Strength and Maneuverability in the Sky

Erickson Inc. President of Commercial Aviation Andrew Mills stands with an S-64 at Medford OR airport

Residents of the Pacific Northwest are familiar with the potential for forest fires that impact our environment. Every fire season, Erickson’s iconic bright orange dragonfly-looking Aircranes can be spotted in the skies–critical weapons in the fight against forest fires.

It all began in 1971, when Jack Erickson expanded his aerial logging experience to firefighting by using the S-64 Aircrane. As an entrepreneur, he was always looking for a better way to do things and began researching aerial firefighting. His team designed and engineered hydro-tanks which were outfitted to Aircranes making them one of the most powerful aerial firefighting machines in the world.

In 2013, Erickson acquired Evergreen Helicopters to expand into the market of Defense and National Security. Today, Erickson has approximately 800 employees and serves customers across six continents. According to Andy Mills, President of Commercial Aviation, who is based in Medford, “On any given day, we’re operating in 10 to 11 countries around the world.”

An Erickson S-64E Aircrane (center) is flanked by the two other mainstays of Erickson Inc’s fleet – a Bell 214ST (foreground) and an Airbus AS332L1 Super Puma (background).

Erickson has a unique position in the aircraft industry because it is diversified with three primary business segments: Commercial Aviation Services, which includes firefighting and infrastructure construction; Defense and National Security; and Manufacturing and Maintenance. The fact that Erickson builds, services, repairs, and overhauls the machines, as well as flies into some of the most treacherous parts of the world, is completely unique to the industry, so much so that Mills describes Erickson as a “Triple threat because most suppliers and people in the industry only offer one, maybe two, but rarely all of those capabilities.” Erickson can and does manage every part of the process from build to fly.

Sometimes referred to as “Big Orange,” these S-64 Aircranes are among the most powerful machines in the sky. The E-model is able to lift 20,000 pounds, and the F-model can lift 25,000 pounds. The strength and endurance of these aircraft make them especially suited for fighting forest fires and executing large construction projects. Mills noted, “The Aircrane flies with a remarkable amount of maneuverability and ease, and can lift and place things without the need to build or close roadways for land-based crane operations.” With the S-64, power lines can be installed from the air without damage to sensitive natural environments. Erickson maintains a fleet of 20 of the S-64s to deliver aerial solutions to its customers around the world.

The majority of Erickson’s employees work in Central Point and Medford, Oregon, manufacturing the S-64 as well as providing maintenance repair and overhaul for aircraft such as the Bell 214ST and other US military platforms. According to Mills, Erickson has found a very talented workforce in the Rogue Valley, and people love the quality of life in Southern Oregon; approximately 18% of the workforce are veterans. Erickson is a strong advocate for technical skills education and training programs, and employs many of those technical trades in Oregon.

Erickson has a reputation for being a true partner with their customers and the value proposition has created a supportive employee culture as well. “There is an aspect of incredible loyalty here to the company earned over the course of nearly 50 years since our founding right here in the Rogue Valley,” remarks Mills. Employees are passionate about serving the best interests of the public. “I love the fact that the people here are in it for all the right reasons.”

Erickson | 4002 Cirrus Drive, Medford, Oregon 97504 | | 541-664-5544

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