By Amy Kluber | March 7, 2017
Columbia Helicopters is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It will have on display at booth 6111 a fully equipped Boeing CH-47D Chinook that has completed a year of fighting fires in the U.S.
Columbia last year won contracts with the U.S. Forest Service to battle wildland fires with five aircraft, including two Chinooks, two Columbia Vertol 107-IIs and a Columbia Model 234. In addition to firefighting, the Aurora, Oregon-based manufacturer and operator serves the government, military and oil and gas industry.
Wes Lematta founded the company in April 1957 with a Hiller 12B. His business first consisted of giving public rides. Lematta saw greater things and more versatile uses for helicopters, so came the commercial heavy-lift helicopter industry. He was the first to buy such a helicopter for construction projects.
The Sikorsky S-61 was then used in logging projects with Jack Erickson, founder of Erickson Inc. and manufacturer/operator of the S-64 Skycrane, the rights to which were purchased from Sikorsky in 1992. Columbia touts itself to be the only commercial operator of the Columbia 234 Chinook and Vertol 107-II.