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Bristow’s Roots Run Deep in the U.S.

May 11, 2015

Offshore Logistics purchases a stake, rebrands as Bristow Group in 2006

Bristow's long rich history traces back to Louisiana-based Offshore Logistics, which was started by Burt Keenan in 1969 to provide support services to the rapidly expanding offshore oil industry. The company initially used boats to transport workers and materials down Louisiana's bayous to offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, yet as the need for faster service grew, Offshore Logistics started using helicopters to rotate crews working the rigs. Keenan continued to build the company's fleet of vessels and helicopters through the 1970s as offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico moved into high gear.

Offshore Logistics was hit hard in the oil bust during the 1980s and was forced to restructure and dramatically cut costs. The company sold its corporate office and some of its aviation and marine equipment, transferring its fleet of domestic supply boats and ships to the U.S. Maritime Administration, yet keeping its fleet of helicopters and international vessels. For the remainder of the 1980s, the company continued to sell its ships and boats and buy assets of companies that were also using helicopters for offshore support services. Its chief acquisition was made in 1989, when it bought helicopters from a unit of Omniflight.

Although the offshore oil industry was still depressed at the start of the 1990s, the demand for Offshore Logistics' helicopter services continued to grow. In 1991, the company committed to solely supplying air support services, selling off the remnants of its marine fleet and putting its proceeds into new helicopters. Its air fleet grew to 145 aircraft by March of 1991, with another 15 helicopters on order and plans to add 12 more the following year.

With 60 percent of its revenue coming from servicing existing production platforms, Offshore Logistics was fairly well buffered against swings in the oil industry. It began tapping into more markets abroad, and in the 1990s, operated in a number of international markets, including the North Sea, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Nigeria and China, in addition to its operations in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

In 1996, Offshore Logistics purchased of a 49-percent share in Bristow Aviation Holdings Limited, which operated in the North Sea parallel to its service in the Gulf of Mexico, growing its fleet of helicopters and fixed-wing planes to more than 300 by the late 1990s.

In 2001, with headquarters in Lafayette, Louisiana, Offshore Logistics operated one of the largest fleets of commercial helicopters in the world through its consortium of subsidiaries and partially owned affiliates, Air Logistics, Air Logistics of Alaska, Inc., AirLog International, Inc., Grasso Production Management, and Bristow Helicopter Group Limited, providing services to the oil and gas industry, as well as emergency services and support to agriculture and forestry industries.

The company moved its corporate headquarters to Houston in 2005, to "strategically place us in the heart of the international energy industry," according to its then President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Chiles, and re-branded as Bristow Group, Inc. in 2006.