Mel drives a Tesla but the Bell 212 / 412 will still be around for a while
A quick stop in calgary
I was in Calgary recently with Lionel Meyer my business development lead at Optima Aero, we were there to visit with operators and maintenance facilities for the week. April is always a busy time in maintenance for North American operators getting ready for the “fire season”. The trip started out by visiting, I must admit one of my favorite industry leaders in helicopter maintenance and operations of Bell 412s: Eagle Copters and one of its emblematic personalities JC Blandin.
I always love meeting JC, we has a no BS approach and a distilled insight derived from more than 40 years in the business, from the ground up and never more than a step from the shop. In doing a tour of the bustling facility, I am surprised to walk by a Tesla parked inside one of the countless hangars Eagle Copters occupies at the Calgary airport. It was apparently Mel O’Reilly’s (The founder), I was impressed by that forward looking statement. But should I have? Mel O’Reilly, originally from Quebec City, traveled the world and eventually set up shop in Calgary in 1975.
Eagle copters : invested in the Bell 212 and 412
Needless to say the company has come a long way and innovation and growth have been its hallmark. With DART, the ERA partnership, bases around the globe, the Bell 212 single STC and countless others measures of the team’s outgoingness, innovation is evident.
The company is however still very invested in the Bell 212/412 market with 40+ A/C Leased. Being very invested ourselves in PT6T engines, with what I think to be one of largest helicopter parts inventories around, and a key field of expertise, I couldn’t help but ask JC what his views were on the future for the Bell 212 / 412.
As a true wise man he answered with a simple but revealing question: What is the replacement?….Think about it, for the money what workhorse can perform the carrying, payload and missions, land in bush, and have the established affordable parts, trained AME base and maintenance network? Good point. Just goes to show why Eagle Copters and its leadership (Mel, Mike O’Reilly and President Barry Kohler) is always forward looking but firmly grounded in common sense, and a good business model (but that you already knew…).
After this first encounter, we visited the key operators with P&WC engines we support (PT6T, PT6C, PW200) and got a good feeling that the local community was overall doing well after last year’s fire season, a few new long term fire contracts won in Ontario and steady as she goes Heli-Skiing. One of the other interesting observations is that there seem to be more foreign ships being imported (Bell 412 / AW139) by local operators. Always good for us to have customers building fleets we can support in country J.