Universal Helicopters closes its doors after nearly 60 years of operations

The Covid-19 crisis has claimed another victim in Universal Helicopters after the company announced it is shutting down operations after nearly 60 years in aviation.

Universal Helicopters operated a number of different types in its near-60 years of operations, including the Bell 407 seen here. Mike Reyno Photo
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In a statement issued on May 27, the company announced that it, along with subsidiaries that included Lakelse Helicopters Limited and Lakelse Air Limited, had ceased operations at the end of business on the previous day.

“Universal Helicopters reached this decision after working unsuccessfully with its banks to find solutions to stay in business,” the statement read.

The company was in poor financial standing at the end of 2019, due to a number of factors that included mounting debt “incurred” by the acquisition of the aforementioned Lakelse Air in 2018. Universal’s growing financial troubles were exacerbated in 2020 thanks to the economic fallout experienced due to the pandemic. Universal also had 49 percent ownership of Fullerton, California-based South Coast Helicopters, an investment that was made back in 2018.

“These occurrences have had a drastic negative impact on the operations of all businesses of Universal Helicopters,” the company said. “In consideration of the foregoing, the board of directors of Universal Helicopters has concluded that Universal Helicopters is unable to continue to carry on business.”

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Before reaching the decision to cease operations, the company said it made unsuccessful attempts to restructure, though none of those avenues offered a solution.

Based out of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Universal Helicopters operated a fleet of 35 aircraft comprised of Bell and Airbus models, and had a total of four bases throughout Newfoundland. The operator was known as a jack-of-all-trades, providing a range of speciality helicopter services in remote areas throughout its nearly six decades of service, including air tours, wildlife research, mineral exploration, firefighting and search-and-rescue missions.

The company was three years shy of hitting its 60th anniversary when the decision was made to close its doors.

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