Legacy and Innovators in Aviation


Bristow today is comprised of two great companies when we combined with Era in June 2020.

Bristow History

Bristow started as a small business to support oil and gas companies looking to transport crews to the rigs in the Persian Gulf, has grown to become one of the largest civilian helicopter companies in the world. Alan Bristow started Bristow in 1955 with a dream to create a vertical lift service company unlike any other in the world. That visionary beginning has turned into a fleet of aircraft servicing oil and gas, search and rescue (SAR) and aircraft support services to government and civil organizations across the world.

Era History

In 1948, an adventuresome young man named Carl F. Brady identified an opportunity to assist federal surveyors as the U.S. Government was preparing to map the vast uncharted territories of Alaska. Recognizing this unique opportunity, Brady founded "Economy Helicopters" and brought his Bell 47B helicopter to Alaska. Brady was unaware of it at the time, but his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit laid the foundation for what would later become the longest serving helicopter transport operator in the United States.

By 1950, Economy Helicopters had expanded its service model to include petroleum support and was instrumental in launching offshore petroleum operations off the Alaskan southern coast in the Kenai Peninsula. In 1958, Economy Helicopters merged with Rotor Aids to form ERA Helicopters. While many operators have played an important role in their area of operation, Era literally transformed Alaska with its early operations. Carl Brady helped map Alaska and his helicopters were crucial in the construction of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Era played a role in expanding commercial and civilian access to new areas of the Last Frontier.

Our story is a remarkable one, not only because of the visionary and adventurous spirit of our leaders, but also because of the skill and courage of our people. Bristow has been defined as a leader in the aviation world through our safety standards, innovative processes and commitment to advancing the helicopter industry.

Bristow Group and Era at a Glance



  • The Netherlands Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) awarded Bristow their prestigious contract to provide search and rescue helicopter capacity to the Netherlands Coastguard. The 10-year contract, with two one-year extension options, began on November 4, 2022.

  • Bristow completed its acquisition of British International Helicopter Services Limited effective August 2, 2022, further enhancing its leading global Government Services offering.

  • Bristow released its first sustainability report on July 22, 2022, laying out its sustainability goals for the future as well as its environmental, social, and governance achievements over the past year.

  • Bristow was awarded a £1.6 billion 10-year contract on July 21, 2022 for the Second-Generation Search and Rescue Aviation program by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Bristow and its partners will transition from the current contracts starting from September 30, 2024 through to December 31, 2026, to ensure a continuation of critical search and rescue aviation services across the whole of the U.K.

  • Bristow signed agreements with BETA Technologies, Lilium and Elroy Air for Advanced Air Mobility.



  • Bristow completed an offshore revenue flight using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on December 10, 2021, marking one of the first SAF-powered flights to an offshore operation in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). The aircraft flew from Aberdeen to installations operated by bp.

  • Bristow signed agreements with Overair, Eve, Vertical and Electra for Advanced Air Mobility.



  • Unmanned aircraft began flying as safety overwatch in support of search and rescue missions for HM Coastguard for the first time.

  • On June 12, 2020, Bristow Group Inc. and Era Group Inc. merged to become Bristow Group Inc. (Bristow), creating a financially stronger company with enhanced size and diversification. Bristow began trading under a NYSE ticker of VTOL.



  • Bristow current commercial contract for search and rescue helicopter service provision to HM Coastguard was extended through December 31, 2026.



  • The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) presented Era Group Inc. with the 2019 NOIA Safety in Seas (SIS) Culture of Safety Award.

  • The Billy Deacon SAR Memorial Trophy was presented to Bristow Winchman Paramedic Scott Sharman at the Air League’s Annual Awards Ceremony.

  • Bristow sold Eastern Airways.



  • Era Group Inc. celebrated its 70 years of service beginning in 1948. Era’s founder, Carl Brady, learned to fly helicopters in Washington State where he formed Economy Pest Control.

  • Bristow secured a multi-year contract to provide helicopter offshore crew change and search and rescue (SAR) services to support ExxonMobil in Guyana.


Bristow secured a multi-year contract to provide helicopter offshore crew change and search and rescue (SAR) services to support ExxonMobil in Guyana.



When Hurricane Harvey struck southwest Texas in August, an Era search and rescue (SAR) AW139 assisted with life-saving missions on a humanitarian basis in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard and other government aircraft providing a variety of services, including delivery of urgently needed supplies. 


Era announced that its SAR program is the 2017 winner of Helicopter Association International’s Salute to Excellence Airbus Helicopters Golden Hour Award. The annual award is presented to those who have advanced the use of helicopters in the vital mission of air medical transport.


Bristow Helicopters SAR team based at Lydd Airport has been honored, by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, with a prestigious Partnership Award for its work with the organization’s emergency services.


In November 2017, Bristow Academy came under new ownership and changed its name to U.S. Aviation Training Solutions, Inc. Soon after, USATS was acquired by IDAG.



Bristow supported helicopter rescue efforts for Louisiana residents affected by historic flooding in the parishes around Livingston and East Baton Rouge August 14-15.



  • Era entered the Colombian market by partnering with premiere local operator, Sicher Helicopters. 

  • Bristow’s Nigerian operations included six bases, with the largest bases at Escravos, Warri, Port Harcourt and Lagos, and was the largest provider of helicopter service to major integrated offshore energy companies.

  • Bristow began the UK SAR contract in April 2015.


Bristow Helicopters Australia acquired a majority stake in Airnorth, the largest regional airline operating across Northern Australia, to extend its Asia Pacific operations beyond rotary wing to include fixed wing, enhancing the company’s service to clients as an integrated aviation provider.


Bristow celebrated 60 years of industry leading service on June 24, 2015.



Bristow decommissioned the Tiger fleet at its North Sea operation after three decades of service.


Bristow acquired a 60-percent strategic interest in Eastern Airways, the UK’s leading provider of fixed-wing air services for the oil and gas industry. This provided point-to-point scheduled and charter transportation services, combining fixed-wing with rotary-wing services to its North Sea clients.


Bristow was the first commercial helicopter operator to introduce the first Leonardo AW189 helicopter as part of its standard transportation option.



  • In February 2013, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph experienced a fire in an engine room that left the ship stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship was slowly towed to shore, the 4,229 passengers and crew members onboard were faced with diminished supplies, including food and fresh water.

  • Immediately after being contacted by Carnival, Era coordinated with its SAR subscribers for use of SAR aircraft and with supply vessel owners to deliver over 10,000 pounds of supplies, performing over a hundred hoists in 10-15 foot seas and high wind.


Bristow was awarded a 10-year UK SAR contract by the U.K. Department for Transport that includes 10 coastguard helicopter bases on behalf of the MCA. Under the Gap SAR contract, Bristow helicopters and crew are at two Her Majesty’s Coastguard bases, in Shetlands and the Western Isles.



Bristow separated its Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Ltd (BHNL) and PAAN operations and started a new Nigerian entity – BGI Aviation Technical Services (BATS) – to provide technical aviation maintenance services within Nigeria. BHNL and PAAN were the first BATS clients.



The 2010 Haiti earthquake was one of the most destructive earthquakes of all time, resulting in massive loss of life and totally destroying the nation’s infrastructure. Era dispatched two S76 C++ helicopters for use in humanitarian efforts supporting the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and to support aid workers moving from Santo Domingo to Haiti.


Bristow invested in a new state-of-the-art pilot training facility in Aberdeen with full-flight simulators for the H225 and S-92 aircraft. 



Era partnered with Aeróleo Taxi Aereo, a local company servicing the oil exploration, development and production activities in Brazil for almost 50 years. 



Bristow implemented Target Zero, its long-term approach to develop a culture of safety at all levels at the company.



Offshore Logistics, Inc. rebranded as Bristow Group Inc.



Bristow moved its corporate headquarters from Lafayette, Louisiana, to the heart of the energy industry of Houston, Texas.



In 2004, SEACOR Holdings Inc. (“SEACOR”) purchased then-named Era Aviation Inc. from Rowan to complement its existing aviation business, Tex-Air. SEACOR soon thereafter sold the fixed-wing certificate, permanently separating Era Helicopters from Era Aviation.



Air Logistics acquired Pan African Airlines (Nigeria) Ltd (PAAN). The PAAN acquisition brought Bristow fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft and a major contract with Chevron.



Eastern Airways began operation at Humberside Airport on the English North Sea Coastline with Aberdeen as the center of operations in the oil and gas fields on the U.K. continental shelf.



Offshore Logistics Inc. purchased a 49-percent share stake in Bristow Helicopters Ltd.



Bristow provided SAR operations from Portland on behalf of the MCA.


Bristow provided SAR operations from Portland on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).



Era made history by becoming the first western helicopter operator to operate U.S. registered helicopters in Russia. Loaded and delivered on a Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane, Era operated two Bell 212s with eight crew members in support of a Russian-sponsored offshore drilling project off the Siberian coast. 



Offshore Logistics committed to supplying helicopter support services and added 27 helicopters in the next few years and expanded to the North Sea, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Nigeria and China, in addition to its operations in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.



Bristow provided SAR operations from Lee-on-Solent on behalf of the MCA.



Bristow conducted SAR operations at Stornoway on behalf of MCA.



Bristow began training Nigerian pilots at its flying school at Redhill.



Alan Bristow stepped down from leadership of Bristow



Bristow established the UK’s first civilian SAR bases at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Sumburgh in Shetland, and at Lee-on-Solent and Portland on the south coast of England, again on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. This contract operated until 2007.



Bristow put in a record-breaking order of 35 Super Pumas helicopters with Aerospatiale (known today as Airbus Helicopters) and renamed the fleet the Bristow Tigers. The customized helicopters were designed with the oil and gas market in mind and met 95 percent of its planned commercial flight departures with comfort and safety.



Bristow’s Aberdeen fleet expanded with four new Sikorsky S-76, formerly known as the Spirit, becoming the first European operator to put this second-generation type into commercial service.


  • Era performed firefighting missions in Canada.

  • Bristow continued to be a leader in safety and helicopter operations resulting in several of its modifications setting new industry standards and influencing regulatory changes including Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCASII), Integrated Health and Usage Monitoring System (IHUMS) and Sky Connect.



All Bristow operations in Iran were removed during “Operation Sandstorm” due to the Iranian revolution.



  • Era expanded the scope of its operations by acquiring the assets of Jet Alaska and establishing a fixed-wing division in Alaska. 

  • Era established its base in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The original Lake Charles base was a house trailer and was home to four aircraft – two Bell 205s and two 206Bs. 

  • Airnorth commenced operations on July 4, 1978 as Australia's second oldest airline operating Australia's youngest regional jet fleet and began the start of Bristow’s Australia operations.



Bristow operated 18 S-61Ns, a Wessex 60, a Bell 206 Jet Ranger, and ten ex-military piston-engine Sikorsky S-58s from Aberdeen and Sumburgh. Each of the helicopters was averaging 100 hours per month, flying anywhere from the East Shetland Basin to the Danish coast.



  • Through a contract with Shell's Bluewater III and Glomar rigs, Bristow expanded further and sent a single Sikorsky S-61N to share a hangar in Sumburgh. This operation expanded and at its peak flew 30 S-61N daily flights supported by a 24-hour maintenance operation.

  • While still based in Alaska, Era began operating on exclusive-use contracts in the Gulf of Mexico, whereby customers would contract Era to provide a dedicated aircraft to perform a specific job.  



Bristow began its civilian search and rescue (SAR) operations in the North Sea with Bristow S-55 helicopters at RAF Manston in Kent, becoming the first private company to provide SAR services for the U.K. government.



In 1970, Era established its first foreign operation in Nicaragua followed by other foreign operations in the Mid-East and Africa. 


  • In 1970, Era established its first foreign operation in Nicaragua followed by other foreign operations in the Mid-East and Africa. 



  • On April 18, 1969, Rowan purchased two S-64E Skycranes for use in Alaska to transport heavy drilling equipment, making Era the first civilian company to operate the aircraft.

  • Burt Keenan started Offshore Logistics in Louisiana using boats and eventually switched to helicopters to quickly rotate crews working the rigs, kicking off Bristow’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico.


Bristow was incorporated in Nigeria and expanded operations over the next decade to include Wessexes, Whirlwind series 3s, Bell 206s and Islanders in its fleet with contracts from Shell, Mobil, Texaco and others.



  • Bristow entered the North Sea market by commencing operations from Aberdeen. This operation has developed into Bristow being the largest single employer at Aberdeen airport transporting over 400,000 passengers and more than 2,300 tons of freight.

  • Era was purchased for $2.5 million by Rowan Companies Inc. based out of Houston, Texas. Carl Brady was part of the package and became a board member and executive vice president with Rowan.


During the Nigerian Civil War, or Biafran War, Bristow utilized its 11 helicopters to evacuate workers from rigs at the start of the war and reunite them with their families. It was able to continue operations with a skeleton crew supporting the oil industry.



Era became the first operator to use a turbine-powered helicopter in Alaska when the Bell 204-B was added to its fleet in 1964.



Bristow spearheaded a training facility for Royal Navy helicopter pilots at Redhill, Surrey.


Bristow helicopter pilot training expanded to India, Australia and New Zealand and then to Iran by the end of the 1960s.



Bristow acquired Fison-Airwork, primarily a crop spraying company with business in Central America, England and the Sudan but their Shell D’Arcy development company in Nigeria was the attraction to this acquisition. Bristow would divest itself of the crop spraying business and expand the work with Shell in Nigeria.



Bristow expanded operations to Iran and Bolivia.



Bristow landed a contract with British Petroleum and purchased two Westland Widgeons.

Carl Brady approached his friends at Rotor Aids with a business proposal and the two companies merged to form a joint venture named ERA Helicopters – “E” for “Economy” and “RA” for “Rotor Aids.”



Bristow landed a contract with Shell Oil Company to transport crews and materials to rigs in the Persian Gulf.



Alan Bristow founded Bristow Helicopters Ltd.



In 1953 or '54, Economy Helicopters began providing oil surface-geology work and established a permanent office in Anchorage, Alaska.



Carl F. Brady founded "Economy Helicopters" and brought his Bell 47B helicopter to Alaska. Economy was a predecessor company to Era.