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Flying High – The Blugeon Hélicoptères Story

Many Morzine Source Magazine readers will see one of our distinctive red, green and white helicopters in the skies above the Portes du Soleil this winter. Please give us a wave, we’ll always try to wave back! Typically, we’ll be doing aerial work, transporting goods to mountain refuges, assisting in repairs or transporting passengers. Sometimes we’ll be engaged in a rescue situation and our teams are trained to intervene quickly in mountain areas that are difficult to access.

 

Blugeon Helicopteres was established by my father Christian Blugeon in 1998. He started work as a goat keeper, then he became a ski instructor, a ski patroller and then a plumber. He’s from the ski resort of Les Arcs, where he also worked as a snow groomer in his early years. After all of those roles, he started work for the company who built the chairlifts we all see and use in the mountains today. During these projects he tied the loads to the helicopters that were commissioned to assist with the construction and one day he said simply, ‘one day I’ll be in the helicopter. I’ll do this work’.

 

As you can probably imagine, becoming a pilot requires a lot of money, which he didn’t have. And since my grandparents had no money either, they weren’t able to help him. So he continued working hard and saving all of the money he could, always putting money aside. At the end of each working day he’d study all night to become a pilot. He literally started from nothing and did everything himself. Eventually he became a qualified pilot in 1995 and that’s where the Blugeon Helicopteres story begins. He gained several years of experience and then decided to create his own helicopter company, just like the ones he’d observed in the mountains years earlier.

Of course my father was the only one in the business back then. For eight hours each day he’d be flying the helicopter and once finished, he’d be in the office doing all of the paperwork. He was the only one working on the commercial part of the business, doing the flying, looking after the finances. Today, 26 years later, here we are, four children working for their father and we’re an exceptionally strong team. We now have six helicopters and we work across the Alps, in the Pyrenees and elsewhere in France.

As you might expect, my father is still flying. He’s accumulated 33,000 hours in the cockpit, making him one of the most experienced helicopter pilots in Europe. He taught each of my three brothers – Sebastien, Hugo and Victor – to become pilots too. Sylvain and Brice also work as part of our team, they are exceptional pilots and have five other >> members of the ground crew. It’s their role to ensure security between the ground and the pilot in addition to maintenance work and organising our base just below the Fys chairlift on the Route des Nants in Morzine. We also have three wonderful people in our office too. As for me, I took an alternative route and instead studied communications in The States before returning to Morzine to work in the family business. It’s a pleasure to look after the communications and marketing for Blugeon Helicopteres and to arrange the logistics involved in our leisure flights too.

 

From the end of each winter season to the beginning of the next, 90% of our work is specialised aerial work. This involves assisting the lift operating companies and ski lift manufacturers in the replacement or construction of new ski lift pylons; you’ll often see them hanging from beneath our helicopters! Of course many maintenance tasks must be done on the existing ski lift infrastructure too, so we assist with that from the air. Aerial work is also required for the construction of some chalets, especially those in locations that are difficult to access by road. We also deliver food supplies to mountain refuges, assist in the construction of new mountain refuges and carry pipework into the mountains too, as well as helping in the construction of antennas, we literally do everything!

 

During the winter season, this all changes of course. We undertake a lot of passenger transportation between airports and ski resorts across the Alps, our leisure trips are also very popular amongst holiday makers who wish to see the Alps from a different perspective. Both locally and across France, Blugeon Helicopteres is also mandated to engage in rescue work and we’re often asked to assist when skiers or snowboarders get into difficulty in the mountains. Aerial support in this instance is often the fastest and safest way to conclude a mountain rescue situation and our teams are required to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for this purpose. We’re also enlisted to assist with the triggering of avalanches to secure the slopes after a heavy snowfall and at large public and private events to ensure their safety.

We’ve had to adapt our business in many ways in recent years. The regulations regarding our operation have changed a lot, but at the same time, the variety and demand of our aerial work continues to grow. At the end of the day, my brothers and I are extremely proud of our father and the things he has achieved from nothing. He had his ups and his downs but he never gave up and this is a very strong lesson for all of us. Of course he made a lot of sacrifices, for example we never went on holidays as children because he was always working extremely hard, every day, all year. But these days I love being in the helicopter with him, watching the aerial work take place and we all continue to learn from him. He’s proof that we can succeed and achieve our dreams, even if we start from nothing. With willpower, there is no reason not to.

I’m happy to report that these days, my father does eventually take some time for himself, to enjoy the life that he has created for his family. He enjoys various sports such as cycling, hiking, skiing and ski touring but the sport he is most passionate about (after flying!) is golf! He plays at every opportunity, often with my brothers. Even though we all work together, my best days are those spent ski touring with my father during the winter; family time is the most precious time there is.

More Info:

Visit blugeon-helicopteres.com.

You can also follow the team on Instagram for updates from the mountains – @blugeonhelicopteres

Flying High – The Blugeon Hélicoptères Story
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