AeroBrigham: A focus on expansion

Avatar for Lisa GordonLisa Gordon | July 7, 2023

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 51 seconds.

AeroBrigham is known as the helicopter service provider that can get the job done — no matter what that job happens to entail.

From the smallest custom modification to large-scale maintenance, completions, refurbishment, paint, and interior work, the Decatur, Texas-based company has it all covered. As a testament to the company’s good work, business has been booming — even throughout the pandemic.

“We’ve grown 30% in the last 1.5 years. We had to add more people to keep up with the workload,” said David Brigham, president and co-owner. “This year, we moved our helicopter operations into a new 45,000-square-foot [4,200-square-meter] facility, with a state-of-the-art downdraft paint facility equipped with air makeup units and pressurized hospital quality breathing air supply. We maintained our 15,000-sq.-ft. [1,400-sq.-m] facility for our fixed-wing work.”

Although AeroBrigham has always taken pride in being the company that tackles even the smallest custom jobs, Brigham said the company loves its the large first responder jobs.

“Everything that has come to us has been huge completions in law enforcement and search-and-rescue [SAR],” he said. “We still have some small projects, but our concentration has shifted this year. Corporate and emergency medical services [EMS] work has been slower.”

For instance, the AeroBrigham team recently reconfigured a previously-owned Bell 429 for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana. The accelerated five-month project saw all the original mission equipment and avionics removed and replaced with new radios, a tactical avionics package, and AeroBrigham’s tactical flight officer (TFO) station. The system, which is easily installed on existing cabin seat rails, was developed in conjunction with CNC Technologies as part of AeroBrigham’s previous work on a fleet of eight Bell 429s for the Jamaica Defence Force — the final aircraft was delivered last September.

The staff was also busy working on a brand-new Bell 429 completion for Collier County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Also in conjunction with CNC Technologies, which provided a military-grade encrypted microwave downlink, AeroBrigham installed a hoist camera, Trakka searchlight, MX-15 thermal imager, and digital audio system, among other state-of-the-art equipment. The company also created the only crossover cable that allows the MX-15 equipped aircraft to accept the MX-10 as a backup without changing anything on the aircraft. This aircraft will be displayed at Bell’s booth at the upcoming APSCON event, where showgoers are invited to examine it in person.

“The Collier County aircraft was scheduled to be here for six months and we delivered it in four,” Brigham said. “It was a very tough schedule.”

On the fixed-wing side, AeroBrigham delivered one Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss aircraft in March, with another new completion and two upgrades coming soon. The company also installed mission equipment and a microwave downlink on a Cirrus SR22 aircraft destined for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, and completed two Kodiak 100 aircraft for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Those aircraft include the company’s proprietary TFO station equipped with two 17-inch Macro-Blue monitors, LinkBox downlink system, Shotover ARS-750, Applied Video Imaging 16×16 video switch with a Vivisun programmable selector switch, laser arming panel for the FLIR 380Xhdc turret and Sierra Wireless router. The FLIR 380Xhdc was installed in the Fargo Jet pod in its retractable camera mount. This is the first installation of the FLIR 380Xhdc on this platform.

Brigham said law enforcement and SAR customers are generally looking for the same equipment: several cameras, night vision goggle compatibility, moving map systems, a microwave downlink system, touchscreen monitors, searchlights, and sometimes computer-aided dispatch and 5G Wi-Fi service. AeroBrigham is also working with Smith Myers on its Artemis cell phone identification, geolocation and communication sensor — a game-changing system for SAR and disaster relief.

Physical and operational expansion

AeroBrigham’s hot operational pace continued throughout 2022 and into 2023, a year that saw the team expand to 37 staff members while delivering a total of 16 airframe completions and reconfigurations.

Ultimately, though, Brigham said the goal is to bring everyone back under the same roof in a brand-new 60,000-sq.-ft. (5,600-sq.-m) facility.

While most of AeroBrigham’s expansion has been calculated, some is attributed to being in the right place at the right time. That was the case when the company was offered first chance to purchase SkyDisplay, the advanced display systems division of MyGoFlight.

Re-branded as AeroDisplay, “we make head-up displays [HUDs] for SR22s, Cessna 421s, Pilatus PC-12s, Air Tractors, and various other aircraft,” Brigham explained. “We’ll be moving forward with R&D [research and development] so we can have that equipment put into helicopters soon.

“This expands our product offering tremendously,” he continued. “The potential is amazing and we expect significant growth. It’s really good for firefighting — for example, along with displaying the primary flight information it it gives them the ability to see hot spots through light rain, fog or smoke.

In addition to AeroDisplay HUDs, AeroBrigham’s product line also includes a previously developed Bell 505 helicopter accessory fitting, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in September. The new supplemental type certificate covers the installation of a secure attachment point for personal restraint harnesses during doors-off operations.

To elevate its profile, AeroBrigham also sponsors the “Straight and Level” TV show on Amazon Prime.

“We never really thought it would be a big marketing tool, but it has brought us a fair amount of business,” he said of the show. “One thing it’s emphasized is how important branding is to your business.”

Despite its growth, AeroBrigham still puts quality first.

“A lot of our expansion is due to the good relationships we have, including our relationship with the FAA,” Brigham reflected. “We have a reputation for providing good service at a competitive cost. We can take on projects that a lot of companies can’t take on. We’re always striving to increase our capabilities and maintain quality, even though we’ve grown.”

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