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 files from many of the aircraft companies in Whistler such as applications for licences, brochures from charter aviation companies, proposals and documents related to the Whistler Municipal Heliport, some interviews with Myrtle Philip about early aviation in Whistler, and a collection of news clippings spanning from 1977 all the way to 2023. One frequently mentioned company we wanted to focus on is Blackcomb Helicopters, which started a little later, 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. Flynn managed a number of other bases throughout B.C. before settling in Whistler, where he worked at Pemberton Helicopters before applying for his own operating certificate in 1989. 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. It 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 it provided to contractors in Whistler. That year, Blackcomb Helicopters aided with the construction of the Whistler Heliport, and even flew in the windsock for the opening ceremony. In 1992, the company airlifted a 16-man hot tub to the Glacier Lodge.
However, construction wasn’t its only focus. The company also helped with conservation efforts such as transporting bears out of Whistler, like it did in 1994, airlifting 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 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.
But it hasn’t always been a smooth flight. In 1996, an unidentified party placed a muffin in the fuel tank of one of the company’s helicopters, causing an engine failure and leading to an emergency landing at Squamish’s elementary school (after this event, more security was put in place at the heliport).
The company also had trouble finding a permanent heliport. It became embroiled 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, the company was bought by MCM Aviation, a joint venture between the McLean Group and Omega Aviation. 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 (it has worked on many Hollywood films such as The A-Team, Godzilla, and the Deadpool films, just to name a few).
Liam McCrorie was one of two summer students working at the Whistler Museum this summer through the Young Canada Works Program.