Petroleum Helicopters, Inc begins

Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI) had its beginning in February 1949. With the emergence of the offshore oil and gas industry, seismograph crews were battling their way through a foreboding stretch of Louisiana marsh and swamp land.

Using ground vehicles (marsh buggies) was a very slow, arduous and dangerous way to traverse this type of terrain. The late Jack Lee, a seismograph company president, envisioned the helicopter as an alternative transportation solution. He then approached Robert L. Suggs and M.M. Bayon and purchased three Bell 47 helicopters.

Their "fleet" of three small helicopters soon proved that rotary-wing aircraft were a feasible solution to the problem. The company began with an investment of $100,000, eight employees and three Bell 47 helicopters and the belief that helicopters would play a major role in the future of transportation in the industry.

PHI was the first commercial helicopter operator authorized by



Bell Helicopter

In April 2001, Rick Santa Maria and Danny Rodriquez hosted the first Fly-In dedicated exclusively to the Bell 47 helicopter. The event, the result of months of effort, was a great success, and as we mark its first anniversary it is a privilege to bring you this essay by Jeff, who attended the Fly-In with notebook and camera in hand. Helicopter flying Bell 47G-2 N2899B s/n 1999, 1957. Photograph copyright @Jeff Jankovics.

Bell Helicopter

N9FK, the classic Model 47G s/n 1675, 1956, flown by Fly-In co-organizer Danny Rodriguez. The weather had improved! View my Fly-In WalkAround of this Bell 47.


Aviation Firsts Logo

the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct IFR "off airways" flight operations in the Gulf of Mexico. They pioneered the basing of helicopter operations at offshore locations. They were the first to design and construct offshore refueling facilities for helicopter operations, and accomplished the first helicopter mid-air recovery of a sub-orbital missile payload. PHI lead industry in the development of methods to "sling load" heavy equipment by helicopter and was the first commercial helicopter operator to operate helicopters under IFR .