Hillsboro Aviation Joins Prestigious Helicopter Tour Operators Program of Safety

Hillsboro Aviation’s Mt. St. Helens tour operation was unanimously elected to join the helicopter Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS) by the TOPS Board at their meeting Oct. 14 in San Diego.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Hillsboro to TOPS and commend their commitment to helicopter tour operation safety,” said TOPS Chair Tim Cudney. “Choosing to become a member of TOPS and continue to meet our requirements is a significant commitment of time and resources. In a time when the public is questioning helicopter tours, it is extremely important to invest in safe operations. We look forward to Hillsboro’s contributions to increased helicopter tour operator safety.”

“Hillsboro Aviation is honored to become a member of TOPS and join these other prestigious tour companies. As an established tour operator with more than 17 years of experience, safety is our priority. Becoming a member of TOPS validates our commitment to safety and allows us to play an active role in improving safety among helicopter tour operators,” said Hillsboro Aviation’s President and CEO Max Lyons.

Hillsboro Aviation has provided tours at Mt. St. Helens since 1994 in partnership with the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center. Several different tours are offered featuring various highlights of the area, including Mt. St. Helens’ summit and the crater and devastated area from the 1980 eruption which forever changed the landscape. To learn more about the Mt. St. Helens tours, visit www.mtsthelenshelicoptertours.com.

Headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon, Hillsboro Aviation has been in business since 1980. The company’s diverse operations include charter services, flight training, aircraft sales, parts sales and maintenance and avionics services. Its aircraft fleet includes more than 70 aircraft ranging from King Air C90s to several models of turbine-powered Bell helicopters to single-engine piston helicopters and airplanes. Hillsboro Aviation is the largest combined helicopter and airplane operator in the northwestern U.S. and the only U.S. Independent Representative for Bell Helicopter.

TOPS is a non-profit safety organization dedicated to increasing the safety of helicopter tour operations in the United States. Founded in 1996, the organization worked with the FAA, NTSB and the Helicopter Association International (HAI) to identify areas within a tour operator’s management, flight operations, maintenance, ground personnel and equipment that could be enhanced beyond FAA Part 135 regulations. From there, it designed its comprehensive program of safety. Every TOPS regular member must meet the program’s requirements and pass an annual independent initial audit to confirm it meets or exceeds the program.

Since TOPS’ inception, statistics gathered by HAI prove TOPS members experience a significantly lower accident rate than civil helicopter operators providing tours.

Helicopter operators wishing to join the organization must first receive a review by a TOPS member mentor then pass a rigorous new member audit designed to confirm the company meets or exceeds TOPS safety requirements. Hillsboro spent the summer updating their operation to meet the TOPS requirement, received a mentor visit in July 2011, and passed their audit in August 2011.

TOPS welcomes any Part 135 helicopter operator with a regular, scheduled and advertised helicopter tour operation within the United States to apply for membership. For more information about TOPS or to inquire about becoming a member, please visit their Web site at www.topsafety.org.

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