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Bristow to close two Louisiana helicopter facilities

Avatar for Oliver JohnsonBy Oliver Johnson | August 6, 2020

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 29 seconds.

Bristow is to close facilities in Galliano and New Iberia, Louisiana, as it begins to make cuts following its recently-completed merger with Era.

The impacted facilities are Bristow’s flight and maintenance operations at Galliano heliport and the New Iberia maintenance/hangar complex at the Acadiana Regional Airport. Both facilities belonged to the pre-merger Bristow company.

Bristow S-92 helicopters lined up on the ramp at the company’s Galliano base in Louisiana. Bristow’s flight and maintenance operations at Galliano heliport will close as the company begins to make cuts following its merger with Era. Sam Horsman Photo

Bristow’s administration and training facilities in New Iberia will remain open to support continuing operations in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world, while its search-and-rescue operation in Galliano is also unaffected by the closures.

“These decisions were necessitated by market conditions and aligned with the strategic purpose of the recently completed merger between Bristow Group and Era Helicopters,” a Bristow spokesperson told Vertical in an emailed statement. “They were also made after extensive and careful consideration and were ultimately made with the long-term viability and success of our business in the Gulf of Mexico region in mind.”

The company notified staff on Aug. 5, with an employees’ union claiming the closures would result in the loss of 350 jobs. A Bristow spokesperson said it was “too early” to say the precise number of staff impacted by the move, but that it “will likely be significantly less” than 350.

“We are currently working through the process for determining the full impacts of the decisions, which will ultimately determine the final number,” the spokesperson said.

The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), which represents more than 150 helicopter pilots and mechanics at Bristow, said it was “shocked by the company’s unilateral decision” to close the two facilities.

“Rather than continue the plan to combine workforces for a stronger company, Bristow has regrettably decided to take a U-turn and close two facilities,” said Ken Bruner, president of OPEIU Local 107 pilots. “This short-sighted decision jeopardizes our communities’ well-being at a critical time, as the Covid-19 pandemic has caused enormous job losses already and threatens to uproot sorely needed funding for our children’s schools, our communities’ infrastructure and, importantly, our efforts to combat the pandemic.”

Bristow announced its plan to merge with Era in January 2020, completing the process on June 11. The combined entity, also known as Bristow, has a fleet of more than 300 aircraft, and instantly became the world’s largest operator of Sikorsky S-92, and Leonardo AW189 and AW139 aircraft.

The Galliano base was the largest one belonging to the pre-merger Bristow in the Gulf of Mexico. Lemoine Company Photo

Era had been one of the few companies to endure the recent downturn in oil-and-gas without having to resort to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — a feat Chris Bradshaw, Era’s president and CEO, ascribed to being proactive in reducing costs, while maximizing fleet utilization and synergies.

Bradshaw became president and CEO of the new Bristow following the merger, and in a press release issued at the time, said the two companies had identified “significant” cost synergies in the move.

Prior to the merger, Era alone had 11 bases in the region, and six in Louisiana, including its 35-acre Houma “Super Base,” which received a $22-million renovation in 2015.

The Galliano base was the largest one belonging to the pre-merger Bristow in the Gulf of Mexico. It had opened a brand new passenger terminal there in 2018, which included five self-service check-in kiosks, six briefing rooms, 270 seats and six holding rooms.

The move comes a day before Bristow is due to release its first set of quarterly financial results following the merger.

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