The Heavy Lift Helicopter (HLH) industry in Oregon is an industry which exports advanced equipment and skills to a global market. Heavy lift helicopters  (HLH) expand the capacity of humans to turn the what-if  scenario into reality.  Disastrous fires are extinguished, lives are saved, timber is harvested, buildings rise, and remote regions are linked–all with the power of whirling, bladed workhorses.

Industry Overview

Extreme conditions. Unimaginable power. Supreme dependability. Heavy lift helicopters (HLH) expand the capacity of humans to turn the what-if scenario into reality. Disastrous fires are extinguished, lives and property are saved, timber is harvested, buildings rise, and remote regions are linked—all with the power of whirling-bladed workhorses.

In Oregon, six industry leaders have combined forces. The Oregon Heavy Lift Helicopter Consortium leads the way in heavy-lift helicopter (HLH) manufacturing, maintenance, and operations, accounting for 85 percent of the world’s HLH industry. When disaster strikes, the Oregon Heavy Lift Helicopter Consortium responds. Seen in action during Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and numerous fire suppression projects over the years, the Consortium has developed a comprehensive program of preparedness planning, cooperative training, advanced technology development, and effective utilization of Oregon’s HLH assets. The power, the quick response, and the cooperation allow for top-notch disaster response and recovery—here at home and around the globe.

Emergency Response

Working to establish shared-resource agreements within the Emergency Management Assistance Compact framework, and working alongside the National Guard, this unique collaboration of industry leaders is becoming the model for the safe and effective deployment of civil HLH resources. Connecting the right resources with lightning speed, the Oregon Heavy Lift Helicopter Consortium is the go-to source:

  • Quick disaster response
  • Fire suppression
  • Disaster recovery work
  • Collaboration with local government

Construction & Forestry

When a heavy load must be moved, and the terrain is challenging or the destination remote, an Oregon heavy lift helicopter gets the job done. It’s all the power you need, exactly where and when you need it. The power and the adaptability of a heavy lift helicopter enable multiple applications:

  • Environmentally sound timber harvesting
  • Power transmission line construction
  • Environmental reclamation through hydro seed and hydro mulch application
  • Many other construction-related projects

Manufacturing Innovation

Oregon Heavy-lift Helicopter companies are also innovative and responsible for numerous advances in their industry which range from improvements in highly technical avionics to flight control and rotor systems, to fire suppression and/or construction tools and accessories used in conjunction with their aircraft.


Several companies not only service their own aircraft but offer a variety of maintenance services to other companies. A few of the companies maintain contracts with jurisdictions across the country to also service their aircraft fleet, as well. Stringent FAA requirements demand high standards in maintenance which has resulted in a high demand for aviation maintenance technicians.

Why Oregon?

The Heavy Lift Helicopter industry has grown out of helicopter logging operations pioneered during the1960s by Oregon firms. Beginning in the early 70s, adaptations to heavy lift helicopters originally designed for military use made previously unreachable timber harvestable at reduced environmental impact. The ability to adapt heavy helicopters to the very specialized task of harvesting timber led to other adaptations for a wide variety of civilian applications.

OHLHC members have taken advantage of their previous years of extensive experience and expertise in the logging and transportation sectors to diversify their services into other industries, namely fire suppression, construction, and emergency response.

Heavy Lift Helicopter Industry By the Numbers


Heavy Lift Helicopters

Economic  Impact

Firms: 7 (2010)
Cluster Employment: 1,400 (2010)
Average Wage
: $52,230 (2010)

When considering the indirect employment and services of the Consortium’s Oregon suppliers, the overall industry contributes approximately $264 million per year to the Oregon economy, and more than 2,500 jobs.
Source:  June 15, 2010 Industry Brief prepared by REMI Northwest of Medford

Strategic Goals & Priorities

The strategic goals of the industry are to:

  1. Increase utilization of OHLHC assets for worldwide disaster response and recovery
  2. Develop and implement highly efficient and effective workforce development and training programs for incumbent and new employees
  3. Nurture partnerships with community colleges in Oregon that have technical programs training future aviation maintenance technicians.

Tactical priorities include:

  •  Collaboration and information sharing through quarterly meetings
  •  Continual and effective marketing through website and printed materials
  •  Integration of OHLHC assets within the Oregon Emergency Response Framework
  •  Ongoing direct and personal outreach to all other State offices of emergency management in the nation
  •  Ongoing promotion of the Consortium at key emergency management events and HAI Heli Expo
  •  Ongoing promotion of career opportunities in the aviation industry


The Consortium has successfully worked hand in hand with its public partners to integrate its assets in the Oregon Emergency Response Framework through its collaborative relationship with key public agencies. The result of this effort is a statewide disaster aviation annex that includes all aviation assets in Oregon.

The Consortium has begun to make great strides in sharing the Oregon model of collaboration between State agencies and private aviation assets for disaster and emergency response with other leaders in emergency management. OHLHC was represented at the 2012 FEMA Symposium and 2012 and 2013 National Emergency Managers Association (NEMA) Leadership Forum in Seattle and Achorage. The Consortium is also now an organizational member of NEMA and continues its direct outreach efforts to top emergency managers in all 50 states. Consortium members met in November 2013 with the State of Idaho Office of Emergency Management to discuss a collaborative partnership and will be attending the 2013 Western Governor’s meeting and discussion on “Combatting Western Wildfires,” in December 2013 to further promote the use of civil assets in fire suppression.

The Consortium is developing stronger relationships with community college aviation schools across the State – Central Oregon Community College, Lane Community College, Portland Community College, and Rogue Community College – to address current skill gaps, assess future workforce needs, and identify other collaborative opportunities.

The Consortium became an affiliate member of Helicopter Association International (HAI) and participates annually in the Heli Expo show, promoting its collaborative efforts and capacities, and distributing literature to prospective new employees at the HAI Job Fair.


Competition – OHLHC members are all competitors and often vie for the same aerial operation contracts. However, they have recognized the power of collaboration in marketing their collective heavy-lift capacity to respond to emergencies and disasters. The Consortium must also compete with military assets which are largely used by governments for emergency response.

Availability – Heavy Lift aircraft are expensive to manufacture, maintain, and transport; the number of assets any one company has is limited. Given the individual companies have contracts all over the world and often have aircraft on retainer, particularly during fire seasons, the Consortium has limited capacity to respond to multiple concurring events.

Future Workforce – The industry is challenged to find experienced personnel in aviation maintenance and manufacturing during high growth periods. The current workforce is aging and the Consortium must continue its work in promoting aviation careers to younger audiences in high schools and colleges, and developing/implementing sustainable training programs for new and incumbent workers.

Regulatory Climate – All seven companies must meet the high standards of FAA and stay abreast of regulatory concerns that might threaten their ability to operate and remain profitable.

Organizations Involved

Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. (SOREDI) has been formally facilitating the Consortium since 2009, but actively engaged in its efforts since its inception shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. SOREDI has particular interest in the Consortium as four of the seven industry leaders are based in Southern Oregon.

Currently, the Consortium is funded in part by Industry Competiveness Fund grant through Business Oregon, with SOREDI as the fiscal agent. Each company is also required to make a private 1:1 cash match. The Consortium meets quarterly in various locations throughout the State and is regularly joined by public partners such as the Oregon Department of Forestry, Office of Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon National Guard, and Business Oregon. Previously, the Consortium was funded under a different grant, also through Business Oregon, that was more focused on workforce development strategies.

The Consortium has discussed expanding its future membership to include other types of helicopter companies and services to sustain its collaborative efforts and more effectively develop and support its supply chain, which is critical to the each company’s sustainability and profitability.

Carson Helicopter – Grants Pass, Oregon

Columbia Helicopter – Aurora, Oregon

Croman Corp – White City, Oregon

Erickson Air-Crane – Central Point & Portland, Oregon

Evergreen Helicopter – McMinnville, Oregon

Helicopter Transport Services – Corvallis, Oregon

Swanson Group Aviation – Grants Pass, Oregon

Oregon Heavy Lift Helicopter Consortium


Cluster Contact

Brian Beattie, Chair
Croman Corp – White City
(541) 826-4455

Mike Wilson, Co-Chair
Columbia Helicoptor – Aurora
(503) 678-1222, x798

Colleen Johnston, Facilitator
Senior Business Development Manager
Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc.
100 East Main, Suite A
Medford, OR  97501
(541) 601-6918