There are many things that we share in common with Canada, our neighbor to the north. Aside from sharing the longest undefended border in the entire world, our countries are No. 1 (United States) and No. 2 (Canada) in the world as to the number of civil helicopters in use.
Quebec City, if you have never been there, is a combination of old world charm and history with new world business. Quebec City (“Ville de Quebec” in French) is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. It is the second most populous city in Quebec.
Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. While many of the major cities in Mexico date from the sixteenth century, among cities in Canada and the U.S.A., few were created earlier than Quebec City. Also, Quebec City is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico where original walls still exist.
On April 16, 2014, in Quebec City, in the province of Quebec, Canada, was the grand opening of a world-class aviation facility. The Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère (CCH) is located near Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport. Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère offers a full range of services related to the helicopter industry, while setting out to make its mark as a new tourist destination unlike any other on the market.
The new complex, which is now open to the public, features a Discovery Space for visitors of all ages and offers high-performance flight simulators, helicopters on display and interactive ways to discover the helicopter universe.
The Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère, a Group Huot property, also offers helicopter tours with GoHelico for a view of Quebec City from above, and features a specialized boutique presenting an exclusive collection of locally designed clothing for helicopter pilots and aviation enthusiasts that’s also available to the general public.
This new complex is also home to the corporate headquarters of Capitale Hélicoptère, a specialist in aerial work within North America, an FBO multi-service heliport, and an interior hangar, with corporate and personalized concierge service, for the exclusive use of helicopter owners. Visitors to the complex will also find one of Quebec’s best flight schools (2014 recipient of the Quebec Air Transportation Association (QATA) Trophée Roland-Simard), an air medic base for emergency medical evacuations, and coming soon, a trendy restaurant and bar to complete the experience.
To get more information on CCH itself, I interviewed Christopher Stapor, director of maintenance.
Helicopter Maintenance – Good morning, Christopher. Since we have covered a bit about CCH and its location, what can you share with us about what the driving force was to become a helicopter service organization?
Stapor – The owner and mastermind behind the idea is a local business developer. His name is Mr. Stephan Huot. His passion for helicopters began with a flight tour in the U.S. From there he acquired his pilot’s license and so on and so on until now. His idea was to create a place which would be accessible to the public and allow them to share his passion of the helicopter world.
Helicopter Maintenance – What types of helicopters do you service?
Stapor – We service a wide variety of helicopters. We are a Robinson service center for the R44 and R66 models. Our approved maintenance organization (AMO) is for maintenance on the BH06 series, the AS350 series including the EC130, EC120, and just recently the Agusta 109SP.
Helicopter Maintenance – How many do you operate yourselves, if any?
Stapor – We operate 19 helicopters. This includes 15 helicopters for utility work and four for our flight school. We also do third-party maintenance on 10 privately-owned helicopters.
Helicopter Maintenance – How many hours a day are you in operation?
Stapor – The complex is open seven days a week, usually from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Capitale Hélicoptère, as with many AMOs and operators, will operate 24/7 as needed. We try and keep an 8-5 schedule; however, we do what it takes to keep aircraft serviceable and safe and clients happy.
Helicopter Maintenance – How large is your facility?
Stapor – It measures 60,000 square feet.
Helicopter Maintenance – How many maintenance personnel do you have and what are their positions/titles?
Stapor – We have six full time aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs). During the summer season, we hire four to six contract AMEs, and we always have a few apprentice mechanics on staff. We have a DOM, quality assurance manager, a technical coordinator, a technical librarian, and a store’s manager to help support the guys in the field. The more information we can feed to them, the less they have to worry about minor details and concentrate on the work in the field.
Helicopter Maintenance – How does your operating environment affect or not affect your maintenance performed on the helicopters? For example, do you use a preheat system on the aircraft in winter?
Stapor – Our operating environment is always changing. It all depends on where the work is being done. We operate in the arctic where conditions are always changing and the maintenance has to get done the same. We work in northern Quebec and also from our main base in Quebec City. All our aircraft are equipped with pre-heater kits; depending on OAT, we will add heaters to keep our oils and components as warm as possible. All our aircraft are equipped with engine barrier filters. These filters save engines in every environment. Our Airbus helicopter fleet is equipped with Facet fuel and oil filters. These little additions to the aircraft ensure that all the essential components are getting clean oil and air. This helps save wear and tear on the helicopters down the line.
Our maintenance staff understands our operations and have the experience and commitment to complete inspections (scheduled or not), with the same devotion and care as they would in a hangar in Quebec City.
Helicopter Maintenance – What work do you vendor out and why?
Stapor – We currently vendor out our avionics work, sheet metal repair work, and non-destructive testing work. The reason is simple. Our company is only four years old and we have laid the foundation for the future. We concentrated on what we found to be important right now: high-quality maintenance and solid quality assurance and safety programs. We did not have time to concentrate on specialty work. We are studying the possibility of adding an avionics shop in the future.
Helicopter Maintenance – What are some of the most common maintenance issues that you see?
Stapor – The most common issues we see are issues that the manufacturers are aware of and are working to improve. Things such as leaky seals due to new generation oils and operating temperatures are common. Electronic glitches are also common, as the manufacturers are heading towards newer advanced electronic components, full authority digital engine controls (FADEC) data as an example. The more sensitive these systems are to the environment, the more problems we see. The manufacturers are usually ready to help and share any tips which may help until improvements are approved and available to the public.
Helicopter Maintenance – Any maintenance tips you care to pass on? From your experiences, what are some things to do and not to do?
Stapor – If you want to have a successful company as an operator and an AMO, the key is in your personnel. How you treat them and how they work together can make a world of difference. The better the teamwork is between departments, the better quality work we can deliver to the client.
From old world charm to a new world class aviation facility, Complexe Capitale Helicopters seems to have it all.