Helicopter Transport Services buys Niagara Helicopters
Jan. 4, 2012, Niagara Falls, Ont. - Reudi Hafen knew the day would come when he’d part with his beloved helicopter business.
“There are two happy moments when you are in business,” Hafen said Monday after word had been spread that the iconic Niagara tourism business had been sold to Helicopter Transport Services of Canada. “The second happiest is when you start a business. The happiest is when you sell that business.”
But no one should expect to see any changes. Hafen will remain with the company as a pilot and as its public face. He will also remain available to provide rescue assistance.
“There would have been no deal without me,” Hafen said with a laugh. “They wanted to buy me. They don’t want to change a thing.”
Hafen said he has a long-term relationship with Luc Pilon, owner of the Ottawa-based HTSC.
“He was one of the first guys I met in Canada,” said Hafen, who came to the country from his native Switzerland in December of 1981 with little else but a couple of bags packed with aviation materials.
Hafen went on to become a pilot for PanAir Helicopter Services in Niagara Falls when he purchased the company in the mid 1980s, renaming it Niagara Helicopters. The rest, as is often said, is history.
When he first seriously toyed around with the idea of selling the business about three or four years ago, he thought of his old friend Pilon, whose international company reaches to all four corners of the globe with business in the United States, Peru, Ecuador and Austrailia.
“Everything is always for sale,” Hafen said.
He called the sale to HTSC a “super deal” for the Niagara operation.
“Nobody gets hurt,” Hafen said. “The employees keep their jobs.”
Pilon, Hafen said, had hoped that he would commit to staying on with the company for five years but the former owner declined to make that assurance.
“I wanted to renew it from year to year,” Hafen said.
The sale, Hafen said, was a simple as Pilon writing a cheque.
“He wrote a cheque and I gave him the key. He now has the buildings, the helicopters, everything. He doesn’t have to do a thing, just maintain it.”
But what is especially gratifying for Hafen is the fact that he will remain flying without having to worry about the day-to-day operation of the business.
“That’s my drug. I go in the helicopter and fly for two or three hours,” Hafen said. “I get my best ideas when I fly.”
Since its inception in 1976, Helicopter Transport Services has provided helicopter services to the forestry, mining and entertainment industries and for fire suppression and executive transport services among other things.
Calls to Helicopter Transport Services of Canada have not been returned.