North

Longtime owner of Yukon helicopter company calls it a day

Delmar Washington has just sold the business that over the years offered him a bird's-eye view of the Yukon. It's been an unforgettable experience, he says.

Delmar Washington has sold Capital Helicopters, the company he's owned since 1995

'I have had great moments ... whether seeing amazing country, working with amazing people ... It's amazing, you know,' said Delmar Washington, who's just sold Capital Helicopters, the company he's owned for 25 years. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Delmar Washington, the long-time president of Yukon's Capital Helicopters, says it's time for something new.

"Well, this will be my 25 years in business, so it's been a long haul," he said. "And [I] really just want to have some weekends instead of seven days a week all the time."

Washington has just sold the business that over the years offered him a bird's-eye view of the Yukon. It's been an unforgettable experience, he says.

Washington, a member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, says he found his career after going for a ride in a helicopter in the mid-'80s.

He got his helicopter pilot's license in 1988 and worked his way up the ladder to become the chief pilot at Capital Helicopters. Then an opportunity came his way to buy the company in 1995.

"Every spectrum of work that I have done, I have had great moments ... whether seeing amazing country, working with amazing people ... It's amazing, you know," he said.  

"We live in a beautiful, beautiful place."

Washington working in the field. 'We live in a beautiful, beautiful place,' he said. (Capital Helicopters)

Over the years he's done work for film companies flying cameras, for mining companies transporting camps and equipment, and fighting forest fires with a long line and bucket. 

Washington says his favourite memories have been of flying with Yukon elders who could pinpoint the wilderness area where they grew up on the land.

"You will fly these folks out, way out, like they haven't been there since they were very young, and they still know their way from the air. It's amazing," he said.

"You're just flying along with people and you are going like, 'wow, how do you even know that stuff?'"

New president ready to weather any storm

Capital Helicopters will remain a Yukon-owned and operated company. Washington says it's time to hand over the company reins to someone with the same work ethic as him.

Melvin Lagersson, who joined the company nine years ago, is taking over as president. He says there will be challenges to overcome in the next few months but he is not worried.

Melvin Lagersson, who joined the company nine years ago, is taking over as president of Capital Helicopters. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"There is always going to be barriers. This year it's COVID and another year it will be raining all summer or there will be a downturn in the economy — there is always going to be something," Lagersson says. 

Washington says he'll stay on with the company through the summer transition period. Once campgrounds are open again, he wants to enjoy his weekends in Yukon and share stories of his adventures over the years.   

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