Fonds PR-1842 - Okanagan Helicopters Ltd. fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Okanagan Helicopters Ltd. fonds

General material designation

  • moving images
  • multiple media
  • textual record
  • graphic material
  • cartographic material
  • architectural drawing

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of fonds.

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Dates of creation area


  • 1931 - 1997, predominantly 1945-1985 (Creation)
    Okanagan Helicopters Ltd.

Physical description area

Physical description

7496 photographs and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1947 - 1987)

Administrative history

Okanagan Helicopters was founded as Okanagan Air Services Ltd in 1947 by Carl Agar, A H ‘Barney’ Bent and Alf Stringer. Operations commenced in the Penticton area, but the trio soon rented hangar space at Vancouver’s International Airport. The company changed its name to Okanagan Helicopters Ltd in 1952 and adopted a corporate management scheme, appointing Glenn McPherson executive vice-president. By 1963, the company implemented the base system, which soon extended across Canada and internationally, and which initially started as an employee-driven initiative to combat lay-offs. Ian Kennedy was appointed president in 1968, but was replaced in 1970 by John Pitts. By 1983, Pat Aldous, an Okanagan veteran who had joined the company in 1969, was appointed president, although he resigned in 1987. During the 1960s and 1970s, several subsidiary companies were created and competitors were amalgamated. The company began operating internationally in 1958 and eventually had partners on every continent except Africa

Okanagan spent 1948 conducting agricultural spraying in the Fraser and Windermere Valleys, but a year later turned to assisting with topographical surveys and supplying timber cruises and mine exploration expeditions. Notable early operations included the 1949 Palisade Lake Dam site and the Kemano project of the early 1950s. By 1955, Okanagan had expanded to 90 employees.

In the early 1970s, Okanagan expanded into heli-logging, and the company’s subsidiary, OK Lifts Limited, logged the Redonda Island area. Shortly thereafter, Okanagan Helicopters, T M Thomson Associates, and Traer-Mahood formed Heli Aero Logging Limited. Okanagan also participated in heli-skiing, and featured in several commercial heli-skiing films.

Among the company’s many innovations was Agar’s ‘bump jump’ process for high-altitude take-offs, which involved tipping an aircraft over the side of a cliff and waiting until the air was heavy enough for the rotor blades to operate. Other innovations included the Monsoon Bucket for use in forest fire suppression.

Okanagan was acquired by Canadian Helicopters in 1987, and changed its name to CHC Helicopter Corporation.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of photographic material, correspondence, fact sheets, advertising material, reports, minutes, maps, architectural drawings, and film reels created and acquired by Okanagan Helicopters Ltd, its predecessor Okanagan Air Services Ltd., and its successor, Canadian Helicopters. The fonds consists of executive council records and material relating to the administration of the company, as well as records pertaining to both domestic and international operations. The records, which were created between 1945 and 1997, chart the company’s development and activities, including relationships with aircraft manufacturering companies, innovations in aerial fire-fighting equipment, and early involvement with the heli-skiing and heli-logging industries.

A portion of the records originated with other companies and were transferred to Okanagan Helicopters as a result of mergers and acquisitions. These companies include : Ambank Aircraft Limitée; Aerial Engineering Limited; Associated Helicopters Company Limited; Canadian Helicopters Limited; Creighton Helicopters Ltd.; Dominion Pegasus Helicopters Ltd.; Haida Helicopters Ltd. ; Heli-Aero Logging; Lac St Jean Aviation Limitée; Lecky Paper Ltd.; Sept-Iles Helicopter Services; and Smith, Davidson & Wright.

The fonds is arranged into 17 series created by the archivist : Accidents and crashes; associated companies’ records; awards and certificates; director and shareholder records; equipment; hangar and base records; leases and agreements; manuscripts and research material; news clippings and history files; newsletters; operation records – BC; operation records – extra-provincial; personnel records; proof sheets and photograph collections; promotional material; reports; and Sikorsky Aircraft records. The archivist has maintained the creator's file titles.

Of the films, those which did not directly relate to the operations and activities of Okanagan Helicopters Ltd have been removed from the fonds. A list of these items is available.

Notes area

Physical condition

The colour in many of the 16mm film reels has faded.

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was donated to the BC Archives in 1994 by Canadian Helicopters, the successor to Okanagan Helicopters.


The BC Archives has imposed an arrangement upon the records. Original file titles have been retained.

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Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

  • Several files are closed until December 31, 2015

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Several films are under copyright and cannot be reproduced without permission.

Finding aids

Series level descriptions and file lists available.

Associated materials

Related materials


General note

Accession number(s): F1986:08; 90-9692


Colour photographs, negatives, slides, and moving image originals may be in cool or cold storage. Contact staff for specific details.

Physical description

Includes 3.71 m textual records, 197 architectural drawings, 27 film reels, 10 maps,1 drawing, 1 painting, 1 video reel.

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Physical storage

  • Box: 909692-0001
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  • Box: 002328-0366
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