Pioneers in U.S. search-and-rescue

Leadership is sometimes about taking the first step–about testing ideas no one has thought of before or lacked the courage and ingenuity to try.

Maintaining this leadership is about taking the next step, and the ones after that–the commitment required to remain the best, pushing an idea to new horizons, refining it, cultivating its potential and continuing to see things others don’t.

Era Group Inc., one of the largest helicopter operators in the world, has demonstrated and maintained this leadership position with the initial introduction and development of its commercial search-and-rescue (SAR) program. Era pioneered the first SAR program in the United States in partnership with Priority 1 Air Rescue (P1AR) in 2010.

Since then, Era’s SAR program has successfully completed more than 1,050 missions in response to calls for emergency assistance from more than 70 different companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Safety is our number one core value and our highest operating priority,” said Chris Bradshaw, Era’s president and chief executive officer. “We are committed to ensuring the well-being of those servicing the offshore industry, and it’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Violent storms, unforeseen disasters and medical emergencies present unique challenges for those situated offshore and require a precision response that Era’s SAR program consistently provides with an industry-leading offering. The company has become an invaluable component of offshore safety assurance in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

“We are honored to serve the offshore industry in this way,” said Paul White, Era’s senior vice president, Commercial, and an architect of Era’s SAR program. “Our commitment to excellence through continuous improvement and innovation led to the development of the SAR program, and the ongoing focus has helped position Era SAR as a premier emergency services provider.”

Era’s spirit of innovation can be traced back to its founding, when an adventuresome young man named Carl Brady convinced federal surveyors of the utility of helicopters as they mapped the vast, uncharted territories of Alaska in 1948. By 1950, the company had expanded its service model to include petroleum support and was instrumental in launching offshore petroleum operations in the Kenai Peninsula off Alaska’s southern coast.

This pioneering endeavor founded Era–a thriving and innovative service provider that would endure, becoming the longest serving helicopter transport provider in the United States. For nearly seven decades, Era has continued to fulfill its mission of providing safe, efficient and reliable helicopter services.

As the only SAR provider that is medically licensed in both Texas and Louisiana, Era’s SAR program provides 24-hour offshore advanced life support medical care on the OCS. This experience, skill, innovation and pioneering spirit helped Era build a premier SAR program, and the industry has taken notice.

Era’s SAR program has been recognized as the 2017 winner of Helicopter Association International’s Salute to Excellence Airbus Helicopters Golden Hour Award. The annual award is presented to those who have advanced the use of helicopters in the vital mission of air medical transport.

“Being there to meet the safety needs of our customers is an honor itself, and it’s certainly nice to receive this industry recognition for our SAR efforts,” continued White. “This is very much a group success, and we are thankful for the hardworking and skilled crews along with our partners that make this happen day in and day out.”

“Together we’ve built a world-class SAR program that has really set a high standard for emergency services within the industry,” added Brad Matheson, president of Priority 1 Air Rescue. “We have some of the best-trained personnel in the industry, and they prove that with each mission.”

Era was the first emergency flight services provider to configure the Leonardo AW139 medium helicopter for full SAR mission capabilities.

The dedicated aircraft feature complete advanced life support (ALS) medical care packages including critical care, fluid resuscitation, advanced airway, pain management and cardiac monitoring, providing unparalleled medical response capabilities.

Era’s technologically advanced helicopters are serviced by its experienced team of pilots qualified in instrument flight rules, night vision goggles (NVGs) and air ambulance and hoist rescues; skilled mechanics; and support personnel including dedicated, certified, emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs) accompanied by a dedicated team of P1AR medically qualified rescue SAR specialists.

Each SAR-outfitted AW139 is comprised of a cohesive five member unit that represents some of the most skilled and dedicated professionals in the industry. Crews undergo continuous and extensive training programs to maintain the very highest levels of proficiency across a host of potential mission profiles, all of which are fairly complex and in some cases occur in extreme situations. Era’s SAR program is available to support local, state and federal emergency response efforts during a crisis and can be deployed to serve a variety of emergency response scenarios.

It has also been involved in emergency flight response activities in extreme environments outside the OCS, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Arctic Technology Evaluation 2015 Search-and-Rescue Exercise (SAREX) on Alaska’s North Slope. As part of the simulation, Era’s AW139 SAR pilots teamed with P1AR crews to successfully establish interoperability between a variety of marine and aviation assets during recovery at the rescue scene.

The SAR program also received national exposure for delivering more than 10,000 pounds of supplies to passengers in desperate need of food and water on a crippled cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico in 2013. Crews successfully executed more than 100 hoists over a six-hour period in 10- to 15-foot seas and high winds.

Era’s SAR offering has greatly advanced the use of helicopters in the vital mission of air medical transport and continues to meet the extreme demands of the offshore industry while maintaining the highest standards of safe, reliable and efficient operations.

This has been the spirit of Era’s leadership–taking not only the first step but many others that have made it an indispensable partner customers have come to rely upon and trust.

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