Founded in 1980, the company was originally called Hillsboro Helicopters and began as a one-helicopter flight school in Hillsboro, Oregon, an agricultural town 15 miles west of Portland. As Hillsboro’s landscape changed with the introduction of several large technology companies, Hillsboro Helicopters steadily built its helicopter and airplane business. Then in 1992, Ed Cooley, former CEO and chairman of Precision Castparts Corporation, purchased the company. Precision Castparts, a Fortune 500 company and the world’s leader for over 40 years in the manufacturing of jet engine castings, blades and fans, continues to be one of Oregon’s largest companies.
When Cooley purchased the company, Max Lyons was hired as the GM and vice president responsible for operations. Lyons comes from a fourth-generation lumber family, and his first involvement with the helicopter industry came in 1974 as a ground crew member for a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane. His flying career began when he enrolled in Hillsboro Aviation's helicopter professional pilot program. In 1988, Hillsboro Aviation hired Lyons as a helicopter flight instructor and the manager of its foreign student pilot program. Later, Lyons became a charter pilot flying turbine helicopters for a variety of operations.
Lyons and Cooley, a Harvard Business School graduate, took the formerly pilot-owned school into the world of business philosophy, implementing large company practices to help track and increase growth. The company expanded its portfolio to include a sales and service division and a charter division. In 1996, the company name was changed to Hillsboro Aviation, Inc. to better reflect the full scope of the company’s services. After leading the organization for seven years as its general manager, Lyons purchased Hillsboro Aviation from Cooley and became its president and CEO.
Today, Hillsboro Aviation employs over 240 people and is made up of three core business groups which consist of 14 separate profit centers. The company’s fleet includes over 80 aircraft that fly in excess of 63,000 flight hours annually. Hillsboro Aviation has established its position as a U.S. leader in helicopter sales and one of the largest combined helicopter and airplane flight training schools in the U.S. with thousands of graduates from over 75 countries. Its charter division operates a fleet of Bell helicopters and Hawker Beechcraft King Airs throughout the U.S. Hillsboro Aviation is Bell Helicopter’s only U.S. independent Representative and is also a dealer for the Robinson Helicopter Company and the Cessna Aircraft Company. Hillsboro Aviation also provides aircraft maintenance and avionics services, FBO fueling, aircraft parts and pilot supplies.