Hillsboro Aviation has come a long way since it opened in 1980 as a helicopter training school. Today, the Oregon-based company offers aviation services ranging from charter and maintenance to aircraft sales and FBO operations. Headquartered at Portland-Hillsboro Airport, the company, which has a staff of 225 employees, operates a satellite facility in Portland as well as two flight-training centers–one in Troutdale and another in Prineville, Ore., as well as a seasonal helicopter tour operation at Mount St. Helens in neighboring Washington State Hillsboro is the only independent sales representative for Bell Helicopter in the U.S., serving 16 western states.
“I would challenge someone to find a company that does what we do on the scale that we do and be able to keep that all in one unified company,” said Hillsboro general manager Jon Hay.
At Heli-Expo (Booth No. N5207), Hillsboro is outlining its growing involvement in Bell’s medium-helicopter line. At the beginning of the year, the company finalized a deal to purchase Bell service and modification specialist Heli-Trade in nearby Eugene, Ore. “The Heli-Trade purchase is one of our first steps into the Bell medium,” Hay told AIN, adding that within the past year the company was given tentative approval from the manufacturer for a Bell medium-helicopter service center. Along with the Heli-Trade purchase came STCs, tooling, a sizable parts supply and three low-hour Bell 205 hulls ready for rebuilding. Hillsboro also is a representative for prolific California manufacturer Robinson Helicopter. During its history, the company has sold more than 1,000 aircraft; it represents more than 40 manufacturers and dealers.
Hillsboro also operates a contract charter division that flies for government agencies; performs oil, gas and mining surveys; and conducts aerial filming and Lidar services, as well as aerial tours. The company’s Bell-exclusive helicopter fleet includes three JetRangers, three LongRangers, two 407s and a pair of 205s.
Flight instruction remains a key component of Hillsboro’s business, with more than 70 airplanes and helicopters and 130 instructors spread among its three Oregon training campuses. The company averages more than 60,000 training flight hours a year.
With growth averaging 15 to 20 percent over the last 15 years (excluding the recent economic dip), Hillsboro Aviation has nearly tapped out its current five-acre facility at Hillsboro Airport and, as a result, has plans to relocate its headquarters. At the end of 2011 it purchased a building on a four-acre plot next to the airport where it will relocate executive offices and additional parts storage. The next phase involves acquiring an additional five-acre property on the airport adjacent to the new building, which will accommodate additional maintenance capability. The company has options on a further 12 acres of property.
When the expansion is complete, Hillsboro will have tripled its footprint at the airport and further improved development as a full-service dealer. “We don’t want customers to have to go one place to purchase an aircraft, someplace else for customization and somewhere else for parts,” said Hay. “We can do all that and bundle your service. We want to be able to show that we are that one-stop shop for helicopter operators around the world.”