April 14 - Columbia Helicopters, a world leader in heavy lift helicopter operations, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in the operation of tandem-rotor helicopters.

The company acquired its first three Boeing Vertol 107-II helicopters from Pan Am Airlines on April 10, 1969, followed by the purchase of four more from New York Airways in 1972.

Columbia has acquired significant numbers of the 107-II helicopters over the years. The company also operates the Model 234 Chinook, a tandem rotor helicopter that is the largest commercially available helicopter built in the U.S.A or Europe.

"Wes Lematta obviously knew a good helicopter when he saw it," said Mike Fahey, President of Columbia Helicopters. "These first three helicopters that he bought are still an active part of our fleet today. Thanks to our maintenance and repair programme, I anticipate they will continue to fly for us well into the future."

Wes Lematta, the company's Founder and current Chairman of the Board, was a pioneer in the development of the heavy lift industry in 1967 when he became the first person to purchase a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter solely for conducting lift work.

Columbia uses its aircraft for a variety of heavy lift operations, including logging, construction, fire fighting and, of most interest to readers of HLPFI, supporting petroleum exploration operations around the world. Columbia currently operates its helicopters in the United States, Canada, Peru and Papua New Guinea, although it has also conducted heavy lift operations in Ecuador, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.