Spring 2023 - Best Of Winners Announced, Teddy Abrams & More

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ground and Sky

Story by Cheri Hammons

Ground and Sky

Industry at Newell Barber Field

Story by Cheri Hammons

A lot has happened in the world of aviation since Medford’s Newell Barber Field was established as an airfield in the 1920s. Originally used by the U.S. Forest Service, the airport now hosts multiple airlines, charter companies, fixed base operators (FBO) and more. Southern Oregon’s airspace buzzes with traffic from the medical, military, fire and timber industries, too. The fixed-wing and rotary aircraft piloted by skilled men and women save lives, protect our airspace and keep commercial and environmental industry alive throughout Southern Oregon.

For Captain William Sullivan of the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, becoming a fighter pilot was something he dreamed of all his life. He now flies a F-15C. “We call it the world’s greatest air superiority fighter,” he explains. It’s one of the most successful air-to-air combat planes in history and one of the most technologically advanced.

After flying in Europe and Japan, Captain Sullivan says Oregon is the ideal place to train. “Oregon is just a beautiful place; there’s a lot of different terrain, the airspace is great.”

Learning to fly through Oregon’s mountainous terrain, icy winters and hazy summers helps make proficient instrument pilots. The fire and timber industries’ need for specialty aircraft and operators makes Oregon a hotspot for companies operating in these lines.

Erickson Incorporated has become a global leader in fire and timber, oil and gas, energy construction and more since its founding in 1971. Its impressive fleet of nearly 90 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft help keep it a major player in these heavy lifting industries.

Mercy Flights, the first civil air ambulance to operate in the United States, established the first air medical membership program in 1951. A 501c3 non-profit, the organization serves Southern Oregon and Northern California, responding to emergencies with its two fixed-wing Beechcraft King Air C-90s and leased helicopter. As of mid-July, the company will own and operate its own Bell 407 GX helicopter. “It has all the latest state of the art aviation, safety and patient care equipment,” says CEO Doug Stewart. “With our fixed-wing we fly patients mainly from the local hospitals in Medford up to Portland area hospitals. We’re doing about 350 flights a year up to that area,” he explains.

Mercy Flights also operates the only EMS Explorer Post in the western U.S., in which young people ages 16 to 21 can ride along with paramedics and experience the field.

Training and experience is a large part of the draw to Southern Oregon for those interested in aviation. Erickson Incorporated is a front-runner with its specialty manufacturing and maintenance, repair, overhaul (MRO) training programs. The company provides Pilot Ground School and Aircraft Type Rating Certification for the S-64 Aircrane, as well as a maintenance apprenticeship program for those interested in learning line and field maintenance.

Timber harvesting, firefighting and emergencies is what rooted Southern Oregon aviation while pleasure and pastime is what helped it grow. As more people began to see flying as a leisure pursuit and also began to demand more in the way of personal comforts, companies like Million Air were born.

Million Air started off as a charter company and in 2003 became a FBO and got into the maintenance business. “In 2005 we bought the Million Air franchise and built the executive terminal that we’re in now,” explains President Joe Keith. “At this point we handle all the fuel for the airport, which is for the airlines, the fire bombers, all the corporate airplanes and small airplanes.”

The company also houses privately owned large aircraft such as G550s, Global Expresses and Boeing Business Jets, and does line maintenance servicing for things like tires, brakes and oil changes.

“We like to call ourselves a concierge because what we’re really selling is outstanding service. When people come to our facility we want them to walk out saying ‘wow’,” says Keith.

Terminal services and amenities include catering, shower facilities, a theater room, aircraft detailing, storage and more. “Pretty much anything people need we can make happen,” he says.  

Medford’s Newell Barber Field is a bustling center of industry, representing the diversity and talent of local professionals.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable