Canadian Helicopter Corporation founder lifts off for the last time

...of interest to those who work on rigs and such...

Craig Dobbin, founder of CHC Helicopters, dies in N.L. at the age of 71
Oct 7, 2006 Canadian Press

BEACHY COVE, N.L. (CP) - Craig Dobbin, the Newfoundland entrepreneur who founded world-spanning CHC Helicopters Corp. nearly two decades ago, has died. He was 71. Dobbin died early Saturday in his hometown of Beachy Cove, N.L., near St. John's, the company said.

A day earlier, the Vancouver-based flight services company announced that Dobbin was taking a leave of absence from his position of executive chairman due to unspecified health reasons. His son, Mark Dobbin, was appointed to temporarily take his place.

Craig Dobbin founded CHC in 1987 when he headed a group that bought Okanagan Helicopters and Toronto Helicopters, and merged them with his own company, Sealand Helicopters. He started Sealand a decade earlier with just one chopper.

CHC (TSX:FLY.A; TSX:FLY.B) now flies in more than 30 countries and considers itself the world's largest provider of helicopter services to the global offshore oil and gas industry. "He was a true entrepreneur," Rick Davis, the company's chief financial officer, said in an interview Saturday.

"He didn't take no for an answer. He was the kind of guy who would just put his head down and go for it. He just never stopped thinking about the business." Davis recalled that less than two weeks ago, Dobbin chaired CHC's annual general meeting, despite his failing health. He said Dobbin's deteriorating condition was related to a lung transplant 10 years ago.

Dobbin moved CHC's head office from St. John's to Vancouver in 2004 but remained a familiar name in his native province. He served as consul-general of Ireland in Newfoundland and Labrador, was named Newfoundland's businessman of the millennium in 2000, and was named to the Order of Canada in 1992.

Two years ago, Dobbin and his brother Mark started the St. John's Fog Devils, a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise in the province's capital. "Craig embodied the spirit and passion of a Newfoundlander and Labradorian like no one else," the province's premier, Danny Williams, said in a statement. "He was a deeply loved individual, who sacrificed for others and worked tirelessly to build a life of happiness for his family and friends."

Former premier Brian Tobin called Dobbin a "great son of Newfoundland and Labrador. "He consistently demonstrated courage and resolve in seizing both business opportunities and facing serious health challenges," Tobin said in a statement. "And he did so with equal parts of grace and dignity even in the most trying of circumstances."

Dobbin also founded Omega Investments, a Newfoundland real estate company; Air Atlantic, a regional airline; Vector Aerospace; and CHC Composites Ltd. He was to be inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame next summer for his lifetime of work in the aviation industry.

Aside from his life as a businessman, Dobbin helped fund lung disease research at the University of Pennsylvania and became involved with several charities, including the Lung Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dobbin is survived by his wife Elaine and five children. A funeral mass was scheduled for Monday at a St. John's church.