Native American Helicopters, a specialist in geomapping services, has a new home in Fort Smith with an office at the Fort Smith Regional Airport.
B.J. Crocker, founder of the nationwide helicopter service and a Cherokee Nation citizen, was approved for a year lease in Building 10 this week by the Fort Smith Airport Commission. Crocker, whose father is originally from Booneville, will set up his office at what is also known as the “old Forest Service building” in the coming weeks.
Native American Helicopters was founded in January 2013 by Crocker, Alan Stack and Phil Smith and currently has an office at 4300 Rogers Ave., Suite 20. Crocker and a staff of five have worked lately in California and Midwest states like Nebraska and North Dakota to conduct “subsurface data mapping” for water with airborne electromagnetic systems and seismic recording equipment.
A large hexagonal rig is carried by helicopter to map geological features that help clients determine the best place to drill for water. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, used Native American Helicopters to conduct a pilot study at Owens Lake near U.S. Highway 395 to better understand the groundwater basin beneath the lake bed.
“We began working with a geophysics company and it’s been mutually beneficial,” Crocker said. “It is a specialized, niche market.”
Exploration Resources International process data and information to produce a report using technology that allows the pilots to gather information flying 50 miles per hour and explore depths down to 900 feet below the land surface.
Native American Helicopters also recently used the 1,500-pound device to map out groundwater in Coalinga, Calif. Crocker said it basically takes all of the guesswork out of searching for water. The end result is a 3D image of the subsurface that would allow a farmer to figure out where to drill a water well.
According to Crocker, the areas of operation for Native American Helicopters also includes corporate transportation, HVAC unit placement and wildland fire suppression in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service such as “surface-based fuel management through the use of prescribed burning and HeliTorch techniques.”
Areas of operation also include those with Rotorpower LLC, a sister company of Native American Helicopters, such as “power line construction, power line maintenance and right-of-way vegetation management” through the use of an “aerial saw.”
“There is a level of complexity to our operations that differ us from a regular helicopter company,” Crocker wrote in an email. “With our safety management system, rigorous pilot training and close compliance with the Little Rock FSDO, we will further enhance the levels of safety experienced in our industry.”
While the main office for Native American Helicopters will be at the Fort Smith Regional Airport, the helicopters will usually be in various states where the company is flying operations. Chief Pilot Alan Stack and Director of Operations Phil Smith are co-owners and pilots for Native American Helicopters.
The son of an Army helicopter pilot who started a crop-dusting service, Crocker credits the success of Native American Helicopters to the passion for aviation he shares with his staff.
“I learned to fly as a child,” Crocker wrote. “My dad had me hovering by the time I was 12. I have a passion for aviation that is bar none in this industry. Alan, Phil and I all have that same passion. I get to take part in some amazing projects. I take pride in that. It works, if you work it.”