The largest helicopter EMS provider in the U.S. is continuing its foray into the air-tour business. Air Methods has acquired Blue Hawaiian helicopters for an undisclosed sum. Blue Hawaiian flies a mixed fleet of 24 Eurocopter EC130s and AS350s and operates tours on five of Hawaii’s six islands. Last year it posted revenues of $47 million.
Blue Hawaiian was founded in 1985 by David and Patti Chevalier with one used Bell 206. Today, it is the largest helicopter tour operator in Hawaii, employs 150 and flies 160,000 passengers annually from five bases on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. The company is an annual recipient of the FAA Diamond Award for maintenance excellence.
David Chevalier worked with Eurocopter to develop the EC130 EcoStar, which is increasingly becoming the mainstay for helicopter tour operators flying in environmentally sensitive areas. Blue Hawaiian was the launch customer for the EC130 in 2001 and is currently transitioning to an updated version, the EC130T2. The company has ordered 10 and taken options on 10 more.
The helicopters will be equipped with the Garmin G500H glass cockpit with optional helicopter terrain awareness warning system (H-Taws) and synthetic vision. Chevalier cited the capital costs of fleet modernization as one of the factors in selling Blue Hawaiian to Air Methods. The T2s are expected to cost approximately $3 million each.
A spokeswoman for Air Methods said the company has no plans to make any changes to Blue Hawaiian’s management. Air Methods does not currently have any EMS operations in Hawaii.
This “hands off” approach closely parallels Air Methods’ late 2012 acquisition of another heli-tour operator, Las Vegas, Nev.-based Sundance Helicopters. Air Methods paid $44 million for Sundance, which operates a mixed fleet of 22 EC130s and AS350s and in 2012 had revenues of $52 million. At the time of the Sundance acquisition, Air Methods CEO Aaron Todd said the company acquired Sundance primarily to expand the pilot pipeline for Air Methods’ EMS operations, rather than as part of any kind of deliberate diversification strategy.