Bristow Group president and CEO Bill Chiles announced that his company will buy helicopter flight training outfit Helicopter Adventures for $15 million plus debt (approximately $5 million) on April 1. After completing the purchase, Helicopter Adventures will be renamed Bristow Academy.
Bristow Group, which operates helicopters for the offshore energy industry, will need 850 to 950 new pilots in the next five years, according to Chiles. The Helicopter Adventures acquisition will help Bristow create a global training division that will likely open facilities in many of the countries where Bristow currently operates helicopters. At the same time it will help to alleviate the pilot shortage in the helicopter industry. “We’ve been talking about the pilot shortage,” Chiles said, “but we really weren’t doing anything about it.”
Bristow did operate its own pilot training division for many years but shut it down in the late 1990s. Now all the commercial pilots who were then in their 40s are nearing retirement age, and many new pilots will be needed for companies like Bristow to continue growing, he said.
Helicopter Adventures has locations in Concord, Calif., and Titusville, Fla., and operates 51 helicopters, primarily Schweizer 300s and some Robinsons. Bristow is also negotiating the purchase of New Iberia, La.-based Vortex Helicopters, an 18-year-old flight training company that operates Robinson R22s.
Chiles said that Bristow will use the Bristow Academy flight training division as a launch pad for future pilots. Students will have the option of entering the Bristow pipeline during training, preparing for flying jobs and also working as flight instructors at the Academy. Bristow may also move some of its larger turbine-powered helicopters to the Academy if they are not needed elsewhere so that advanced training can be offered.