Aviation firm's business is taking off to new heights


Leading Edge Aviation Inc. considers itself Bend's one-stop helicopter shop.

The company sells new Robinson helicopters (the two-seat R-22 costs $230,000 and the four-seat R-44 sells for between $400,000 and $430,000) as well as used models. It also services helicopters, runs a helicopter flight school and hires out its aircraft for everything from air tours to air lifts.

Its main reason for being, however, is overhauling Robinson helicopters, said Vice President Travis Warthen. Robinson helicopters, per Federal Aviation Administration regulations, must be completely rebuilt after every 2,200 hours of flight time. As a Robinson-certified overhaul facility, the company disassembles customers' helicopters, inspects the parts and then rebuilds the helicopters, often with new parts.

A basic overhaul costs $130,000 and the company currently performs 15 overhauls per year.

Leading Edge offers numerous upgrades to customers who choose the company for its overhaul service. It can add new interiors, new paint and new avionics, to name a few.

There are numerous Robinson overhaul facilities around the country, but Leading Edge does it a little different, Warthen said. It offers customers the opportunity to exchange their "timed-out" helicopter for either a new one or a rebuilt one. The program allows customers to keep flying without spending three to four months &

the time it generally takes to rebuild the helicopters &


"There are not many places that take timed-out aircraft, so you can fly in and fly out," Warthen said.

Customers who use Leading Edge's overhaul services can either fly their helicopters to the company's facilities at Bend Municipal Airport or ship them.

The aircraft often arrive short of the 2,200-hour limit, so to take them to the exact hour limit, Leading Edge uses the nearly timed-out helicopters for its flight school.

The school has roughly 40 students and also provides flight education in conjunction with Central Oregon Community College's aviation program.

"We've been surprised at how quickly the school has grown," Warthen said. "Teaming up with the college is a big part of that, (but) the school's really taken off and grown, honestly, more than we expected."

He said it takes, on average, 18 months to earn a commercial helicopter license and approximately six months for a private license.

The company's focus is on Robinson helicopters but it also owns a Bell 206 JetRanger, a powerful five-seat helicopter that it uses for its contract flying. Besides air tours and air lifts such as lifting hot tubs, industrial air conditioning units and other heavy items into place, the company has been contracted to use its JetRanger to fight fires, perform aerial surveys and carry hunters for an airborne coyote eradication program, Warthen said.

The company got its start two decades ago as a local avionics dealership, Leading Edge Avionics, Warthen said. In July 2005, he and fellow company officers Brad Fraley and Doug Wetter purchased the company and expanded it to include Robinson overhauls.

The new company, Leading Edge Aviation, was able to keep its avionics contracts and makes use of them to upgrade customers with new equipment.

Share This Story