Universal Helicopters closes its doors after nearly 60 years of operations

The COVID-19 crisis has claimed another victim in Universal Helicopters after the company announced it is shutting down operations after nearly 60 years in Canadian aviation.

Universal Helicopters operated a number of different types in its near-60 years of operations, including the Bell 407 seen here. Mike Reyno Photo
Universal Helicopters operated a number of different types in its near-60 years of operations, including the Bell 407 seen here. Mike Reyno Photo
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In a statement issued on May 27, the company announced that it, along with subsidiaries that included Lakelse Helicopters Limited and Lakelse Air Limited, had ceased operations at the end of business on the previous day.

“Universal Helicopters reached this decision after working unsuccessfully with its banks to find solutions to stay in business,” the statement read.

The company was in poor financial standing at the end of 2019, due to a number of factors that included mounting debt “incurred” by the acquisition of the aforementioned Lakelse Air in 2018. Universal’s growing financial troubles were exacerbated in 2020 thanks to the economic fallout experienced due to the pandemic. Universal also had 49 per cent ownership of Fullerton, Calif.-based South Coast Helicopters, an investment that was made back in 2018.

“These occurrences have had a drastic negative impact on the operations of all businesses of Universal Helicopters,” the company said. “In consideration of the foregoing, the board of directors of Universal Helicopters has concluded that Universal Helicopters is unable to continue to carry on business.”

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Before reaching the decision to cease operations, the company said it made unsuccessful attempts to restructure, though none of those avenues offered a solution.

Based out of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., Universal Helicopters operated a fleet of 35 helicopters comprised of Bell and Airbus models, and had a total of four bases throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The operator was known as a jack-of-all-trades, providing a range of speciality helicopter services in remote areas throughout its nearly six decades of service, including air tours, wildlife research, mineral exploration, firefighting and search and rescue missions.

The company was three years shy of hitting its 60th anniversary when the decision was made to close its doors.

3 thoughts on “Universal Helicopters closes its doors after nearly 60 years of operations

  1. It was a very sad day!!!! I’ve been apart of this company for 37 years. My Father was a part of this company since before I was born!!! I proudly joined it in 2005. It was a family run / oriented business, every employee was happy & had safe secure jobs the owner went over the moon to ensure that. It all changed with the sale to NGC. After its sale, it changed. The new “western” management who took over, made a string of bad decisions. they went against the advisement of numerous 40+year vets. We the employees at the time of take over gave the new group 5 years before tanking the company!!! it lasted about 7. So many things to say!!! I’m saddened, that one of Canadas longest running companies folded due to poor management against its own employees suggestions. They forgot were their root’s were!!!! Where it all began…. & sadly, it’s not the management that will suffer, they will move on to another company, it’s the 10,20,30 year employees that will suffer the most. Shame on them!!!

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