Grand Prairie — The whirring of helicopters filled the air as employees of Airbus Helicopters, Inc. celebrated 50 years of operation in the United States.
The company opened offices in Texas in 1969, but it was not until 1980 that its operations moved to Grand Prairie. More than 500 people work in the Grand Prairie facility, which serves as the company’s regional headquarters.
“Our employees are the ones who have made this company successful as it is today,” Romain Trapp, president of Airbus Helicopters, Inc. said. “It’s their dedication and engagement to the work they do which has created the success of Airbus.”
Carolyn Russell, Airbus Helicopters’ executive assistant to the general counsel, will be celebrating her 49th year with Airbus in February.
“My first memory was when I was interviewed,” Russell said. “My boss said, ‘I don’t think you want to get used to working here because we’re so new. I don’t think it’s going to be here in six months, and I’m generally not wrong.’ And I’m sure glad he was wrong.
“I’m so glad to see the company still here. I’m so glad I’m working here with these amazing people. They’re more family than they are coworkers. Aerospace people are the most amazing, resilient people on the face of the earth. Knock them down, they come right back up.”
Within the next couple years, Airbus will be adding more of these people to their staff. The company is expected to complete construction on a new helicopter flight simulation station in early 2020.
“We already have two simulators: one is for the H125 and for the H135,” Trapp said. “The first [new simulator] coming is for the H145. After that we will add for an H160 and H175.
“We already train 1,000 pilots a year. [The simulators] are going to bring several hundred additional pilots in the years to come, which means hundreds of people who’re going to stay for several weeks in the hotels around here.”
Trapp said the aerospace industry as a whole is facing some challenges in the years to come.
“We are lacking aircraft technicians,” he said. “We see that as becoming a big problem more and more. It’s a problem for the airlines. It’s a problem for manufacturers like Airbus.”
Regardless, Airbus Helicopters is the number one choice of helicopters in four of five main market segments: parapublic, EMS, commercial or utility, and corporate or VIP. One such VIP made an appearance at the celebration.
“It’s such a privilege to say that I’m on the team with Airbus,” Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said after flying in on his custom Airbus helicopter. “Anyway [the Cowboys] can be a little part that adds some attention, adds some smiles, add something positive. That’s what we do.”
Helicopters are more serious than adding smiles for Trapp.
“At the end of the day, our helicopters save lives and protect our citizens,” Trapp said. “When you come to work and you know what you are doing has such an impact on the community, it makes you proud. That is the case for all our employees.
“[One of my] proudest moments is when we delivered a helicopter to [Cook Children’s in Fort Worth]. We had the nurses near the helicopter, and they just started jumping. And some of them were actually crying but crying of joy, because they knew with this brand new helicopter, they were going to be able to save more lives. When you get to see that, it really touches your heart.”
Written by Luke Schumacher