Bristow 60

Bristow Celebrates 60 Years

On 24 June 2015 Bristow celebrated being 60 years old.  That was the anniversary of the incorporation of Bristow Helicopters Limited in 1955 by its founder Alan Bristow. The company has picked out some highlights of the company history:

Alan Bristow formed Bristow Helicopters in 1955 after securing a contract to supply helicopter crews for Shell Oil Co. in the Persian Gulf. Bristow, a renowned aviator, led the company until 1985 and stayed involved until his death in 2009 at the age of 85.

Bristow was on the scene from the first days of oil production in the North Sea. It was a pioneer on many aircraft types and an early advocate of safety and helicopter pilot training, establishing a major training facility at Redhill, England in 1960. Bristow began operations in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1967.

Bristow began operations in Africa began operations in Africa in 1960 by acquiring Fison-Airwork, a crop-spraying company that also supported some of the first oil exploration work in Nigeria. Bristow continues to maintain a strong business presence in Nigeria, operating from six bases that mostly serve the offshore energy industry.

Operations in the U.S. can be traced back to the launch of Offshore Logistics in 1969. As it grew over the decades, the company eventually purchased a 49-percent stake in Bristow Aviation Holdings Ltd. in 1996 to expand its operations into the North Sea. Offshore Logistics moved its headquarters to Houston in 2005 and took on the Bristow name in 2006.

In 1971, Bristow began civilian search and rescue (SAR) services in the U.K. After a hiatus, it resumed serving the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in 1983 and most recently won a 10-year contract to provide SAR service across the country from 10 bases. Bristow also has SAR operations in Australia, Canada, Norway, Russia and Trinidad.

In 2006, under the direction of then-President and CEO William Chiles, the company was rebranded as Bristow Group, creating a single brand under which the entire company would operate. The company also established its Core Values of safety, quality and excellence, integrity and teamwork, and its Code of Business Integrity, both of which remain in force today.

Bristow launched its industry-leading Target Zero safety program in 2007. Target Zero is a long-term strategy to develop a culture of safety at all levels of the company and it remains the underpinning of Bristow’s successful safety culture today.

Also in 2007, Bristow acquired Florida-based Helicopter Adventures Inc. and renamed it Bristow Academy with the mission to fulfil the company’s need for top-quality pilots as well as train pilots for other applications.

The Bristow Group fleet is now over 500 aircraft worldwide.

Flight International covered the company’s 25 anniversary with a special feature and interview with ‘the old man’.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, as Bristow was known for having robust views, Flight International nervously felt obliged to offer a right to reply to a number of other organisations!

Many other stories can be found in Alan Bristow – Helicopter Pioneer, completed just a week before he passed away.  Bristow had previously formed his first company, Air Whaling in 1953 (not earlier as suggested in his Daily Telegraph obituary).  This explains why, perhaps confusingly, the 50th anniversary was celebrated in 2003!  See also Leading from the Front Bristow Helicopters: The First 50 Years.

First Production EC225 G-ZZSA in 2005 (Credit: Airbus Helicopters)

Second Production EC225 G-ZZSB in 2005 (Credit: Airbus Helicopters)


  • The company also has the oldest, current UK CAA Air Operators Certificate (number 253).
  • Alan Bristow was a keen farmer and patented the concept of the bovine water bed.

UPDATE 20 August 2015: Vertical Magazine publish an interview with current Bristow CEO, Jonathan Baliff.

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