year the 107s were used. Amusingly, since the project used Wes' helicopter and Jack had purchased the timber, both Columbia Helicopters and Erikson Air-Crane claim to be the first successful "Heli-Loggers".
As of December 15, 2006 Columbia Helicopters has purchased the Type certificate of the Model 107 and Model 234 from Boeing. Currently the company is seeking FAA issuance of a Production Certificate (PC) to produce parts, with eventual issuance of a PC to produce both aircraft.
CHI in the Movies
Columbia Helicopters aircraft have appeared in several motion pictures:
Columbia Helicopters' Kawasaki Vertol KV-107 II painted in a special grey paint scheme at Fox Field
- More American Graffiti
- Starman - CHI KV-107 N185CH can be seen in company colors hauling away actor Jeff Bridges' space ship.
- King Kong Lives - CHI BV-107 N191CH, a former Navy CH-46, carries away King Kong in his cage.
- Runaway Train
- Under Siege - CHI KV-107 N192CH flies Tommy Lee Jones' band out to the Battleship.
- Demolition Man - CHI BV-234 N241CH serves as a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park - CHI BV-234 N241CH flies in a large cage to capture dinosaurs.
- X2: X-Men United - CHI KV-107 N192CH performs various flight sequences and serves in the background of several scenes.
Straight Up: Helicopters in Action - CHI BV-234 N239CH demonstrates the lifting capability of the Super Grapple during Heli-Logging operations
Columbia currently operates 8 Model 234s and 14 Model 107-IIs tandem rotor helicopters. Many of the latter were obtained from New York Airways. In addition to the flying fleet CHI in 2005 purchased 8 ex-Canadian Forces CH-113 Labrador helicopters for fleet expansion. For fleet support CHI operates 2 Beechcraft 200C Super King Airs.
Columbia's past fleet includes the Hiller 12B, Bell 47-G2, Hiller 12E, Hughes 369 (MD 500 variant), Sikorsky S-58, Sikorsky S-61 and Sikorsky CH-54.
Wes Lematta Field at Aurora State Airport
On May 26, 2009, the Oregon State Legislature passed a resolution identifying Columbia's home airport as Wes Lematta Field at Aurora State Airport. Wes Lematta is the founder of Columbia Helicopters located on the north eastern corner of the field.
- Boeing Vertol 107
- Boeing 234
- Columbia Helicopters Heliport
- Columbia Aviation Heliport