Columbia Helicopters


Careers at Columbia Helicopters

Why work for us

Columbia Helicopters, Incorporated, or CHI, is an aircraft manufacturing and operator company based in Aurora, Oregon, United States. They are known for operating tandem rotor helicopters; in present times, exclusively the Boeing Vertol 107 and Boeing 234. These helicopters are used in stream restoration and forestry including Heli-Logging, oil exploration, fire suppression, construction, government support, film production, disaster response and many other activities. In addition the company operates a large FAA Repair Station supporting customers around the world. Columbia Helicopters was founded on April 24, 1957 by Wes Lematta with a single Hiller 12B helicopter. With help from his brothers, he supported his young company with many odd jobs ranging from carrying Santa Claus to trapeze acts. He performed most of his flying on the weekends while still working as a truck driver during the week. Lematta gained great notoriety on September 15, 1957 rescuing 15 sailors from a sinking dredge near Coos Bay, Oregon. For his heroic actions the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded him the Army Air Medal. After purchasing the more powerful Hiller 12E, Wes began to operate more lift jobs. One of these large jobs was working on the John Day Dam on his companys name sake Columbia River. Here Wes began performing precision lift jobs by using a longer than average cable. The concept was the pilot could lean out the side of the aircraft and see directly where they are placing the load. A few years later Wes' brother Jim was flying a Sikorsky S-61 in the Colorado Rockies. Jim was so cold he was forced to land. In need of an enclosed cockpit Columbia went on to develop the first pilot bubble window.