49 North Helicopters Ltd. of Campbell River, B.C., Canada, is founded by Sheena Ell and Jean-Marc Messmer. Ell and Messmer are both highly qualified helicopter pilots and flight instructors with 41 years of combined flying experience.
Sheena Ell started working as a fixed-wing flight instructor in Alberta and B.C. in 1988 and began training on helicopters in 1992, ferrying JetRangers to build time. She co-piloted McMillian Bloedels corporate Sikorsky S-76 for about two years, flew Helijets S-76s for almost eight years, and went heli-logging as a co-pilot on Canadian Air-Cranes S-64 Aircrane before settling in Campbell River.
Jean-Marc Messmer immigrated to Canada from Switzerland in 1994 to train as a commercial helicopter pilot. After his initial training in Ontario and Quebec, he moved to British Columbia to learn to fly in the mountains. Messmer flew light, intermediate and medium helicopters in the mountains for various operators, and his Swiss heritage nurtured a passion for heli-skiing work.
The couple met in 2005 when working for another company, and founded Coast Mountain Helicopters Ltd. as a flight school in Campbell River in 2007 with a single Robinson R22.
“I always wanted my own business, and after meeting with Sheena I found a great business partner and wonderful wife at the same time. We complement each other in all aspects.” - Jean Marc Maessmer
Coast Mountain, the provincially incorporated flight school, had to change its name in 2011 when Ell and Messmer discovered there was a federally incorporated company with a similar name also in B.C.
In September 2011, 49 North received its commercial operating certificate and began flying in December for Skeena Heliskiing in northern B.C., for whom Messmer had previously flown as a contract pilot. For his first helicopter, Messmer selected a Soloy Aviation Solutions AS350 SD2 AStar.
In Campbell River, Ell continues to run the flying school (now renamed North 49 Helicopter Training Ltd.) and has hired new pilots to help with the instructing. Messmer still works as a contract pilot in the summers and winters. Their fleet now has four helicopters and the school attracts students from France, Germany, across Europe and around the world, all to learn to fly helicopters in Canada.
Excerpts from this page were modified from an 2012 article by Kenneth I. Swartz in Vertical Magazine