HAI Convention News

Tilton: ‘Don’t bet against me’

 - February 25, 2008, 4:58 PM

MD Helicopters CEO Lynn Tilton is not one to mince words, and in her address at the company’s media conference here yesterday she made no exception.

The outspoken Tilton defended the company that she assumed control of in 2005 while taking to task naysayers and critics and outlining the most recent steps being taken to return MDHI to profitability.

When Tilton’s investment firm Patriarch Partners acquired MD Helicopters, the manufacturer might not have been belly up with a stake through its heart, but it was very close. At the time, and frequently since, industry insiders and some media have openly criticized the acquisition, and Tilton personally for some of her decisions.

Yesterday, Tilton was unapologetic and made her opinion clear with regard to the critics, whom she accused of failing to tell the truth. “It doesn’t hurt me,” she said. “But you hurt my company and you hurt my customers.

“Let me introduce you to the truth,” she added, offering up her own vision for the company’s future.

She described the new MD Power program, announced at Heli-Expo, as the best “comprehensive support plan [representing] a new standard in the industry.”
The plan covers parts for overhaul as well as scheduled and nonscheduled events. It is transferable to a new owner and maintains the aircraft “for all intents and purposes as a zero-time aircraft in perpetuity.” And Tilton added, “We will sell it to anyone in our installed base.”

MD has also created a separate department within its material support organization specifically for MD Power customers.

Describing MD as “the little engine that could,” Tilton went on to note a number of recent successes. Among them was the announcement at Heli-Expo of an order by California Shock Trauma Air Rescue (Calstar) for five new MD 902 emergency medical service helicopters. With options, the deal would expand to an additional 10 MD 902s over the next seven years.

The aircraft are to be delivered specially equipped for single-pilot instrument flight, night-vision compatibility and an advanced avionics safety suite.

Tilton said MD delivered 32 helicopters last year, a number that might have been 42 but for an unavailable Honeywell part that held up production. But she added that the company plans to deliver more than 60 helicopters this year, and that production will reach 10 aircraft a month in 2009 and deliveries should reach 100.

She said MD is actively moving to a vertical integration business model that is less dependent on suppliers. “Too much outsourcing creates complexity [and] we have to make it simple.” This, she explained, means forming strategic partnerships and reducing the number of suppliers from some 500 when she took over the company to about 50.

As for the rumored move away from Mesa, Ariz., Tilton said it remains in the plans, with the choice of relocation sites narrowed down to Arizona (not Mesa), Florida, Oklahoma and Texas.

In concluding, she described the MD Helicopters experience to date as “a long, hard journey [but] one that is not for the faint of heart [and] this industry is full of [cowards].”

As for those inclined to place bets, she warned, “Don’t bet against me.”