Enstrom Helicopter has a new owner. An ownership group that includes the owners of Midlothian, Texas-based MidTex Aviation has entered into an asset purchase agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of Enstrom Helicopter and plans to reopen it in mid-April, it was announced on Wednesday at Heli-Expo 2022. Customer service could be restored earlier via Enstrom’s existing repair station certificate, perhaps later this month.
The asset purchase agreement was approved on Tuesday by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan as part of Enstrom’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. After 64 years of near-continuous operation and building 1,300 helicopters, Enstrom filed for bankruptcy in January and said it would liquidate. MidTex (Booth 8206) expects to operate the helicopter manufacturer through a new entity, Enstrom Aerospace Industries.
“We are extremely excited about acquiring these assets, restarting the former Enstrom facility, and expanding the scope of the business," said MidTex principal Ken Griffin, who owns an Enstrom helicopter. "We already have a number of former Enstrom employees working with us on a contract basis. After closing, we expect to make job offers to a substantial number of former Enstrom employees.”
The new company’s first priority will be providing product support to existing customers while continuing to work on FAA approval of a crash-resistant fuel system for its new-build model 480B turbine single. Crash-resistant fuel tanks became mandatory in 2020.
A long-standing Enstrom employee told AIN that the company had been working with Safran on that system and that it was “80 percent there.” He said similar work had yet to begin on Enstrom’s piston models but that those helicopters were a lower priority as almost all are sold into the export market, which is not governed by the U.S. standard.
The new Enstrom Aerospace Industries will provide parts and support to existing owners, and eventually resume manufacturing new helicopters, according to Michael Dixon, former Enstrom managing director of support, who left the company in 2018. In addition, the new company plans to expand into providing engineering services and component manufacturing for other OEMs and will offer services to the nascent eVTOL/advanced air mobility industry.
Upon closing, MidTex will acquire all of the former Enstrom parts, owned aircraft, tooling, materials, drawings, intellectual property, factory buildings, and airport lease. "We'll be going after all our markets pretty hard," he said.
Dixon, who is also aviation manager for MidTex, said acquiring the helicopter OEM’s assets were “just too good of an opportunity to pass up.” He added that Enstrom Aerospace Industries will remain in the company's historic Menominee, Michigan location. "The Enstrom know-how is in Michigan," he said. "We want to be a leader in this industry."
A source close to the transaction told AIN, “The court and the [bankruptcy trustee] realized Enstrom had more value as a going concern” as opposed to being liquidated for its component parts.