Canada's Universal Helicopters Shuts Down

 - June 1, 2020, 10:01 AM

Canada’s Universal Helicopters ceased operations last week. The move comes after the almost 60-year-old company based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Canada, made several unsuccessful, debt-fueled acquisitions and investments in recent years and also as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Universal operated a mixed fleet of 35 mostly Airbus and Bell light singles.

The shutdown includes subsidiaries acquired in recent years, including Lakelse Helicopters Limited and Lakelse Air Limited, based in Terrace, British Columbia. Universal also took a 49 percent share in California-based South Coast helicopters in 2018. South Coast provides services to a diverse clientele including the motion picture industry and government customers, including NASA and the U.S. Forest Service. South Coast was still answering its phones on Thursday and a representative told AIN that the company was continuing normal operations “as far as I know.”

Universal issued a statement on Tuesday saying it had no choice but to cease operations due to “high levels of bank debt” emanating from the Lakelse acquisition in 2018, poor operating performance in 2019, and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. "These occurrences have had a drastic negative impact on the operations of all businesses of Universal Helicopters," the company said.