Founder Carl Brady in 1948.
In 1948, an adventuresome young man named Carl F. Brady brought a Bell 47A helicopter to Alaska, establishing what is now the longest serving helicopter company in the United States.
Originally from Arkansas, Brady learned to fly helicopters in Washington state. He formed a company called Economy Pest Control with two partners, and based the operation in Yakima, Washington. In 1948, as the U.S. Government was preparing to map the territory of Alaska, Brady saw an opportunity for his Bell 47A.
Founder Carl Brady in 1948.
Renaming his company Economy Helicopters, Brady convinced federal surveyors that a helicopter was the ticket for mapping what later became the 49th state. By 1950, Brady's Alaska-based company had moved into the petroleum support business as well, working on geophysical jobs. Economy Helicopters was instrumental in helping launch offshore operations in the Kenai area.
Over the ensuing years, Economy Helicopters continued to grow and thrive in Alaska. By 1958, expanding oil industry operations were creating a need for larger helicopters and Economy Helicopters merged with Rotor Aids, Inc. to help purchase two large Sikorsky S-55 helicopters. The first letters of Economy and Rotor Aids were combined, and the company became ERA Helicopters, Inc., then later known as Era Helicopters, Inc.
Era opened a base at Merrill Field in 1958, the year Alaska became a state, and expanded to Kenai in 1962. In 1964, Brady brought the first turbine-powered helicopter to Alaska - a Bell 204B.
As part of its expansion program, Era agreed to be purchased by Rowan Companies, Inc. (then Rowan Drilling Company), of Houston, Texas, in 1967. This added more capital and enabled Era to further expand its fleet of helicopters. At that time, Brady assumed the role of Executive Vice President and remained President and CEO of Era. By 1970 the company was conducting operations in the Gulf of Mexico, the Middle East and Africa.
Subsequent mergers with Merric, Inc., a Fairbanks helicopter operation, in 1975, and Livingston Copters, Inc., in Juneau, in 1980, added to Era's bases, equipment and management depth. The Gulf of Mexico operations base was established in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1978. That same year, after purchasing Jet Alaska, Era established a fixed wing division in Alaska. The fixed wing division expanded in 1980 with the purchase of three 50-passenger Convair 580s for charter/airline service, which joined the company's Twin Otters and a King Air.
In 1988, ERA Helicopters changed its name to Era Aviation, Inc. to reflect the diversified nature of the 40‑year‑old business and celebrated four decades of service in the industry. Era Aviation became Alaska's largest regional airline, one of the top 25 regional airlines in the United States. By providing aviation services to communities such as Kodiak, Valdez, Cordova, Homer and Kenai, as well as Alaska villages, the airline expanded rapidly and established a solid customer base.
In the 65 years since Carl Brady Sr. made the decision to bring his helicopter to Alaska, much has changed in the Alaska aviation industry. Alaska has become a leader in petroleum and natural resource production and Era has played a large role in helping the state fulfill its economic potential.
Era's important role in Alaska and throughout the aviation world was honored by the Alaska Legislature, which introduced a citation marking the company's 50 years in business in 1998. "It is with the utmost respect and regard that the Twentieth Alaska Legislature recognizes the milestones and accomplishments of Era Aviation, Inc., and the contributions the company has made to Alaska aviation," the citation reads.
In 2002, SEACOR Holdings Inc., an owner and operator of marine assets that service the oil and gas industry worldwide, purchased helicopter operator Tex-Air to complement its core businesses. In December 2004, SEACOR purchased Era Aviation from Rowan Companies, Inc. and sold its fixed wing division. The company was rebranded with the name Era Helicopters LLC. A new company logo was developed to incorporate elements from both companies; the Era name with the Tex-Air star. The now familiar red, silver, black and white aircraft paint scheme was updated and introduced to the Era fleet.
Backed by its new parent company´s longstanding belief in the merits of modern equipment and new technology, Era introduced its first AW139 to its fleet in December 2005, continuing a tradition of firsts in the Gulf of Mexico. Subsequently, in February 2008, Era celebrated the addition of the first EC225 in the U.S. to its fleet.
In 2005, Era was called upon by the U.S. Coast Guard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to assist in fly-over operations in the hurricane battered region. The company assigned 10 medium and small helicopters to fly command personnel over 4,000 scattered oil rigs and 33,000 miles of Gulf pipelines. The assignment included working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and assisting the agency with its oil spill response coordination. The company also repositioned 14 aircraft and their crews into the Gulf for emergency operations.
In January 2007, EraMED LLC was formed to acquire the air medical business of Keystone Helicopter Corporation. Headquartered in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, EraMED provides medical institutions with around-the-clock flight services that include pilots, maintenance, communications support and a diverse fleet of sophisticated twin-engine turbine helicopters.
The Company´s commitment to training and safe operations was underscored by its announcement in August 2007 of a Rapid Response Fund (RRF) Grant from the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) for the purpose of providing a state-of-the-art training facility in proximity to its operations base on the Lake Charles airport property. One year later, Era Training Center celebrated its Grand Opening.
In 2008, Era Helicopters celebrated 60 Years of Flight. The operating companies of Era Group Inc. employ pilots, maintenance technicians and support professionals around the world who are dedicated to carrying forward Era´s commitment to safe operations and the continuation of valuable contributions to the world of flight.