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Story, photos, and video by Lyn Burks

One of the buzzwords used on TV by the politicians and talking heads is the word “paradigm.”  In fact, using the word in a sentence over a beer with buddies may cause their impression of your IQ to go up a couple points.  We commonly hear the pundits say things like, “It’s the new paradigm” or “The paradigm has shifted.”

Looking closer at the word paradigm, we see it means “a pattern of something; a model.”

Paradigm Aerospace Corporation (PAC) has been in the helicopter business since 1976.  Given their longstanding reputation as a “model” for quality, having the word paradigm as part of their name nearly four decades later almost seems prophetic.

A paradigm shift on the other hand is defined as “a radical change in thinking from an accepted point of view.”  For example, Isaac Newton created one paradigm shift in physics, and then Albert Einstein created another when he forever changed the way we view time and space.  As most paradigms do eventually shift over time, so it was for PAC when Metro Aviation purchased it in 2012.  With over 70 years experience in the helicopter industry between them, it seems a perfect fit for these two well-established mature companies to have merged.

PAC WAS NOT ALWAYS PAC

PAC’s roots go back to 1976.  Decades before it ever became PAC, it was known as Western Pennsylvania Helicopter Service.  Started by George Wagner, the helicopter maintenance facility in Mt. Pleasant, a rural farm town in Pennsylvania, serviced mostly helicopters in the area being operated by coal mining companies.  In the late ‘80s, George’s two sons took over the business.  The sons changed the name to Helicopter Aviation Services Corporation (HAS) and grew the business significantly when it became a Bell Helicopter Completion Center.  During the HAS era, the company became very well known for buying used airframes, refurbishing them, and customizing them for corporate helicopter operators.  In their hey-day, HAS Corporation had over 150 employees performing all manner of MRO and completions work.

In the early 2000s, as business often does, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction as a result of several events.  In addition to financial weakening in the aftermath of 9/11, HAS lost a solid revenue stream as a result of Bell Helicopter’s changing business model.  At the time, it was the trend for helicopter OEMs to purchase companies and convert them into their own completion centers.  However, when Bell purchased Edwards & Associates in Bristol, Tennessee and made it their completion center, the net result of that move was that a giant chunk of HAS revenue quickly dried up.  This massive reduction in business caused HAS to go into bankruptcy, and dwindled the staff from 150 to 12.  Fortunately, because of its loyal local customer base, there was just enough business to keep the lights on.

In 2003, HAS was purchased by a Japanese investor and the name was eventually changed to Paradigm Aerospace Corporation.  With a clean slate, new funding, and much of the same talent pool, the company became laser-focused on maintaining its client base and rebuilding its business.  Although the company’s name and ownership has changed many times over the years, Dayna Cortazzo, Director of Administration and a 25-year veteran of PAC, is quick to point out that many of its hardworking and talented employees have been around for more than 20 years.

The PAC / Metro Merger --- What’s in it for PAC?

When asked this question, Cortazzo says the purchase of PAC by Metro Aviation has been a “perfect fit.”  She indicates Metro brought a number of things to the table, most importantly including resources and new business to PAC that will allow it to continue to grow and support the helicopter industry in the northeast U.S.  Already on PAC’s Part 145 certificate and capabilities list was Bell, Agusta, Sikorsky, and MD aircraft.  Joining Metro allowed it to add Eurocopter to the list, which included the BO105, BK117, AS350, EC135 and EC145.


What’s in it for Metro Aviation?

Metro Aviation propped up shop in Shreveport, Louisiana in the ‘80s as a small helicopter charter company, and has been growing ever since. They have had exceptional success in the Helicopter EMS business and have grown to operate a fleet of over 100 aircraft.  Additionally, they have become a standard in the EMS world for their helicopter maintenance work involving completions, repair, and overhaul.  So much so, they regularly perform completions for many of their competitors in the EMS market.  It’s also worth noting that Metro recently ventured into new territory by expanding into maintenance training.

As Metro’s business continued to grow, they ended up with aircraft, bases, and clients spread across dozens of states with concentrations located in the southern and northeastern regions of the U.S.  For years, the Metro facility in Louisiana had expanded and served well.  However, in an effort to keep pace with its growing client base and be more centrally located to many of their aircraft operating in the northeast, Metro knew it needed to plan for further expansion.  In 2011, they looked across the landscape of MRO facilities for an opportunity that would help it continue to service its growing fleet and customer base. The question on their table was: Should Metro start up a new facility in the northeast or purchase an established one?

THE SHIFT

With PAC in the picture, it seems the answer to that question was a no-brainer.  On it’s own PAC had a legacy of quality workmanship and getting the job done.  With a 50,000-plus square foot facility and 42 seasoned and talented technicians, PAC had a lot to offer Metro.  Location aside, having over 1,200 completions delivered to over 50 countries was icing on the cake and made PAC even more desirable to Metro. 

It’s rare in business acquisitions for two companies, seemingly divergent in model and customer base, to have more common interests than competitive ones. You know it is a good fit when you look at the brochure and both company’s names are at the top complementing one another.  As I type this, I am reading the brochure that says, “Paradigm Aerospace Corporation, a Metro Aviation Company.”  Yes, two very mature companies in the helicopter maintenance business have joined forces to shift the paradigm in the eastern half of the United States.

 

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