Recently at the Museum, we acquired a collection of documents related to aviation in the Whistler valley from Brent Wallace. This collection is very extensive and contains many files from many of the aircraft companies in Whistler such as applications for Commercial Air Service Licenses from Corporate Helicopters Ltd. and Airspan Enterprises Ltd., brochures from the charter aviation companies, proposals and documents related to the Whistler Municipal Heliport, some interviews from Myrtle Philip about early aviation in Whistler, and a collection of news clippings from 1977 all the way to 2023 about aviation in Whistler. One company we wanted to focus on that is frequently mentioned is Blackcomb Helicopters, who started a little later than some other companies but still made a big splash amongst all the competing charter aviation companies.
Blackcomb Helicopters was founded in 1989 by experienced helicopter pilot Steve Flynn. Steve managed a number of other bases throughout BC before settling in Whistler, where he worked at Pemberton Helicopters before applying for his own Operating Certificate in 1989 to start Blackcomb Helicopters. Blackcomb Helicopters began performing mostly technical operations such as fighting forest fires and helping with a number of construction projects, as well as search and rescue operations. They also got involved with the growing tourism industry, offering a wide variety of services to customers from all over the world.
Blackcomb Helicopters was up and running by 1991 and construction aid was one of the many services they provided to contractors in Whistler. In 1991, Blackcomb Helicopters aided with the construction of the Whistler Heliport and even flew in the windsock for the opening ceremony of the heliport. In 1992, they airlifted a 16-man hot tub to the Glacier Lodge. However, construction wasn’t all they did. They also helped with conservation efforts such as transporting bears out of Whistler, like they did in 1994 when they airlifted a four year old male black bear out of the landfill to the Upper Squamish Valley. Blackcomb Helicopters also offered a wide range of heli-touring services to people in the Whistler area and still continues to offer services like heli-biking, heli-skiing, and heli-picnics, as well as more specialized services such as search and rescue, medevac, environmental surveys, flights to and from Vancouver, and even film production.
Things have not always been easy for Blackcomb Helicopters. In 1996, an unidentified party placed a muffin into the fuel tank of one of their helicopters, causing an engine failure and leading to an emergency landing at Squamish Elementary School (after this event, some more security was put in place at the heliport). Blackcomb Helicopters also had trouble finding a permanent heliport. They were in a bidding war with Whistler Air for a heliport near Nicklaus North golf course that was ultimately won by Whistler Air, which was acquired by Harbour Air in 2012 and became the floatplane dock on Green Lake. Blackcomb Helicopters ultimately settled in the Whistler Municipal Heliport just north of Green Lake.
In 2006, Blackcomb Helicopters was brought by MCM Aviation, a joint venture between the McLearn Group and Omega Aviation. Steve Flynn stayed on as general manager but Blackcomb Helicopters was now owned by John Morris, Jason McLean, and Sacha McLean. Nowadays, Blackcomb Helicopters still works with Whistler Blackcomb and helps with construction, environmental management, emergency services, and film services (they have worked on many Hollywood films such as The A-Team, Godzilla, and the Deadpool films, just to name a few). They still operate at the Whistler Heliport just north of Green Lake and will still take people on helicopter adventures to take in the beauty of the Whistler Valley and see it in a way few people are able to.
Liam McCrorie was one of two summer students working at the Whistler Museum this summer through the Young Canada Works Program.