lot of our own fleet heavy maintenance and we build components for those aircraft. In addition, we do outside work for other Aircrane/ Skycrane customers and Bell customers, and refurbishment for U.S. government customers on heavy helicopter platforms. We are currently building a new S-64E Aircrane for the Korean Forest Service; that aircraft is well underway. It is a replacement air-craft for them. We have built four for them in the past, and they really like this aircraft. They like the performance. There are about 40 total Aircranes and Skycranes flying in the world; we have 20. Ours are all called the Aircrane. We bought the type certificate from Sikorsky in the ’90s. The Erickson product is a standard civilian category Aircrane. The aircraft we build for other customers are all standard civilian category Aircranes. There are other operators that are still flying the military surplus restricted category Skycrane. The Skycrane are the original Sikorsky products. Performance-wise, they are the same aircraft. How has Erickson improved on the original S-64? AM: We’ve engineered a lot of improvements to the Aircrane. Because we have our own operating fleet of these aircraft and we fly more Aircrane hours than anybody in the world, we are constantly improving and upgrading them. We developed the first large helicop-ter firefighting water drop tank-and-snorkel system, and we think it’s still the best. You fill the water with a hydraulic snorkel into a tank that has computer-controlled coverage drop levels. And it has proven itself over and over again all around the world. Then we developed the sea snorkel, which allows us to fill the tank in 30 seconds from saltwater environments at 50 knots of for-ward airspeed. We’ve upgraded the cockpit avionics over the years. We are also nearing the final stages of a composite blade rotor program for the Aircrane. We started the program several years ago, and we’re very close to certification of the blades. We expect to really enhance the performance and operating maintenance costs on the Aircrane. We’ve engineered it so it is exactly the same weight as the existing blades. That solves a lot of the harmonic issues. It will be a retrofit bolt-on to the existing fleet. We’ve done most of the flight test-ing and expect to have the blades FAA-certified by the end of the year. We’ve done close to 200 improvements to this aircraft. The previous Erickson leadership were criticized, even sued, for questionable decisions such as Evergreen. What’s the makeup of the new owners and board? AM: We have a diverse group of new owners, private ownership. Several of them are former bondholders. Erickson had a lot of debt. Water drops over wildfires are a strong application for the Aircrane. Erickson's snorkel technology is computer-controlled. (Photo credit: Tor Carter) The board has given me full authority to run the company and we are in the process of making a lot of constructive changes. Where does Erickson go from here? AM: We want to grow our footprint in our existing markets. We think there’s room for some more growth in the places where we do our best work, which includes firefighting and power line. Historically we’ve done a bit of oil and gas work, moving heli-portable drill rigs in remote areas. That market has been way down because of the drop in oil and gas. We still do some of that in South America. I think in the next couple of years that will start to slowly uptick again. We fully intend to grow that market. We have quite a bit of room for growth in our gov-ernment services side. We are very highly rated by the government contracting agencies for our performance in the field. We think there’s room for growth in that market in support of government contracts and UN relief work. Erickson’s forte, what we do best, is operating in very remote, difficult environments, and keeping the aircraft and the crews safe and up and flying. Our operational readiness rates are among the best in the industry – in very difficult places. Not all operators have that capability; that’s what we specialize in. And I see a fair bit of room for growth in our MRO group. We have some unique capabilities. Because we had to develop a lot of engineering When they bought the former Evergreen, they borrowed a lot of money, a lot of it through bonds. Some of our current owners are former bondholders. The transition, as we came out of bankruptcy, was actually relatively smooth because several of them were already with the company. We have a completely new board, a mix of industry professionals and some high-level business folks from outside the aviation indus-try. The former ownership and shareholders are all gone. No one associated with the acquisitions that led to the difficulties is involved in the company. 14 HELICOPTERSmagazine.com January 2018 “ “ One thing that I’m particularly proud of: everybody at Erickson worked very hard during the bankruptcy.