Born: Canada
Primarily active in: United States of America

1958 - 2021


Erik Oltheten, Bell Avionics Technical Fellow, was born on March 17, 1958. He grew up in Canada and graduated from McGill University as an electrical engineer in 1980. He started his career at the Canadian Marconi Company (now CMC Electronics) in 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 Senior Specialist. Oltheten 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.

Oltheten was the recipient of multiple Textron Chairman’s Awards for Innovation and the Lawrence D. Bell Pioneer Awards, for these efforts at Bell: BasiX Avionics Architecture, Embedded Flight Data Recorder, Power Situation Indicator (PSI), Generic Flight Control Computer and Signal Distribution Matrix. Oltheten was a named inventor on 20 Bell patents for innovation across multiple Bell aircraft platforms, and held key roles on multiple committees and working groups, including: FAA 5G Interference on Radar Altimeters, RTCA HTAWS and TCAS Working Group, GAMA Avionics and Electrical Subcommittee, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Amendments Rule-Making Support and the Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST) Technology Working Group.

Related to this last role, he was also a key advisor to the VFS Executive Director for helicopter avionics technology during the period of 2014–2021, particularly related to his support of the industry white paper on single-engine instrument flight rules (IFR) approval. Oltheten was a key advisor and force behind the white paper, created by the Airborne Electronics Association (AES), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Helicopter Association International (HAI) and VFS. His indefatigable efforts over six years of work with the FAA and multiple organizations resulted in the first single-engine IFR certification, was one of his largest contributions to the rotorcraft industry.

Bell collected remembrances of his colleagues, including these:
• “Erik mentored many engineers, interns, legal teams, sales/marketing folks and many others throughout his career to teach them about avionics.”
• “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.”

Oltheten was a regular technical paper author for the VFS Annual Forum, and also created numerous white papers and presentations for EASA, FAA, GAMA, HAI, the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) and Transport Canada.

Erik John Oltheten, 63, passed away November 18, 2021 as a result of a heart condition. Oltheten was a Technical Fellow at Bell Textron, where he had worked for 22 years and became a world-renowned avionics expert.

VFS is accepting contributions towards Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) scholarships in the name of these individuals. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation at

VFS Update: Vertiflite March/April 2022