Erickson Puts Itself in Play

 - August 9, 2021, 8:17 AM

MRO, OEM, and helicopter services company Erickson—best known for its fleet of brightly-painted orange Air Cranes—has hired financial consulting firm Houlihan Lokey to help it explore “strategic alternatives.” Houlihan most recently guided Bristow Group through bankruptcy reorganization and its subsequent merger with Era. 

In a statement issued late last week, Erickson CEO Doug Kitani said the company is “seeking a strategic partner who shares our vision” and, via implication, could provide needed capital. "Our aim is to upgrade Erickson's great assets, including technology advances in the S-64 Super Air Crane, and expand our capabilities in MRO,” Kitani said. “A new strategic partner will complement our strengths, propel Erickson to the next level, and position the company, with its legacy and expertise, as the first-choice leader in the most demanding air operations and OEM-level MRO support." 

In February, Erickson said it planned to make the first flight of its optionally-piloted S-64F+ Air Crane next year, with customer deliveries of the new helicopter variant to begin as early as 2024. The aircraft will be equipped with all-composite main rotor blades that Erickson certified late last year, as well as Sikorsky’s Matrix optional pilot technology and new turboshaft engines with Fadec. A HUD might also be available for the F+ in concert with Erickson’s new aerial water cannon.

Erickson said high/hot performance of the F+ will be improved over the current-production model. The new composite main rotor blades alone will increase the payload at 25 degrees C and 8,000 feet by 88 percent—offering an additional 755 pounds—while climb rate at max gross weight and 2,000 feet will rise 69.2 percent, from 1,300 fpm to 2,200 fpm. Those numbers will improve further with the new engine.

In September, Erickson acquired the type certificate for the Bell 214ST and B/B1 helicopters. An estimated forty 214Bs remain in service. The B was produced between 1976 and 1981 and is powered by a 2,930-shp Lycoming T5508D. Bell produced ninety-six 214STs between 1979 and 1993. The 18-passenger 214ST features a 30-inch fuselage stretch and is powered by two 1,625-shp General Electric T700 engines. Erickson noted that it is one of the largest fleet operators of the Bell 214.

Erickson emerged from bankruptcy in 2017 after listing debts of $561 million, largely resulting from its 2013 acquisitions of Evergreen Helicopters and Air Amazonia, as well as government and oil services contracts that either folded or never materialized. As part of the reorganization, Erickson divested itself of Air Amazonia and most of the mixed fleet of helicopters that came with the Evergreen acquisition.