AHSAFA Applauds Columbia Helicopters On Its Tenth Diamond Award

Washington, D.C., April 14, 2014….The American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA) congratulates Columbia Helicopters on receiving its 10th William (Bill) O’Brien Aviation Maintenance Technician Employer Diamond Award Of Excellence. Presentation of the award will be on June 26, by Ron Reeves, FAA Safety Team Program Manager for the NW Mountain Region, Portland Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).

“The Diamond Award of Excellence is one of the most challenging to achieve in the field of aircraft maintenance,” said Tom Eversole, AHSAFA Executive Director. “We applaud the dedicated Columbia Helicopters maintenance operation staff for having won this award 10 times during the past 19 years.”

Based in Portland, Oregon, Columbia Helicopters is a global provider of helicopter services in support of aerial firefighting and natural resource extraction, as well as the operator of a well-known repair station focusing on heavy helicopter airframes and engines. Columbia’s dedicated maintenance training team works through the company’s Quality Control Department and includes a staff of five people, most of whom had transferred to training after working as aircraft mechanics.

The Employer Diamond Award of Excellence, established in 1992, is given annually by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in recognition of excellence in training to companies engaged full-time in repairing aircraft or component parts, with at least three full-time aviation maintenance technicians (AMT) on staff. Company eligibility for the Diamond Award also requires that 100 percent of the organization’s eligible employees were awarded an individual William (Bill) O’Brien AMT Award for the previous calendar year. The individual awards are Bronze, Silver, and Gold, each with its own requirements for training hours, and course work. The course work includes mandatory “core training,” which for the past few years has focused on human factors which could lead to an accident or incident.

A Gold William (Bill) O’Brien AMT Award of Excellence is also available to aviation repair companies, which can certify that at least 50 percent of their eligible people earned the individual AMT awards.

“We are very dedicated to maintaining the competency and safety practices of our maintenance staff,” stated Ken Callahan, Columbia Helicopters’ Training Program Manager. “Among our training priorities, in fact, is the awareness factor, which means that people maintaining aircraft must be constantly aware of all safety and risk factors. This is especially important to us since we are an air carrier, as well as a repair station.”

Callahan added that as a company with contracts worldwide, all of its technicians must be aware of the different types of certifications and operations specifications (OpSpecs) under which the helicopters are flown and maintained. “It is central to our business to keep our people competent in what they do, and focused on the OpSpecs in the different certification requirements.”

Columbia Helicopters, he explained, conducts employee training at its Portland facility, as well as via its internal website for its technicians working away from the home base. It also supplies courseware on DVDs to its mechanics working in remote areas where Internet access is either spotty or non-existent. “Training is constantly updated with changes in regulations, procedures, and equipment,” Callahan noted.

Columbia Helicopters is a member of AHSAFA, the Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the privately operated aerial firefighting industry in the US.