INTERNATIONAL AVIATION TRIUMPH SPARKS JOBS BOOST
AVIATION pioneers who forged a unique alliance with a North American industry giant have been praised for creating jobs and providing a boost to the economy.
Business leaders, politicians and guests commended Heli Charter during a launch party to celebrate the opening of the UK’s first ever purpose‐built helicopter showroom and maintenance facility at Manston, Kent, on Saturday. (September 21)
The multi‐million pound architectural triumph is now home to Heli Charter, an Independent Representative and authorized Customer Support Facility for the famous North American company, Bell Helicopter.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Helicopter, John Garrison, was flown to the new facility by Heli Charter’s Director Gary Slater, who was at the controls of a Bell corporate helicopter, a Bell 407GX.
After Mr Garrison cut the ribbon across the new helicopter centre in Merlin Way, he described it as ‘sensational’.
He said Heli Charter was the face of Bell Helicopter in the UK.
Mr Garrison had been welcomed to Heli Charter with music performed by the local Air Training Corps, who included ‘Those Wonderful Men in their Flying Machines’ in their repertoire.
Bell Helicopter is known across the globe for the iconic Bell UH‐1 Huey, which served in Vietnam, and the Bell 47, which starred in the hit 1970s’ television show, MASH.
A rare 1973 ‘Huey’ was also on display at the Heli Charter launch party, along with the popular 21st century Bell 206 Jet Ranger, and Bell Helicopter’s newest aircraft, a twin engine Bell 429.
Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison praised Heli Charter’s CEO Ken Wills, and Director Gary Slater, for their ‘dynamic vision and passion for business’, and revealed how the solid relationship with Heli Charter will play a major role in Bell Helicopter’s resurgence in the global aviation market.
Mr Garrison also met key Heli Charter staff including Chief Engineer Colin Brunger, along with Heli Charter’s Chief Operating Officer and owner of many Bell 206 Jet Rangers, Steve Purchase.
Heli Charter is responsible for bringing North America back to Manston ‐ an airfield which had an historic association with the United States Air Force during both World War II, and the Cold War between 1950 and 1958.
During the war years, Bell Helicopter’s fixed‐wing aircraft, the Mustang and the Bell P‐39 Airacobra, were used by the RAF.
Mr Garrison said: “During a meeting with Ken Wills sixteen months ago, he told me of his passion to create a purpose‐built Bell Helicopter facility.
“I told him unequivocally I would be there to open it! This is a monumental day as Bell Helicopter continues to grow helicopter sales across the globe.
“We know the professional relationships with Ken and Gary, plus the investments of vision and passion to put this together, will ensure our customers will have a world class experience.
“I have had the benefit of travelling and seeing great customers from all over the world and I can tell you this is one of the finest facilities I’ve ever seen. On behalf of the men and women of Bell Helicopter, I say ‘Thank You’ to Ken and Gary.”
The latest range of Bell Helicopters will be sold in the new facility, which is called ‘Sapphire House’ and sits next door to Summit Aviation, a leader in jet engine overhaul.
Heli Charter’s Mr Wills C.Eng, FRAes, C.Mger, FCMI, an experienced helicopter pilot said: “It’s a significant moment in the history of Manston to see Bell Helicopter, a North American company, partner with us at Manston!
“The launch of the new Heli Charter and Bell Helicopter facility confirms a unique relationship between our two companies and our highly skilled staff. If you own a Bell helicopter, this is where you come.
“We all love Bell helicopters, they’re in our DNA!
“I am proud to reveal Heli Charter will also be playing a high profile role in supporting the UK’s emergency air ambulance and police services.”
Chairman of Thanet and East Kent Chamber of Commerce David Foley said Heli Charter’s new facility and alliance with Bell Helicopter represents a huge vote of confidence in the local community.
“He said: “It puts Manston at the centre of helicopter leasing and sales in the UK and we were delighted John Garrison came to Manston all the way from the United States on this special occasion.
“Our economy is recovering with a more than ten percent reduction in unemployment in East Kent. We see the arrival of Bell Helicopter as accelerating this resurgence.
“We are delighted with the splendid new facility, which will undoubtedly encourage other inward investors.”
Thanet District Council leader, Councillor Clive Hart, revealed Heli Charter provided a fantastic opportunity for Thanet and it was a triumph for Ken Wills and the partnership he has formed with Bell Helicopter.
“Mr Wills has brought many jobs for skilled people to Thanet, and we need jobs, jobs, jobs!”
Chairman of Thanet District Council, Cllr Kay Dark, also praised Heli Charter for its vision and business insight.
The launch party was also attended by Kent UKIP leader, County Councillor Roger Latchford.
Cllr Latchford was among guests at the launch party to be photographed with the famous vintage Bell ‘Huey’ helicopter – one of only two flying in Britain today.
The Bell UH‐1 ‘Huey’ was also a star in the Francis Ford Coppola film epic, Apocalypse Now, which featured a host of Hollywood greats, including Marlon Brando.
*Mr Wills, 59, is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is a helicopter pilot with a world record in precision flying, and also the holder of an American commercial pilot’s licence on both fixed wing and helicopters. Mr Wills is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the RAF Manston Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum. He is also Chief Executive of Summit Aviation at Manston – a company specialising in jet engine overhaul.
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With Thanks to Heli Charter