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Helicopter Express: Elevating the standard

Lisa Gordon | May 31, 2024

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 50 seconds.

This sponsored article was prepared by Insight magazine, the sponsored content division of MHM Publishing, on behalf of Helicopter Express.

Ever since Helicopter Express began weighing in with heavy-lift helicopter services, business has tipped the scales.

In fact, the last two years have been the busiest on record since the company was founded by pilot Scott Runyan in Atlanta, Georgia, back in 1995.

Today, the company has relocated to a more spacious plot of land in the nearby community of Tate. Dubbed “The Farm,” it has been a dream for years — and now it’s finally reality.

“We were based at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta,” said Runyan, CEO and owner of Helicopter Express. “We were running out of space. We bought a 250-acre [100-hectare] farm, built a 30,000-square-foot [2,800-square-meter] hangar with offices, and a 30,000-sq.-ft [2,800 sq.-m] maintenance facility, and moved there in June 2023.”  

The complex is home to some of Helicopter Express’s light, medium and heavy helicopters. Others are based in Dallas, Texas; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Stuart, Florida; and Lancaster, California.

Currently, Helicopter Express operates 31 helicopters — one for every type of job. 

“We started with Type 3 light helicopters, then moved into Type 2 mediums, and then into Type 1 heavies about eight years ago with our first [Kaman] K-Max,” Runyan recalled.

Helicopter Express flies a range of light helicopters, including seven Bell 407HPs, six Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3s, one Bell JetRanger, and one new Bell 429, the company’s first light twin-engine aircraft.

The company’s medium fleet includes six Bell Super 205s. (There are also five new Subaru Bell 412EPXs being delivered between January 2024 and March 2025.)  

On the heavy side, the company fields four K-Max helicopters and six Sikorsky S-64 Skycranes (four F models and two E models). The first Skycrane was obtained in October 2022, whereas the remaining five were acquired through a deal with Erickson Incorporated in fall 2023. 

“We’re known for our heavy-lift and crane services,” said Danny Hoss, vice president of commercial services at Helicopter Express. “We do a lot of things with the helicopters that many don’t do, including precision setting of powerline structures and maneuvering heavy equipment into congested areas.” 

He said new machines — combined with the company’s current heavy fleet — help Helicopter Express stay ahead of its competitors, since it has the right aircraft for any job.  

“A lot of people look at us as the top of the line; we have the best equipment out there teamed with the highest skilled employees,” Hoss continued. “Across the board, our employees show their dedication not only to our company, but also to the customers.” 

Success for Helicopter Express is being able to deploy a helicopter when it’s needed, anywhere in the world. 

“The company doesn’t measure success by hours flown; it’s measured by contracts and how long the aircraft stay on contract. Our availability rate stays around 99 percent,” Runyan explained. 

Among others, Helicopter Express has worked with Duke Energy, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Georgia Power, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Park Service. 

It has also deployed helicopters to Chile, Haiti, Australia and Canada. One of its most unusual customers came onto the radar about two years ago, when Hoss handled a call from Saudi Arabia.

“Our first Skycrane was acquired for work over there in Saudi Arabia, where it is now assisting with building their new city, Neom,” Hoss said. “We have been working in the Kingdom since December 2022.” 

As they look back over the last two years or so, Runyan and Hoss said it’s been a whirlwind of activity. 

“It’s been pretty steady growth,” Runyan reflected. “We bought one K-Max and we then put in orders for two new ones. That was big growth. Two years ago, we started working on Saudi, and bought our first Skycrane. Then, we concluded the deal with Erickson for additional Skycranes. While doing that deal, the next-gen contracts came out for USFS — the Subaru Bell 412EPXs.”

Looking ahead, Runyan expects to pursue more next-gen contracts.

“We like buying new aircraft. We’re very focused on the 429 contracts, and the next round of 412EPX contracts.”

Hoss said customers around the world are becoming very interested in Helicopter Express and its diversified fleet.

“The U.S. and global powerline market has always been there, and the S-64 is the perfect machine to handle the job,” Hoss said. “With the new acquisitions, this will allow us to come to the contract not only with light and medium-lift capability, but also a helicopter for every aspect of the powerline sector. We are the one-stop shop.”

Runyan, who started Helicopter Express from the ground up and has flown countless firefighting missions, said his experience helps him understand the whole picture for the company’s success.

“We really respect our employees. I think we have the best longline construction guys in the industry, and a great firefighting crew,” he said. “When you get to heavies and mediums, we have virtually no turnover with employees. I think our safety record and our reputation is second to none, and that we are by far the best utility company out there.”

Hoss, who makes a point to stay connected with all employees, added that Helicopter Express still tries to operate like a small family business, even though it’s grown bigger.

To learn more about Helicopter Express, visit https://helicopterexpress.com/contact

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