Investment from its new owner, Chongqing (China) Helicopter Investment Corporation (CQHIC), is giving Enstrom Helicopter of Menominee, Michigan (Hall 3 Stand A93) a strong tailwind, which is showing results on several fronts.
Over the past 18 months Enstrom has added more than 100 new employees, taking its employment to 165, and the company plans to add up to 200 more, according to Dennis Martin, Enstrom’s international sales and program manager. Tracy Biegler has been promoted to vice president and Orlando Alaniz has taken over as director of sales and marketing, after 34 years at Bell Helicopter.
After a groundbreaking ceremony on May 10, construction has begun on an $8 million, 77,000-sq-ft expansion that will double Enstrom’s current space and house new administration and engineering offices. “The expansion plans include installing new paint, gel-coat and sand-blast booths for component parts, as well as expanded manufacturing and flight line areas,” Martin explained. “The building will expand to the north and the west. A second-floor mezzanine will be built to house the engineering department.” The facility is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
On March 29, Enstrom received Type Certificate Number 74 from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) for the Enstrom model 480B. The application for certification was initially submitted to the JCAB in May 2012.
“Enstrom has enjoyed a lot of success in Japan over the years, including a recent sale of thirty 480B helicopters to the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force [JGSDF] for training,” said Martin. “With the civil type certification of the 480B now complete, we look forward to building upon that success. We feel the 480B’s combination of low cost of ownership, versatility and excellent safety record, along with the JGSDF pedigree, will make it very popular with commercial operators, flight schools and private owners in Japan.”
Martin told AIN that the first civilian 480B has already arrived in Japan. “The owner is a long-time Enstrom pilot who previously had a piston 280FX and is very excited to finally be getting a 480B,” he said. Enstrom’s representative in Japan, Aero Facility, is marketing the 480B to a number of civil operators in Japan.
“The JGSDF Trainer program has really raised the profile of the 480B in Japan, and now certification of the 480B has opened the door for civilians to have one of their own,” said Martin, who added that the 480B is certified in more than 25 countries. “We recently certified the 480B in Argentina,” he said, “and we are currently working on certifying it in Russia.”
At February’s Heli-Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, Enstrom announced it had selected the Garmin G1000H flight deck for the 480B. The G1000H integrates all primary flight information, navigation data, communications, terrain awareness, traffic, weather and engine parameters on two 10.4-inch, high-resolution displays. The new avionics suite has also caught the attention of Enstrom owners.
“In fact our launch customer was a previous Enstrom owner,” Martin said. “The economics of the 480B, along with the [capabilities of the] G1000H, proved to be the perfect combination for his needs.” A number of foreign military customers have also expressed interest in the G1000H-equipped 480B. “They use the G1000 system in their fixed-wing aircraft already,” said Martin, “and the commonality across different platforms is very attractive from a pilot training, procedures and maintenance point of view.”
The G1000H adds $155,000 to $180,000 to the cost of a new 480B, depending on the options chosen. “If you look at all the functionality it provides, it’s very cost competitive when compared to installing traditional individual radios, multi-function displays, flight instruments, and so on,” Martin said.
Unfortunately for current owners, the Garmin is not available. “At this point we have not looked at the retrofit market yet,” he explained. “We are concentrating on getting the G1000H certified and into production on new aircraft. At that point we’ll evaluate a kit for field installs.”
Enstrom manufactures the three-seat, piston-powered F28F and 280FX, which are popular training, sport and light commercial helicopters. The larger turbine-powered 480B is available as a three-place advanced trainer and patrol aircraft, a four-seat training helicopter or as a three- to five-place executive transport. For law enforcement applications, Enstrom markets the Guardian and Sentinel, optionally equipped variants of, respectively, the 480B and the F28F.
The company plans to deliver 32 helicopters this year and 45 next year, with much of that production destined for export to Asia.
Last August, Enstrom completed delivery of 16 480Bs to the Royal Thai Army. These were equipped with Cobham EFIS, dual Wulfsberg Electronics RT-5000 transceivers, Honeywell radar altimeters and dual electronic/analog flight instruments.
CQHIC bought 15 Enstroms in 2012 and is buying 15 more next year. The company has other Chinese customers as well. Enstrom and Isolair received Chinese certification for the Innovator II 3900-480 agricultural spray system last year for use on the 480 and 480B; customer Wuhan Helicopters operates both models.
Enstrom Helicopter has its stand in the U.S. Pavilion (Hall 3), but is not displaying any helicopters. Jerry Mullins, president and CEO, Biegler, Alaniz and Peter Parsinen, sales consultant, are representing the company here at the airshow.