Transwest Helicopters (1965) Ltd.

John Francis "Jack" McMahon established Transwest Helicopters (1965) Ltd. in BC in 1965.

From Jack's autobiography:
In 1964 he bought the controlling interests of an inactive Calgary Aviation company and with the other shareholders input he moved the business to the West Coast keeping the name Transwest Helicopters because of the advertising value.

It started at Vancouver International Airport as a one man, one aircraft company. Jack was 50 when he started the Company from the ground up. By 1968 he had 11 helicopters, owning 6 and chartering 5.

In 1969 he selected the new location in Burnaby. He thought the future was in rotary aircraft. At the airport he was located next to Okanagan Helicopters owned by his friend and former WWII instructor Carl Agar. Many of the men mentioned on these pages flew or knew each other during the war.

“Tim McAvoy took the company over around 1985 and had it until his death around 2001. (see article below) Transwest was sold by Tim McAvoy's wife to a European buyer and was at the Chilliwack airport until 2011, when the new owners moved to Oliver, BC

Info and Pictures below, courtesy Denis J. “Denny” McMahon, Jack's son sent to me Apr 2012, and finally got around to scanning them Jan 2013, with apologies to Denis for the delay.

Transwest Helicopters (1965) Ltd. builts a new hangar at 2792 Norland, Burnaby, BC

Newspaper article, and Artists view, ca Feb 16, 1970, they moved from Vancouver International Airport to the new 1 1/2 acre site in Burnaby. 9 helicopters at this time. Staff of 22. He picked this location to service the needs of Burnaby Industrial Complexes, as well as Metropolitan and Intercity Services.

Landing pad, 6,000 sq ft tarmac area, 5,000 sq ft Hangar, and office area.

Shortly after Transwest grew to a fleet of 16 helicopters, and an estimated value of $900,000.00

Front of Hangar in Burnaby

Aerial View of the New Hangar

Jack McMahon at his desk, at the new hangar, ca 1970

Standard Oil ad on construction of new hangar

Transwest was involved in Constructing Transmission Towers, Logging, Spraying, Fire fighting,and were involved with the Federal Dept of Energy, Mines and Resources, and the BC Forest Service

In the early 1980's per Jack's bio, he established the firm at Pitt Meadows. It was about that time he ran into difficulties with the Air Transport Commission. Sounds like the same story of Spillsbury's airline! He faced 36 charges of Licensing infractions, due to some technical language in the license. None of these were safety infractions. It was due to these charges he had to give up the Company.

“My Company (Transwest) was Employee controlled and shares were made available to key employees as they joined the firm under terms of an agreement with the original shareholders of what was once a Calgary based operation.

Although the Company's main base was Vancouver, it had many designated points from which service could be obtained, together with a second base at Bella Coola, with Sandy James in charge. Permanent year round facilities were maintained at this base.”

CF-QFR Hughes, 2nd machine. Jack McMahon standing beside the first machine

Jack McMahon standing beside one of his helicopters

Jack McMahon Flying his Helicopter

CF-AOU, Transwest Helicopters, Hughes 500 June 1976, 84.2 hrs, billed as $24,461.81

Machine on floats equipped for spraying

Pilot Fred Young spraying an emulsifier on an oil spill on Still Creek before the oil entered Burnaby Lake

Flying in Mandarin oranges from a ship in the harbour to the Brentwood mall

CF-ZLZ , 2nd machine inside hangar in Burnaby 318C Alouette II - c/n- 2203

Jack McMahon flying over Simon Fraser University (SFU) on Burnaby Mountain

Jack McMahon standing beside one of his helicopters

Helicopter on floats coming in for a landing

Machine spraying

Machine on floats equipped for spraying

Jacks story on the Vertol H-21 (CF-GMO) they owned

Newspaper ad

Article above, and pictures, from Jack's Autobiography

Transwest Brochure, with Service area, and Company Base map, Hangar address and map plus descriptions and cost of 3 machines they used at that time.

1973 Fleet

  • 2- Alouette-Astazou,
  • 3- Hughes 500,
  • 3- Hiller UH-12E,
  • 8- Bell 47G

Jack McMahon sold the business to Tim McEvoy who suffered a fatal crash July 18, 2001. Article above describes the accident in a fixed wing aircraft.

Employee names from Jack's autobiography:

  • Fred Young- Pilot, see photo above
  • Jim Collins- Pilot- born in CA, died age 36, with another man, fighting a Forest fire at Gull Lake, north of Thunder Bay ON
  • Gene Drader- involved in a 1983 Hughes 500 crash, while helicopter logging in the Seymour watershed. But he survived
  • Dave Zall, Pilot
  • Jeff McClure, Pilot
  • Paul Jahnke- drove fuel truck and acted as Zall's Co-Pilot.
  • Garry Paquette- Maintenance Engineer, trained as a pilot
  • Jim Neill- Pilot
  • Robert Hansen- Pilot- involved in a crash of a Transwest Bell Jet Ranger, near Port Hardy airport, Jan 1983. The machine was valued at $285,000.00 He survived 2 accidents from sling problems in Cedar block lifting
  • Leslie Neill- hired as an Engineer, served apprenticeship, became the first Pilot Engineer.

My Transwest Helicopters Hat Badge, ca 1978. One of Transwest's Helicopters Hughes 500 flew into the BC Tel Meziadin radio site from their base in Prince George under terrible cloud and fog conditions and rescued myself, and another employee when all the bridges and roads were flooded out east of Terrace in 1978. All local helicopters were busy at the time.

Transwest Hughes 500, ca Sept 1978, landing at BC Tel, Keith Ave. Terrace BC. 2 photos courtesy Brian Wolfe, Ladysmith BC

  • Last modified: 2018/02/20 10:40
  • by dlgent