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Papillon Helicopters Celebrates 50th Anniversary

By By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large | April 1, 2015
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Papillon Helicopters of Boulder City, Nev., will celebrate its 50th anniversary with the unveiling of its golden helicopter on April 16. The Airbus H130 T2 (formerly EC-130 T2) – christened “Copter 50” – will commemorate the company’s standing as the world’s largest and oldest-running helicopter tour operator.

Copter 50 will be gold with stripes and the company’s eagle logo done in red, a reversal of the color scheme used on the other aircraft in the fleet, and will make its grand entrance in the middle of a five-ship fly-by – each aircraft representing one decade of Papillon’s existence. On board the helicopter will be Elling Halvorson, chairman and founder of the Papillon Group.

"This dazzling helicopter was created to commemorate our golden anniversary and to celebrate the greatest aviation team in the tourism industry," says Brenda Halvorson, president and chief executive officer, Papillon Group.

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Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority adds, "I’m pleased to recognize and congratulate Papillon Group on its 50th anniversary. The vision of Elling Halvorson helped bring a whole new type of attraction to Las Vegas – aerial tours. Papillon helped make Las Vegas the true gateway to the Grand Canyon and provide our visitors with an exhilarating new way to see the sights in and around Southern Nevada."

The company’s story began in 1965, thanks to the vision of Elling Halvorson, who was a young contractor at the time charged with building a 13.5-mile-long water pipeline from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. During this project, Halvorson was first introduced to helicopters, which he used to lower sections of pipeline into place. Upon completion of the project, he recognized an opportunity to utilize helicopters for air tours, and created Grand Canyon Helicopters. The company became one of the first aerial sightseeing companies in the world and the first helicopter tour operator to fly the Grand Canyon. Years later, as the company expanded into Hawaiian tour operations, it adopted the name Papillon, which is French for “butterfly.”

Halvorson’s daughter, Brenda, and son, Lon, both joined the company in the late 1980s as president and CEO of Papillon Group, and executive vice president, respectively. Together, they have increased Papillon’s daily passenger volume by more than 600 percent and grown the fleet of aircraft from 23 to 75 in the past 20 years. The company is now welcoming a third generation of family into the business to ensure the legacy continues.

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