T&M Aviation Leading by Example
A little shy of 20 years ago, Ron Wolf found himself at a crossroads. Ron had built a successful career in the helicopter industry, starting with PHI Helicopters as an A&P/IA mechanic. PHI had instituted a mechanic to pilot transition program and Ron completed the training to earn his commercial helicopter rating. Soon after leaving PHI, Ron formed Wolf’s Aero Service. The focus of this business was maintenance of fixed-wing aircraft for oil and gas companies. A downturn in the oil and gas industry led Ron to join Evergreen Helicopters where he was placed in charge of procurement of agricultural work for the company. Eventually, Ron was flying the work he was selling. Little did he know at the time, he was setting the stage for today’s T & M Helicopters. Fast forward a number of years, after Ron Wolf’s time at Evergreen Helicopters and some years as a line pilot for another agricultural aviation operator, Ron was ready to venture again on his own.
T & M Helicopters opened its doors November 1998 in Abbeville, Louisiana with one helicopter, an OH-58, and Ron Wolf as the pilot/operator/owner. In the beginning, T & M Helicopters was nearly 100% forestry work. A whirlwind first year in business led Ron to add a second helicopter and pilot.
Ron Wolf and his second pilot, Stan Hebert, continued building T & M Helicopters from the ground up until a third helicopter was added in 2006. This helicopter was flown by Brandon Ricks. Brandon was mentored by Ron and Stan and had been with T & M Helicopters since its inception. Brandon had worked his way from helping around the operation to loading, then to managing ground crews and finally flying. Tragically, Brandon lost his life on March 30, 2014 during a prescribed burning operation.
T & M Helicopters headquartered in Abbeville, Louisiana is nothing short of a first-class operation. The company holds current FAA Part 135, Part 137 and Part 133 certificates – and includes anything from pelican rescues to row crop spraying on its expansive resumé. With multiple operating certificates, T & M Helicopters maintains strict pilot training with as many as three yearly check rides to maintain currency requirements for various government agencies. Stan Hebert, the company’s chief pilot and check airman, is in charge of all recurrent and initial training.
Running the daily operations of T & M Helicopters is Thomas Wolf, Ron’s son. Thomas grew up in the business and has had extensive “on the job” training. Tom earned his A&P and his commercial fixed and rotor wing pilot’s licenses directly out of college. Thomas serves as the president of the company and manages its 35 employees. Matt Wolf, Ron’s other son, is also a mainstay at T & M Helicopters. Matt is the primary pilot for the company’s Part 135 Fixed-Wing operation, flying a Citation and a King Air C90. (If you’re wondering, the T & M portion of T & M Helicopter is for Tom and Matt.)
The company operates five helicopters, all variants of the Bell 206. Two Bell 206B3 Jet Rangers can haul 90 gallons of product for application and has five seats. Two Bell 206L1C30 Long Rangers can haul up to 140 gallons of product for application and has seven seats. The fifth helicopter is a 206L4 that is slightly more robust than the 206L1C30s. The Bell 206B3s see an average fuel consumption of around 27 gallons per hour and the more powerful L1s and L4 burn approximately 37-40 gallons per hour.
Basically, each helicopter is configured similarly. Depending on the type of work required, each helicopter can quickly be configured to a specific nozzle arrangement (Teejet, Accuflow or CP) and boom setup. All five helicopters are running the AgNav Guia guidance systems with AutoCal flow control units. The Bell 206L4 is the only one of the fleet to utilize the Kawak hydraulic system; the others have Isolair and Simplex electric ones.
The company applies this same philosophy of redundancy and duplication to its ground support units, going as far as to make sure the same type FM radio is installed in each truck. Nine support trucks service the five helicopters.
T & M Helicopters’ work is 95% aerial application, divided 50/50 amongst row crop and forestry. Its season runs March through October with some prescribed burning taking place during the winter months. The company is licensed to operate in more than 30 states. The other 5% flying is firefighting and Part 135 operations. T & M Helicopters also holds on-call relationships with the Department of Interior and US Forest Service, as well as miscellaneous contracts with the U.S. military.
T & M Helicopters is expanding into helicopter sales and helicopter maintenance. It currently has customers nationwide that depend on the mechanics at T & M to keep their helicopters in the air.
To operate a successful helicopter company with many facets to the business model and many employees with different skill sets requires extreme organization and dedication. The crew at T & M Helicopters are just that – organized and dedicated, a truly first-class operation.