Helijet has expanded its business model to include a contract with BC Ambulance as well as flying ops for select B.C. fishing lodges. HARDWARE DECISIONS Finding a helicopter was the next hurdle. Aircraft owners were underwhelmed by the group’s prospects, Sitnam recalls. “Anyone that owned aircraft, just wasn’t interested,” he said. “They couldn’t understand how they were going to get paid. You’re starting at broke and you’ve got no revenue base.” But fortune smiled, if only briefly, on the team. Sitnam knew a Vancouver-area business that had a Bell 412 coming back from an overseas lease and he was able to secure it. So, in November 1986, Helijet launched its passenger service with that one 412 offering working the Vancouver-Victoria route. The result? There was but one paying passenger on the first flight. doing. He was an advocate for his aircraft being a better fit for Helijet and he was able to convince Sikorsky management to take a chance with us.” MOVING MOUNTAINS Today, more than 30 years later, Helijet is still flying its two original S-76As, each with more than 40,000 hours of service. “They’ve served us well,” Sitnam says. “Sikorsky is a very solid aircraft, a very forgiving aircraft from a pilot’s perspective.” At the 2017 HAI Heli Expo, Sikorsky recognized Helijet for 30 years of safe, scheduled airline and charter operations with its fleet of S-76 helicopters. From its very humble beginnings, the company has grown to 160 full-time employees and the fleet has expanded from its original pair of S-76 helicopters to a more diverse setup of sev-eral smaller helicopters and two fixed-wing corporate jet aircraft. Scheduled service now includes a Vancouver-Nanaimo route, with more than 300 weekly flights on the Victoria-Vancouver route. And since 1998, Helijet has provided air ambu-lance service to BC Ambulance from bases in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Over those 19 years, they have more than 25,000 flight hours with more than 50,000 patients, flying IFR 24/7 in some of the most challenging terrain in the world. Over the same period, Helijet has established itself on the north coast of B.C., by providing service to many of the world-famous fish-ing lodges and resorts in Haida Gaia on B.C.’s Central Coast. The lodges are isolated in remote locations. The natural beauty of the “It was four months later and we couldn’t pay our bills. I couldn’t make the lease payments on the aircraft and things got a little strained,” Sitnam says. The bills eventually got paid, and in one of those fortuitous strokes of timing, Sikorsky entered the picture in the person of Jack Donohue. “Jack was instrumental in coming out here and paying attention to what was happening out here,” Sitnam says. “They had some air-craft at Sikorsky that they were redeploying and he convinced his higher ups to support this little company in Vancouver. He thought that the S-76 was the right type of aircraft for the mission we were 16 HELICOPTERSmagazine.com October 2017 “ “ We spend a lot of time thinking about how to protect the people and the equipment.