HAI Convention News

 - September 28, 2006, 1:43 PM

Heli-Mart president Don Nichols is known to be always on the lookout for buyers of his company’s stock of parts and accessories. At this year’s Heli-Expo, he has added an inventory of helicopters to the fold as well.

The Costa Mesa, Calif. company recently purchased nine 1991 through 2001 MD 520Ns and one 1974 Schweizer 300C from the Phoenix Police Department. Along with the helicopters, the deal included a $2 million inventory of spare parts that spans engines, avionics, ground support equipment and tools.

“We expect news of our expanded inventory will be very well received by operators around the world,” Nichols said. “They rely on us to get them the parts they need, when they need them, and this acquisition further enhances our position as the go-to guys for helicopter spares.”

Outside of the stocks available through the OEMs, Nichols said Heli-Mart has the world’s largest inventory of spares for MD Helicopters and a wide range of parts for Agusta, Bell and Eurocopter models.

Nichols’ aviation career started in the U.S. Navy, flying F-6F fighters in Korea, and when the Navy offered him an opportunity to train in helicopters, he took it. Back in Los Angeles after returning to civilian life, he first put his new skills to work flying the broadcast traffic beat and then for a helicopter manufacturer for 13 years.

“I originally started Heli-Mart in 1973 as a publication with the idea of being a kind of Trade-A-Plane for helicopters,” he explained. “That turned out to be more work than I thought it would be, what with constant deadlines and such, but it generated a lot of leads and sales information, so I went into brokering and then later–when I had a little more money–buying and selling helicopters.”

As the business grew, of necessity the company added spare parts and accessories to the business plan and Nichols found that this was what he and the handful of employees he’d hired did best. As an increase in competition for helicopter sales began to change the market, Heli-Mart moved further toward what he said he considers the relative simplicity of the supply side.

Since the transition, Heli-Mart hasn’t routinely concentrated on helicopter sales–although it did market a single unit last year–and Nichols said this year should be a good one, especially due to the acquisition of the Phoenix police helos.

“We’re looking to sell these aircraft individually,” Nichols said, “but we would sell them as a fleet, especially to a law enforcement agency.”

None of the 10 helicopters Heli-Mart bought in December are on display here at Heli-Expo. The aircraft are currently at Falcon Field in Mesa, Ariz., but the company’s new and serviceable aftermarket parts, accessories and components–including many hard-to-find items–is its focus on the convention floor.

Heli-Mart is displaying a range of accessory and ground support equipment, while its wholly owned subsidiary California Aero Components (CAC) is focusing on examples of its transmission and component overhaul and repair work.

CAC is an FAA-approved repair station and JAR 145-certified to overhaul components on MD 500-series helicopters, Schweizers and other makes, and maintains an extensive inventory of overhauled components. It has a full machine shop with five technicians and specializes in overhauls of transmissions, dampers, parts of rotor heads and uni-locks.

At Heli-Expo’06, Heli-Mart and CAC are located in Booth No. 1431. The rest of the year, Nichols and his 19 employees can be found on what he terms “the Costa Mesa side” of John Wayne Orange County Airport in San Jose, Calif.