Aaron Onines works on an S-64 Aircrane in the hangar bay of Erickson in Central Point. The manufacturing company has its headquarters in Portland, but the company's plant remains in Central Point, making it one of the mainstays of the local economy. [Mail Tribune / file photo]

Erickson gets order for Aircrane

Erickson has received an order to build its first S-64 Aircrane in eight years.

The Portland-based aviation firm, whose manufacturing, maintenance and development operations are in Jackson County, is building an S-64E for the Korea Forest Service.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but in 2012 Erickson paid $21.75 million to reacquire an Aircrane it built for San Diego Gas & Electric Co., in 2009.

More than half of Erickson's nearly 700 employees work at one of three Jackson County sites. After a string of financial setbacks, Erickson filed for Chapter 11 court protection last November.

Reached at Heli-Expo 2017 in Dallas, Erickson CEO Jeff Roberts said the contract is reassuring news.

"This purchase reaffirms the unique value and capabilities and value of the Aircrane," Roberts said. "This is good news for people in the organization who have been through a tough couple of years. It demonstrated we can win business in these difficult times."

He said the deal won't lead to new hires, but will provide job security for present employees.

The Aircrane will be manufactured to include a firefighting helitank and foam cannon. The anticipated delivery date is December 2017.

In 2001, South Korea was the first foreign government to purchase S-64 helicopters from Erickson. Korea Forest Service presently operates three S-64E helicopters, relying on Erickson for parts and service.

“From previous S-64 operations experienced by the Korea Forest Service, the S-64E shows overwhelming improved performance on forest firefighting,” Forest Aviation Headquarters Operation Manager M.J. Kim of the Korea Forest Service said in a statement.

Erickson’s manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul capacity expanded last year to accommodate Navy contracts for refurbishment of the MH-53 helicopters.

Roberts suggested the firm was 60 percent through the bankruptcy process, which typically takes nine months to a year.

"I think we can beat that materially," Roberts said. "We've had tremendous support from all of our stakeholders, new financial supporters, our employees and other interested parties."

He said he had a "strong suspicion" the company will emerge from bankruptcy as a privately held firm.

Erickson's longstanding timber harvest and firefighting missions have been augmented by infrastructure work, Roberts said. Oil and gas exploration will remain limited, but the company is hoping to expand its defense and security operations.

"We believe the defense and security market will become increasingly larger," Roberts said. "I don't want to wish for unrest, but the world we live in puts us in a unique situation."

In an unrelated matter, Erickson said it has signed a 90-day contract to deploy its best-known Aircrane to Chile.

The S-64 known as Elvis gained notoriety for a lifesaving mission in Australia during the Black Christmas fires of 2002, when it swooped in and protected a trapped firefighting crew near Sydney.

National Forest Corp. is locked into its worst wildfire seasons in the history of Chile. High temperatures, strong winds and drought have contributed to a series of fires since November. More than 1,000 buildings burned in and around the town of Santa Olga.

"The people of Chile really need our help with fires that are far beyond the normal scope of the fire season," said Andy Mills, business development vice president. "They have been very pleased to see the immediate effectiveness of the Aircrane."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter at, on Facebook at

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