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Court approves Erickson bankruptcy plan

Erickson took a step toward emerging from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday when a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Dallas approved its reorganization plan.

The Portland-based aviation firm, best known for its S-64 aircranes and helitankers, houses its manufacturing, maintenance, research and development operations in Jackson County, where more than 700 employees work.

Judge Harlin D. Hale of the Northern District of Texas bankruptcy court in Dallas confirmed the plan less than five months after Erickson entered court protection in November, listing $561 million in debt. The company went public in 2012 and acquired Evergreen Helicopters and Air Amazonia in 2013, which left Erickson with $355 million in debt just as the global oil-and-gas market was collapsing.

"For all intents and purposes this gives us clear path to emerge from bankruptcy in the next couple of weeks," Erickson president and CEO Jeff Roberts said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Dallas.

Roberts, CFO David Lancelot, and commercial aviation vice president Andy Mills were approved as board members for the reconstituted privately held company.

Roberts said the board may eventually grow to seven members, including some independent directors.

"We have a good vetting process in place to help guide our business in a positive fashion," Roberts said.

Under the plan, Erickson's pre-bankruptcy debt will be reduced by more than $400 million. Erickson said it obtained commitments to borrow up to $150 million from a consortium led by MidCap Financial Trust; reached an agreement on noncash repayment of $69.8 million in financing obtained during the bankruptcy; and secured a backstopped $20 million rights offering.

Roberts said the structural changes will reinforce the direction the company has moved to leverage its helicopter fleet's unique capabilities.

"There's cautious enthusiasm about what we're hearing out of Washington," Roberts said. "I don't know what will happen, but the words sound good."

Roberts is also optimistic about hefty defense spending increases planned by the Trump Administration.

"There's a lot of conversation about expeditionary aviation being a focus of new defense spending," he said. "It's way too early to tell if it manifests itself, but the words are good."

Earlier this month, Erickson announced it is building a S-64 Aircrane for Korea Forest Service, its first such order in eight years.  It also announced new service contracts in South America and Africa.

"It's astonishing how supportive our customers and prospects have been through the process," Roberts said. "It's enabled us to secure new business during restructuring. As we emerge, any and all concerns they may have will go away."

Lancelot attributed the company's swift movement through reorganization to the support of its debtholders and the entities leasing their aircraft.

"The financial impact of this approved plan is very positive and allows us to be far more strategic to compete in the competitive landscape," Lancelot said.

 — Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.