John “Jack” McMahon, a former RAF Halifax pilot and WW II veteran, established Transwest Helicopters (1965) Ltd in BC in 1965. He had purchased an inactive Calgary aviation company and moved that business to Vancouver International Airport, retaining the name “Transwest Helicopters”.
By 1968 he was operating 11 helicopters, owning 6 and chartering 5. In 1969 the company was relocated to Burnaby, next to Okanagan Helicopters. The original owner of Okanagan Helicopters, Carl Agar, had been Jack McMahon”s instructor in WWII.
By 1970 Transwest had a staff of 22 and a fleet of 16 helicopters. The company was involved in constructing transmission towers, heli-logging, spraying, fire fighting and were involved with the Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and the BC Forest Service.
In the early 1980’s the company moved to Pitt Meadows and a second base was established in Bella Coola, BC around this time. Jack was one of the first operators of the Bell 214B “Heavy Lifter” in North America.
Tim McEvoy bought the OC of the company around 1990 and re-located the company to Chilliwack, BC, where it remained until 2011. Tim lost his life in a float plane crash at Cultus Lake. The company was purchased from his estate by Ernst-Ulrich and Alison Maas in October 2004. Transwest Helicopters Ltd was revived after several years of stagnation following Tim’s death and continued to operate 3 x Bell 214 machines, predominantly for heli-logging, heavy lift and fire fighting operations.
The company bought the manufacturing rights for the Honeywell T-5508D engine from Honeywell International and operated a successful test cell at it’s Chilliwack facility, attracting customers from the 214 community worldwide. The company established a thriving business for component overhaul as well as structural repairs for the Bell 214B and Bell 412. Transwest invested in Bell certified tail-boom and main cabin fixtures for the 214B.
Transwest outgrew the Chilliwack facility and in October 2011 the company relocated to Oliver Airport BC, for its logistical and operating cost saving advantages. A new hangar was commissioned and the company started to operate whilst the hangar was still under construction. The first days operating out of Oliver were interesting, with the incomplete hangar, no working toilets and 5 people working 2 telephones and 2 computers out of one office! By early 2012 the hangar was finished and Transwest had properly settled into its new home.
By 2014, the company had grown to a total of some 48 employees/contractors working at it’s expanding Bell CSF maintenance facility in Oliver. The owners decided in late 2014 to move away from operating helicopters and concentrate mainly on the repair and overhaul of Bell Medium helicopters.