Patria's helicopter unit in Sweden is a pioneer in many ways
Text: Matti Remes Photos: Patria
In 1999, Patria acquired the Swedish company Ostermans Aero, which has not only profound expertise in helicopters, but also a long, honourable and pioneering history stretching all the way back to the 1940s.
All of this is very familiar to Business Development Director Thomas Järlinge, as he has worked in various positions at the company since 1983 – as everything from technical manager to CEO.
“Ostermans Aero has been a pioneer in its field in many ways, not only in the Nordic countries but also in Europe as a whole,” says Järlinge.
The company acquired its first American Bell 47B helicopters in 1947. In the early years, the company owned a fleet of 50–60 helicopters that were used for flights ordered by customers both in Sweden and abroad – and even as far afield as Africa.
Helicopters were used for a variety of tasks, such as extinguishing forest fires and transporting products to high-rise construction sites. In 1952, the company installed stretchers in a helicopter, so that patients could be transported to hospital.
“It was a sort of precursor to the air ambulance,” says Järlinge.
For a long time, Ostermans Aero flew mail to the Stockholm Archipelago. During the winter, passengers were also taken on certain routes.
“It’s the world’s oldest regular helicopter route. Other operators have been handling the flights since 1998.
As early as the 1960s, Ostermans Aero gradually began selling off its own fleet of helicopters to focus on sales and maintenance.”
The Swedish Police became customers in 1964 – and still are today. Before the police acquired their own fleet, they would lease helicopters from Ostermans Aero, which also trained pilots and took care of helicopter maintenance.
Järlinge has been working closely with the police throughout his career.
“Our partnership has lasted 56 years in spite of fierce competition, as the police think we do a good job.”
“We have a strong bond. We’re like family. Everything depends on trust between pilots, technicians and the rest of the organisation. And we invest heavily in that.”
The Swedish Police currently have ten helicopters: nine new Bell 429s and one older Bell 206B.
Patria's helicopter unit also provides lifecycle services for the Norwegian Police’s Leonardo helicopters. Patria and Leonardo Helicopters have signed an agreement for the maintenance, repair and servicing of the police’s new AW169 helicopters. This work will be carried out at the new police center close Oslo at Taraldrud.
“This cooperation with the Norwegian Police and Leonardo is important to us, as we will gain experience with a new model of helicopter.”
Another customer is the Norwegian Air Force, whose Bell 412 helicopters are serviced by Patria.
The company’s clientele also includes commercial operators alongside its public-sector clients, such as a helicopter company that handles air ambulance services.
Crucial helicopter parts are also sent to Patria for maintenance from all over the world, which tells you something about the confidence that people have in Patria's helicopter expertise. These parts include gearboxes and rotor systems.
Over the decades, Ostermans Aero has operated out of several locations, including Stockholm Bromma Airport and Barkarby Airport. Since 1997, the company has been operating out of new premises, a purpose built facility at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.
Järlinge says that becoming part of Patria hasn’t really brought any major changes to everyday helicopter work at the company. However, now that we are part of a larger company, several new ways of working have been introduced.
“One of these was Patria's reporting practices, which were naturally new to a company of our size with only a hundred employees. With the arrival of Patria, we’ve gained the additional resources and business strength we need to make our business even better.”
Järlinge believes that the company’s long history will provide a firm foundation for business development and growth over the coming years.
“We’re keen to implement Patria's new Horizon 2025 strategy and seek further growth and profitability from international markets together with the rest of the Group. Having this common new direction is important to us.”