Erickson Air-Crane, Evergreen Helicopters settle

Erickson Air-Crane and Evergreen Helicopters Inc. of McMinnville have reached an out-of-court settlement after a U.S. District Court judge granted Evergreen a partial summary judgment in its breach of contract and antitrust claims.

In siding with Evergreen, Judge Owen Panner said Erickson had failed to live up to its obligation to provide parts and service for Sikorsky helicopters operated by Evergreen. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and both parties declined to discuss the matter with a reporter.

In issuing his order involving Evergreen's antitrust claims involving parts and manuals for two CH-54 heavy-lift helicopters, Panner stated Evergreen stipulated it would not pursue a breach of contract claim concerning an S-64 helicopter. In a later filing, Evergreen Helicopters said it was seeking $8.17 million in damages for lost profits on its breach of contract claim and an antitrust claim of $5.92 million. Evergreen also asked for $6.2 million to cover the costs of making its CH-54 operational.

In antitrust cases, damages are tripled. The matter was due to go to trial on March 8.

Lois Rosenbaum, an attorney with Stoel Rives, a Portland law firm representing Erickson, said the company would have no comment. James Nelson, a spokesman for Evergreen, also declined comment on the settlement.

Evergreen claimed Erickson Air-Crane shut out its competitor from potential jobs by limiting access to parts and other services. Erickson's headquarters were in Central Point from 1971 until they were transferred to Portland in 2009. Its manufacturing and maintenance operations remain at its Central Point site on Willow Springs Road.

Evergreen, which operates one Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane and two Sikorsky CH-54A Skycranes, said it has been unable to fly its helicopters for the number of hours customer demand would support, has been delayed in making its CH-54s operational, and has had to turn away contracts because one or more of its Skycranes were grounded by a lack of spare parts.

Panner, drawing largely on his own 2008 opinion in a case involving Helicopter Transport Systems and Erickson Air-Crane, said Erickson's 1992 contract with helicopter developer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. for certificate and manufacturing rights "indisputably obligated Erickson to support the CH-54" and the obligation extended to military surplus purchasers.

Panner noted Evergreen's acquisition of a CH-54 in 2004 fell within a six-year limitation obligating Erickson to provide parts under his 2008 order. "It is undisputed that Erickson refused to provide parts for CH-54s until after the 2008 Helicopter settlement," Panner wrote.

Panner signed a final order closing the case last week.

Nelson said Evergreen will continue to rely on parts from Erickson. "We have always had a strong business relationship with Erickson," he said. "And this will continue in the future."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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