Enstrom seeks growth capital

 - September 29, 2006, 9:06 AM

Enstrom Helicopter Corp. president and CEO Jerry Mullins said yesterday that he is courting potential investors to support the company’s expansion plans, but that no firm commitments have been made.

“I’m looking for some capital to assist us with that,” he said. “We’re feeling really good about the exposure we’re getting finally,” he added.

With five helicopters on display here at Heli-Expo and a road show of its 480B police helicopter set to begin later this week, Enstrom is making marketing a priority. The company is planning to conduct demonstration flights in Addison tomorrow; a sign-up sheet is available at the Enstrom booth (No. 1331).

Mullins said that the company’s Menominee, Mich. plant has the capacity to produce 50 to 60 aircraft per year, roughly twice the output forecast for this year. “We’re building them up to the point of paint and avionics,” said Mullins, noting that customers can expect delivery of a new aircraft within 90 days of placing an order.

Next on tap for the production line is the 280FXT, a turbine trainer based on the fuselage of the existing piston 280FX. Mullins said Enstrom is waiting for Rolls-Royce to announce availability of a 300-shp turbine engine to power the 280FXT. The 420- to 715-shp Rolls-Royce Model 250 engine is currently installed on a variety of civil helicopters including the MD Helicopters MD500 and the Bell 430.

Rolls-Royce marketing director Matt Haugk told HAI Convention News that Rolls-Royce is “still in the study phase” of several new engines on the lower and higher end of the power spectrum than the company’s present offerings. Haugk said Schweizer and Eurocopter are among the helicopter manufacturers that have expressed an interest in an engine in the 300-shp range, but that the bulk of the demand has been for larger engines.