CELEBRATING 21 YEARS! A HISTORY OF ELITE HELICOPTERS
As we celebrate 21 years of the company we have been reflecting on where it al began. For those readers who know us already we are simply Elite Helicopters but the truth is we started life as Solent Helicopters Ltd, trading as Elite Helicopters. Way back when we started out we were also known as Elite Helicopters and Aviation Services.
So How Did we End up as Elite Helicopters?
22 years ago Sharon and I lost our jobs at Skyline Helicopters at Wycombe Air Park when the company was put into administration. We were out of work, had no money to speak of and really had no idea what to do next. We had a choice; go our own ways and look for jobs or stick together and start something new. Believe me it was not an easy decision. We knew that we would be starting from scratch and that we would face big challenges ahead. However what we did have was our own personal reputations and a lot of good friends within the industry, we also had good customer contacts and knew that with the demise of Skyline that if we moved fast there was an opportunity to take on some of the work that we had previously looked after through Skyline.
With the encouragement of a private owner and the offer of the use of his Jet Ranger we bit the bullet and took on a very small box room office at White Waltham Airfield. We were in the process of putting together our application for an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and we still did not have a name for the new company when another party who was also planning to apply for an AOC approached us. They were a lot further forward than us, had a JetRanger to operate as well and were applying under the name of Solent Helicopters Ltd. They had an office at Littlehampton, so in the Solent region and hence the name chosen, they suggested we joined forces and make one AOC application. We agreed and so Solent Helicopters Ltd was born!
An Exciting but Never Wracking Time
Over the next few months we all worked frantically to get the AOC application submitted and eventually we were issued with our certificate. During all this time we were also very active in securing business for the first year of operation, this was going very well and we were soon looking for additional aircraft to operate. However things were not working well with our new partners and in truth there were too many differences of opinions on the way forward for the company and different standards being set. It just was not working. Eventually it was decided to part company and after much scurrying around Sharon and I managed to put together just enough money to buy the other party out and become the sole owners of Solent Helicopters. An exciting but nerve wracking time!
At around the same time as the split was taking place we were also approached by a person of celebrity status whom we had worked with for quite a few years whilst at Skyline. He too offered us an opportunity to join forces with him. The offer was eventually declined, however in the discussions he made it clear that the company would be required to operate under his ‘Unique’ brands, so Unique Helicopters.
On a hot summer’s day at White Waltham (sounds picturesque doesn’t it) a colleague was discussing the pros and cons of us joining forces with our celebrity friend, but instead of referring to Unique Helicopters he accidentally referred to Elite Helicopters – Bang – the name we had been looking for was there for the taking, it was adopted almost immediately as our trading name and 21 years later we are very proud to still be in business and still as Elite Helicopters.
A lot has happened since those early days so stay tuned, as we’ll be sharing some more stories on our blog!