Philanthropy to the (search and) rescue

Nov 15, 2013

Jordan White of Two Bear Air stands next to the organizations new Bell 429 rescue helicopter.
Credit Katrin Frye

It took private investment of more than $10-million to create Two Bear Air, a dedicated search and rescue air support service in the Flathead.

Former Flathead County Undersheriff Jordan White teamed up with Whitefish philanthropist Mike Goguen to create the non-profit. Goguen comes from a business background with a capital investment firm known for its support of entities like Google and YouTube.  Paying for Two Bear Air is one of several philanthropic investments he’s made in the Flathead.

White described the organization as privately funded for a public purpose.

“This philosophy of providing the right equipment, regardless of what some of the costs might be, but doing it for all of the right reasons, to save a life, is something that most agencies or organizations don’t have the luxury of,” White said.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s department coordinates most search and rescue operations in the greater Flathead. White is now the executive director of Two Bear Air, but as the Undersheriff he coordinated search and rescue efforts for the department. He said prior to Two Bear Air they would coordinate with local pilots, and with the ALERT medical helicopter out of Kalispell’s hospital when needed and possible.

White said he put himself through flight school and bought his own aircraft to try to address this problem.

“In doing those things on my own, just because I was extremely passionate about not losing another life that didn’t need to be lost just because we didn’t have the correct access or all the tools available to us,” White said. He began working with Goguen and they created Two Bear Air in 2011. The non-profit just brought a Bell 429 helicopter online. It’s outfitted with night vision in the cockpit, a camera that can spot temperature differences from overhead, and a hoist.               

The goal of the organization is to save time and energy, and ultimately lives.