Complexe Capitale Takes Flight
By Carroll McCormick
Thousands flocked to the grand opening of Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère in Quebec City this past April. The 65,000-square foot (6,039-square metre) facility brings under one roof a number of existing helicopter divisions, founded and owned by Quebec City businessman Stéphan Huot.
By Carroll McCormick
Thousands flocked to the grand opening of Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère in Quebec City this past April. The 65,000-square foot (6,039-square metre) facility brings under one roof a number of existing helicopter divisions, founded and owned by Quebec City businessman Stéphan Huot. The facility is located just around the corner from the Jean Lesage International Airport.
|Inside the new building is rental space for around a dozen helicopters. (Photo courtesy of Capitale Hélicoptère)
As well as touring the huge facility, many visitors got a taste of one of the more publically accessible services the Complexe offers: helicopter tourism. Some 1,200 people enjoyed free flights over Quebec City, a for-fee activity available to any visitors to the city by the company division called GoHelico.
Huot’s core company is Capitale Hélicoptère, which he founded in 2010. Capitale does aerial work in sectors such as mining, petroleum, firefighting and government services, as well as providing charter, air taxi and VIP transportation. Its 25-plus helicopters include the Eurocopter EC120 Colibri, EC130B4, AS350B3, AS350B2 and the Robinson R44 Raven II.
Contractors broke ground for the new Complexe in November 2011. In addition to being the new home base for Capitale, the Complexe also has a helicopter maintenance and repair department that, with the VIP hangar space, occupies 30,000 SF (2,787 SM) of the building.
Capitale Hélicoptère is a Transport Canada Approved Maintenance Organization and a Robinson service centre. The aircraft that Capitale is certified to work on, and for which it carries a wide variety of spares, includes the Robinson 44 and 66, the above-mentioned Eurocopter types and the Bell 206. The company recently gained approval for the AgustaWestland 109. Ten staff mechanics maintain the Capitale fleet, as well as providing maintenance and repair services for private helicopter owners.
Complexe has short- and long-term inside storage for rent for approximately a dozen helicopters. There are 14 helipads outside for company and visiting helicopters. Complexe also has an FBO. VIP services include WiFi, private and secure areas, equipment preparation, maintenance, helicopter and car washing, shuttle service and event organization. A restaurant and bar is scheduled to open in the late spring of this year.
|The 60,000-square foot Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère opened in Quebec City this spring. (Photo courtesy of Capitale Hélicoptère)
“Providing services to the private helicopter market is a compliment to our business,” Huot says. “We want the owners to know that we exist and offer a whole different experience from what they are used to. An owner can now come to Quebec for lunch while his aircraft gets washed and serviced. Why not shop while we service the aircraft? I believe what we offer is unique and there is a void for this type of service.”
The Complexe also includes a helicopter pilot school that accepted its first students in 2011. As well as training new pilots, it offers recurrent training and specialized programs for licenced pilots, including night flying, sling work and firefighting. The school also handles the conversion of foreign licences and annotation.
“Presently, we can accommodate 20 students for different pilot licences: commercial, private and special training,” Huot says.
The Association québécoise des transporteurs aériens (unofficially translated as the Quebec association of air transporters) awarded the school the 2014 Roland-Simard trophy in recognition of the quality of its theoretical and practical helicopter training.
Airmedic, a private EMS service company, of which Huot is the principal shareholder, also calls the Complexe home. “It is with enthusiasm that in April 2012 I committed myself to contribute to the development of emergency medical services at heliports and airports in Quebec,” Huot notes.
|GoHelico offers tours 12 months of the year.
(Photo courtesy of Capitale Hélicoptère)
Airmedic has a team of 100 medics and pilots. It has carried out more than 475 missions since it was founded. It also operates two Pilatus aircraft that are equipped with the latest medical equipment. Also part of the fleet are two Eurocopter EC130 B4 helicopters from Airbus Helicopters Canada and two AgustaWestland 109 SP machines, configured as air ambulances – a first for Quebec, according to Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère. Airmedic also has access to the Capitale Hélicoptère fleet, renting aircraft from it on an as-needed basis.
In addition to its traditional corporate and commercial business services, the Complexe also has tasked itself to bring the wider public into what the company likes to call “the helicopter universe.” “We want to offer a place [so] that younger people can explore the helicopter world. Yes, the Internet today has all the information, but here the groups get the chance to actually see and touch a helicopter,” Huot says
In the air, the company offers 12- to 15-minute helicopter tours of Quebec City and the surrounding area. “The Helicopter tour business is something every operator in the region dabbled at,” Huot says. “None of them were able to furnish definite timetables in the past. As you know, when summer comes around, the machines are out flying. It is a tough market to commit too. GoHelico offers three aircraft that are committed to tours 12 months a year. Many tour agencies are happy to see that there is finally something stable and attractive to offer their clients.”
Inside the Complexe is an attraction called the Discovery Space. The newest business under the Complexe umbrella, along with the restaurant, the Discovery Space is a helicopter showroom for the public, the first of its kind in the world, according to the company website.
“What’s new is the opening to the public of our Discovery Space, which consists of a boutique with a clothing line developed in Quebec City for those passionate about helicopters, but adapted to the wider public,” Huot explains. “Our showroom offers an exhibition of helicopters, flight simulators, interactive games and a virtual reality room. [There is also a] kiosk with soft drinks, GoHelico tours of the city, an ‘X-ray’ that demystifies the components of a helicopter and interactive terminals that offer quizzes and animations.”
|Guests of the new centre can entertain themselves with flights simulators and helicopter exhibits. (Photo courtesy of Capitale Hélicoptère)
The flight simulators, one of which was built by Switzerland-based Elite Simulation Solutions, and the other by the Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère team, offer several flight missions over areas of Quebec City. They are strictly for entertainment, not as supplements to training. The simulators include a helicopter seat, collective and pedals and flight instruments.
The 1,000 SF (93 SM) clothing shop offers a variety of products, from sunglasses to radio-controlled helicopters. However, the clothing line stands out. Designed in Canada and under the label Stephan/H AeroStyle, the line runs from technical clothing, such as pilot jumpsuits and jackets, to clothing that is clearly intended to be street wear for the fashion conscious.
For those looking for a special rush, the Discovery Space offers what it calls “Pilot for a day.” This taste of the pilot experience offers the basics of flight planning, mechanics, use of the controls and manouevers such as takeoff, hovering and autorotation. Students spend time in a Robinson R44 with an instructor.
From guided school tours to the red-carpet treatment of private helicopter owners, Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère will raise the profile of the role of helicopters, while adding to the choice of services for helicopter owners and users.
“As a child, I was fascinated with aviation and helicopters,” Huot says. “Other than looking up at the sky when one passed by, and pictures in a book, there wasn’t much more to feed my passion. The Complex allows people, young and old, to get close to something that has been for a long time reserved for the rich and famous.”