Bell honors the legacy of Erik Oltheten.
A STATEMENT FROM Bell flight | Dec 2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Erik Oltheten, our beloved friend, coworker, inventor, Tech Fellow and world-renowned avionics expert.  Erik invested 22 years at Bell and was known across the industry for his innovative mindset and deep knowledge of certification requirements for rotorcraft avionics.  Erik is survived by his first wife Tina and their two sons Adam and Owen.

Erik enjoyed telling others that he had a real passion for avionics as a boy and he knew he wanted to become an avionics engineer at 8 years old!  He certainly achieved that boyhood dream, and what an amazing engineer he became!  He grew up in Canada and graduated from McGill University as an Electrical Engineer in 1980.  He started his career at Marconi – Montreal as a Project Engineer for the AH-1W TOW Hellfire System.  He moved to Ft Worth in 1997 to work at Elbit Systems designing Avionics Displays and in 1998 he transferred to Bell to become an Avionics Sr Specialist.  Erik quickly advanced at Bell, rising to the highest engineering level of Technical Fellow for Avionics Systems in 2009 and stayed in this role for the rest of his career.

Erik’s accomplishments and recognitions were numerous:

  • Recipient of multiple Textron Chairman’s Awards and LD Bell Innovation Awards:
    • Bell BasiX Avionics Architecture
    • Bell Embedded Flight Data Recorder
    • Bell Power Situation Indicator (PSI)
    • Bell Generic Flight Control Computer
    • Bell Signal Distribution Matrix
  • Key roles on multiple committees and working groups:
    • FAA 5g Interference on RADALTs
    • RTCA HTAWS and TCAS Working Group
    • GAMA Avionics and Electrical Subcommittee
    • Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST) Working Group
    • EASA Amendments Rule-Making Support
  • Over 20 Bell Patents for innovation across multiple Bell aircraft platforms
  • Multiple white papers and presentations for HAI, NBAA, GAMA, AHS, FAA, TCCA and EASA

Erik on his way to Oshkosh in 2018—enjoying his favorite hobby

Beyond Erik’s accomplishments, his impact on the industry, Bell and his peers are best captured from the many comments that his coworkers shared after his passing:

  • Erik was everything a Tech Fellow should be: He was an industry expert in his field, he was extremely innovative, he knew what the competition was doing and used it to advance designs for the benefit of the avionics industry.
  • Erik mentored many engineers, interns, legal teams, sales/marketing folks and many others throughout his career to teach them about avionics. He was famous for his 9-hour tech talk which he presented over a 9 week series every year.  His teaching and mentoring was given to Bell engineers in the U.S., Canada and India.  Erik loved to explain how the Bell avionic systems worked (in great detail) and was always ready to help others learn.
  • Erik showed tremendous patience to those he mentored (but less patience to the certification authorities 😊).
  • When attending trade shows, Erik had the unique ability to look inside any aircraft and immediately identify every piece of equipment by manufacturer, understand the display formats, and be able to state the pros and cons of that particular architecture….and he would remember the architecture forever!
  • I remember when Erik came to Bell in 1998 and I quickly learned that he was one of the smartest guys I have ever had the privilege to work with.
  • Erik was a master at systems design. He was able to take basic block diagrams and in no time, put together a brilliant set of systems.
  • Erik had a way of explaining himself which sometimes came across as arrogant, but those who worked closely with him discovered quickly that he was always right…and on the rare occasion that he was not right, he quickly made it right.
  • Erik’s most shining accomplishment was highlighted by both HAI and the FAA when they stated that Erik’s initiation and perseverance over 6 years of work with the FAA and multiple committees to achieve the single engine IFR certification, was one of his largest contributions to the rotorcraft industry.

Michael Thacker, EVP of Bell Commercial and Innovation Business stated it well at the Bell memorial gathering “Erik was truly a world-renowned expert on rotorcraft avionics.  We are a better company and a better industry because of his innovative and passionate contributions, and he will be profoundly missed”.

If anyone would like to honor the memory of Erik, gifts can be donated to the Edward Pierce Center for Autism (EPCA) through their website  Erik helped his fiancé (Tracy) to create this 501c3 organization which is named after her 9 year old autistic son Eddie.  Erik was very close to Eddie and had a deep connection and love for him.

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