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Finding Their Corner in the Sky with SBA

Helicopter Fleet

Seacoast Helicopters, Portsmouth, NH 

As a native of Eliot, Maine, Bruce Cultrera was fascinated by the skies at a young age.  He was nominated for and received an appointment to the U.S. Airforce Academy in Colorado following high school.  There he was educated, served our nation and has continued to enjoy flying after his Air Force service.   For nearly 40 years he flew small fixed wing craft for recreation and pleasure as he lived and worked in Southern California and New Hampshire. 

Bruce had worked for major for contractors throughout his career.  When an opportunity to retire presented itself Bruce and his wife Karen decided to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities and entered the world of real estate, property management and management consulting.  The taste of business ownership was attractive, but the travel and long hours as a consultant for federal contractors left Bruce wanting something more. 

Knowing his love for flying in 2010, Karen gave him a birthday gift of helicopter lessons and in no time he was hooked.  The challenge of the helicopter was invigorating and inspiring, opening a whole new world compared to the less complex fixed wing aircraft.  As Bruce explains “Helicopters are inherently unstable and require complete and constant pilot involvement versus fixed wing aircraft which are inherently stable.”

As Bruce considered retirement from the consulting, real estate and property management businesses he had concerns about being bored.   Karen suggested he consider doing something he would enjoy and had a passion for, like flying.  With his new-found affection for helicopters Bruce started down a path of extensive research and planning which extended beyond a year. 

On the business viability side he worked with free business counselors from the Seacoast Chapter of SCORE in Portsmouth, NH.  His knowledge of federal regulations was a big plus as he was a quick learner of the requirements for operating an aviation business.   He also determined that the vibrant seacoast area and the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease had distinct advantages as a base of operations. 

Bruce determined the business as viable but knew that in order to grow he would need to develop additional qualified pilots.  He approached Great Bay Community College, a stone’s throw from their facilities at Pease, about adding Aviation Technology for Helicopters as a course of study.  The course qualified for VA benefits and therefore could also help returning vets who had become accustomed to helicopter travel to pursue a civilian career. 

With his plan and extensive paperwork and clearances in place in 2013, Bruce and Karen approached Triangle Credit Union for a loan.  Triangle Credit Union used the SBA’s Patriot Express Loan Program allowing Seacoast Helicopters, Inc. to acquire a training copter, hire a pilot and start putting their plans into motion.  

Subsequent SBA loans through Triangle Credit Union in 2014, 2016and 2017 have allowed their fleet to increase to 4 helicopters including larger craft for tours, transport and utility work, and have allowed the staff to increase from two to eight employees. 

The company has developed a positive relationship with the community and has developed a balanced level of activity in training/instruction, tour and film flights, commercial shuttle and a growing segment in service to utility companies.   They have also trained over 50 helicopter pilots both privately and through their venture with Great Bay Community College, affording people an opportunity to pursue careers in emergency medical services, search and rescue, law enforcement, oil exploration and executive transportation.  In the coming years Bruce and Karen see great things ahead for a Seacoast Helicopters and the future for the NH Seacoast itself to known for high quality helicopter services.  As Bruce sees things “When folks think of Boston they might think of baked beans or Paris, the Eifel Tower and in the not so distant future it will be helicopters that come to mind for the New Hampshire seacoast.”   He may be on to something!

Company Name: 
Seacoast Helicopters, Inc.
Location: 
Portmouth, NH