Horizon Helicopters wins entrepreneur award
May 3, 2011 By Carey Fredericks
May 3, 2011, Whitehorse - In a region dependent on reliable air transportation, a Yukon helicopter operator has become the "go to" guy for innovative transportation solutions.
With the launch of Horizon Helicopters, Cole Hodinski seized an opportunity to
introduce new technologies and equipment in order to improve the safety and
sustainability of his operations and meet higher environmental standards.
33, a seasoned pilot and rotor-wing aviation expert, is Yukon's Business
Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
2011 Young Entrepreneur Award winner, and will be honoured tonight at a gala in
Saskatoon. Cole gained extensive experience working throughout Canada,
the United Statesand Mexico,
and as far afield as Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He and his wife fell in love with Yukon during a vacation there, and, while
working as a relief pilot, Cole saw an opportunity to start his own business.
of the few Canadian helicopter pilots to hold an instrument flight rules
rating, Cole anticipated the market's need for the right aircraft to handle the
start of a new Yukon Gold Rush. Investing in a Eurocopter AStar, he had it
customized to keep his operation green and efficient, with the best fuel,
environmental, operational and safety performance. "People said I was
crazy and it wasn't going to work," he says, adding that the new venture
was a success. This spring
he will introduce the MD-900, the first its kind in Canada, once again offering
innovative technology in Yukon.
innovation, Cole has introduced successive technological advances. Starting as
a single aircraft, owner-operator business, Horizon has expanded into a
diversified multi-aircraft operation, with a roster of highly experienced young
pilots and its own maintenance operation. In addition to the mining and
exploration field, Horizon serves environmental researchers, tourism operators,
forestry companies, and wildlife survey and medical evacuation operations.
"Where we operate, there are just five roads and a huge land mass, so
aircraft are essential. We always seek to make responsible environmental
choices and constantly look for ways to lower our carbon footprint."
At 19, Cole, an Albertan who grew up on a ranch, bought an experimental
helicopter and rebuilt it in his father's shop. After acquiring his private
pilot's licence, he pursued his commercial licence to make flying his career.
"I really loved to fly; it was a passion," he says.
A newcomer to Yukon when he
started Horizon in 2007, Cole had to overcome initial skepticism when he
introduced a Robinson 44 helicopter that hadn't been previously used
commercially in Yukon. "But it proved itself," he says. "It's
smaller, more economical to operate, much quieter and burns a lot less fuel—so
clients really appreciate it."
Horizon equips its aircraft
with advances that include an online tracking system to improve safety and
productivity, and an engine-monitoring system that encourages pilot
accountability and reduces maintenance costs. Cole also built a hangar
incorporating the effective insulation and state-of-the-art electrical systems.
An expert team is another key to Horizon's success, he says. "In our
industry, having great, amazing employees on the front line is a big
In addition to sponsoring a
variety of community activities, Horizon makes its aircraft available for
emergency medical evacuations and donates helicopter trips to local
associations. Facing more competition with growing mining and exploration
activity in Yukon, Cole's strategic planning is helping Horizon to navigate the
changing landscape. "Some of the competitors are big companies with a lot
of backing; there's more at stake when it's your own company. One piece of
advice that I always keep in mind: when times are good, it's easy to get big;
but it's hard to get small when times are bad."
"Cole is a tremendous
example of how new ideas can challenge 'status quo' thinking in a field
dominated by older players," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde.
"Through incremental innovation, this young entrepreneur is taking safety,
sustainability and service to new heights."