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Enstrom Helicopter Factory Visit


RkyMtnHI
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I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the Enstrom Factory last month. I spent three days there touring the facilities and meeting with a ton of folks that plan to take Enstrom to another level. They let me fly the 480B, 280F, and see the original 480 that went up against the Schweizer 333 and Bell 206 for the Military Training Program, which the 206 won and the rest is history. I begged to fly that platform because it IS a piece of history, but it was down for an inspection and i had to leave. I would fly all the way back up there just to get time in it... just saying.



I too have wondered about why there are so few Enstroms out there, since many love the ship. I think it’s either a love or a hate relationship and don’t find many in-between. I suspect the hate part of the equation is related to operators that don’t maintain their aircraft well, and thus constant issues give the helicopters a bad name. The people that i know that do take care of their aircraft love them, and will tell you so. In our discussions we came up with solutions as to how to change that, and i was very impressed with all that i saw. They have a renewed focus and energy and i believe that they will change the way the industry looks at their helicopters. One of the things that came up was the fact that many of the flight schools that operate their helicopters are smaller, less funded and less focused on the big picture. I believe they will make moves to change that in the future. We also brought up that they MUST put their aircraft at larger schools with Robinson products if they want to take their rightful market share. It just doesn’t work to train pilots in only their platforms; as the product, the CFI, just isn’t marketable with only Enstrom time.



I’m sure some of you want to know about the 2 seat trainer.. “is it real and what will it be like”? I will tell you that i touched it, it is real, and they are certainly on the right track. They are going for the training market and if they continue on the path that i saw it will be an awesome ship. It will be lighter, a stronger non turbo engine, and will no doubt be a serious competitor with the Schewizer 300c.. in fact, in my humble opinion, it will blow it away, but that’s all i can tell you at this point. Timeframe? At least a year out as they are very busy with many projects at this time. On that note, and read clearly.. Sikorsky has NOT stopped making the 300c and will continue to sell them and support them. There are rumors out about them dropping the platform and that they were only interested in the ‘Skunk Works’ stuff, but that is NOT completely true. Yes they wanted the platforms that we don’t know about, but they are committed to the 300c as well. There were supply issues when they moved part of their factory, but we are seeing better parts availability and support. So i don’t see that platform going away any time soon and we are glad. That being said, it would be nice to see a ship that flew like a Schweizer and had maintenance properties and performed like a Robinson.. the best of both worlds (and don’t get me wrong by thinking i am saying anything negative about the Robbies, they are completely awesome and are the number one selling helicopter for a lot of reasons).



Back to Enstrom; i loved flying the 480B, and since i had just flown an AStar B3E the week before, was surprised at the cabin similarities. Since we were very close to sea level i can’t remark on the high altitude performance, and the ceilings were around 1500’ so we couldn’t do any power checks at altitude and that was a bummer for me, i wanted to know if what i had heard was true or not. The tail rotor efficiency is amazing, both in the 280 and 480, i hovered (a lot) in a 17kt tail wind and couldn’t even tell.. it was remarkable. The clutch in the 280 is very interesting, completely manual, but worked great as did the rest of the aircraft. Both were a lot like the 500 and/or 333 in that you had to fly with the trim, but that didn’t take long to get used to. I did not like the ‘Enstrom hop’, which was more prevalent on the 280 than the 480, but were definitely present on both. It was a significant shake during start up but went away after run up.. i guess you could get used to it but i think i’d spend some serious money in getting that out of the equation what ever it took.



It was very cool to see all of the energy and excitement about their future, and they have hired some first class folks to move them forward. They are doubling the size of their factory and looking down the road for a brighter future. Their CEO, Jerry Mullins, was very hospitable and completely transparent, something we try very hard to emulate at Heli-Ops, and i think that they are on the right track to be a strong competitor in the US. They already have market shares in other countries and hope to do the same here at home.



There were a number of questions i had for the factory team, things i had heard about the 480 over-heating and the issue of the exhaust being on the bottom of the ship and not being suitable for off-airport landings. They had addressed these and other issues long ago and i was impressed as to how straightforward they were about the issues and solutions. You can see the side panels on the 480 now have mesh inserts, and there are also vents on the bottom as well. They sold some ships to an African country where the temperature was over 105F all the time.. this was their solution and they have integrated it into all models now. They have an external cooling sheath on the turbine exhaust that pulls cool air into the exhaust flow and lowers the exhaust temp. They showed me a place where the 480 sat in a grassy area while they did a main rotor track and balance, it ran for over an hour off an on and the grass was just barely affected.



All in all i was impressed, and i think they are on the right track to take their company to another level. As you can see by the photos they were cranking out the helicopters and everyone seems happy and motivated... i for one look forward to their success.



Oh yeah, a friend of mine just bought a 480B to use privately in New Mexico and Colorado, i’ll get to fly it up here soon and get back to you about it’s performance as compared to other platforms at altitude. If you want more info about any of the above pm me here or at: dp@coloradoheliops.com



aloha,



dp



Here’s a link to the photos:


https://picasaweb.go...tromHelicopter#


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DP- As always, I agree with you! However, Sikorsky did stop making the 300Cb, and CBi versions, and now only manufacture the 300C model....that was just confirmed last week. What would make me a little nervous is the fact that the 300C sure isn't on Sikorsky's top 10 list of projects!

 

Best thing for owners would be for someone to step up like Scott's did on the 47 and take over the program.

 

If Enstrom bought out the 300 rights and just made parts available, they would have access to a whole bunch of owners looking to buy new helicopters, and make money on the parts sales in the meantime, and be seen by those owners as the "saviour" that keeps their 300 running until they are ready for that new 2 seater, 28, 280 or 480 model.......oh..and those same service centers that are buying the 300 parts? The good ones just became Enstrom service centers as well........Jerry, you listening?

Edited by Goldy
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First off I have a few hours in the 480! Not a bad ship at all. Never flown a piston Enstrom don't really care too.

Second off sounds like you had a great visit to the factory and they showed you the place well. Obviously heliops is looking to buy or the factory wouldn't let you fly the aircraft.

 

Last I love how you act like you have all this "inside" information your teasing everybody with about the new trainer. I'm sorry but you can't tell me the Enstrom factory told you information that isn't already out yet! Nobody in their right mind would tell a customer any news that their not ready to send out. So enough of the big secrets. Other than that great post and pictures

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Sorry for the confusion, the internet is like that and it's frustrating some times. I know that it keeps people from posing on this site that have tons of experience, not just in helicopters, but in lots of aspects of life, and that's one of the negatives of on line forums. Sometimes we post something sincerely and get punched in the stomach by someone that misinterprets our intention and then we never want to come back. I'm not saying this is how i feel about helipilotm's post, but this topic came up today in a phone conversation, and comes up a lot in fact. I know i sound like a wuss here, but it's not about me, but rather the folks with decades of experience that just won't put up with our bs and thus we lose them from the site completely, which is tragic.

 

helipilotm,

 

I had to go back thru my post and see what you were getting at, and i assume you are talking about my comment "but that's all i can tell you at this point" related to the new trainer. As i said, they were very open and transparent, they let me take photos of it, and talk to many different people that were involved with the project. They are very proud of it. They didn't act like they had any secrets at all about the trainer, in fact, they didn't seem to have any 'secrets' about anything, but they have so much going on i think they are a bit careful to not put out something that might change in the near future (they were however protective about the advances in the larger turbine they are working on, that is, they didn't tell me much about it, but they probably would have if i were to have pressed, and again, i think it was related to the fact that they are not completely sure how they will proceed on some issues, and we had so much to talk about we simply didn't have time to get into everything). I got more information from the different people there working on the trainer, but i just don't know what i should put out and how much of it is 100% decided. I also expect they will want to publish the photos and the facts themselves for the first time. So, out of respect and gratitude, i am refraining in that area. Also, if i post something that they decided to change, then i'm sure someone will get on here in the future and say 'see, i knew he was full of bs'. :-)

 

On another subject, something i forgot to talk about, in the past they worked on a four seat model to compete with the R44, i have photos of it too and will try to find them and post one. It looked like a Shark but with a longer cabin. I think it was before the 540s and they told me what engine it had in it but i can't remember. It was an interesting ship and, like the experimental 480, a piece of history. I think they had CG issues with it and shelved it for later. I hope they consider resurrecting it.

 

I didn't go there to buy a helicopter, we were working on other stuff, but i will most definitely be on the list for one of their new trainers, at least to give it a try. Part of the reason i went was to get answers to questions that i posted about, and to learn more about their platforms.

 

dp

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First off I have a few hours in the 480! Not a bad ship at all. Never flown a piston Enstrom don't really care too.

Second off sounds like you had a great visit to the factory and they showed you the place well. Obviously heliops is looking to buy or the factory wouldn't let you fly the aircraft.

 

Last I love how you act like you have all this "inside" information your teasing everybody with about the new trainer. I'm sorry but you can't tell me the Enstrom factory told you information that isn't already out yet! Nobody in their right mind would tell a customer any news that their not ready to send out. So enough of the big secrets. Other than that great post and pictures

 

You make so many statements that you put out as fact when you have no perception of what Enstrom's business agenda was with DP.

 

"Obviously looking to buy" -incorrect.

 

"Inside information" -incorrect again in this area.

 

"would tell a customer" -incorrect again

 

"No big secrets" -incorrect again, proprietary info given to DP but ethically not shared in this post. Ethically he did share here what he could that was not considered proprietary.

 

Amazing how someone without a clue calls someone out on an informational post!

 

"You can't tell me" -because you think you know and showed how incorrect someone can be.

Edited by Mikemv
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Well from someone who knows and loves Enstroms, great post DP! as for the keyboard commando element, you handle yourself worthy of a diplomat also...

 

I have met with and spoken with many of the staff from Enstrom, Bayard Dupont is a great guy as is Don Bachali, you are right, they are very knowledgeable people with a great attitute and are very proud of their ships.

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Sorry for the confusion, the internet is like that and it's frustrating some times. I know that it keeps people from posing on this site that have tons of experience, not just in helicopters, but in lots of aspects of life, and that's one of the negatives of on line forums. Sometimes we post something sincerely and get punched in the stomach by someone that misinterprets our intention and then we never want to come back. I'm not saying this is how i feel about helipilotm's post, but this topic came up today in a phone conversation, and comes up a lot in fact. I know i sound like a wuss here, but it's not about me, but rather the folks with decades of experience that just won't put up with our bs and thus we lose them from the site completely, which is tragic.

 

helipilotm,

 

I had to go back thru my post and see what you were getting at, and i assume you are talking about my comment "but that's all i can tell you at this point" related to the new trainer. As i said, they were very open and transparent, they let me take photos of it, and talk to many different people that were involved with the project. They are very proud of it. They didn't act like they had any secrets at all about the trainer, in fact, they didn't seem to have any 'secrets' about anything, but they have so much going on i think they are a bit careful to not put out something that might change in the near future (they were however protective about the advances in the larger turbine they are working on, that is, they didn't tell me much about it, but they probably would have if i were to have pressed, and again, i think it was related to the fact that they are not completely sure how they will proceed on some issues, and we had so much to talk about we simply didn't have time to get into everything). I got more information from the different people there working on the trainer, but i just don't know what i should put out and how much of it is 100% decided. I also expect they will want to publish the photos and the facts themselves for the first time. So, out of respect and gratitude, i am refraining in that area. Also, if i post something that they decided to change, then i'm sure someone will get on here in the future and say 'see, i knew he was full of bs'. :-)

 

On another subject, something i forgot to talk about, in the past they worked on a four seat model to compete with the R44, i have photos of it too and will try to find them and post one. It looked like a Shark but with a longer cabin. I think it was before the 540s and they told me what engine it had in it but i can't remember. It was an interesting ship and, like the experimental 480, a piece of history. I think they had CG issues with it and shelved it for later. I hope they consider resurrecting it.

 

I didn't go there to buy a helicopter, we were working on other stuff, but i will most definitely be on the list for one of their new trainers, at least to give it a try. Part of the reason i went was to get answers to questions that i posted about, and to learn more about their platforms.

 

dp

I went back and reread your post dp. I apologize for being hostile. After I reread your post I can see there was no secret. I'm sorry I hope no hard feelings. Edited by helipilotm
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I picked up a 280 in Salem, OR & flew it to the factory for service, I wondered around that place for 2 1/2 days, I too flew the 480, with Bill, nice ship. After repairs, I flew around Northern Mi a bit then on to Binghamton, NY & dropped the ship off to it's new owner. A few weeks later I went back & flew the 280 around the foot hills North of Binghamton for a few days. I have 80 hrs in the 280 & 800 in the Hughes 269. In fact, the 269 I have all those hours in was talked about a couple years back on this forum, it was for sale & someone said it was a piece of doodoo pulled from the bottom of the lake, it was the best 269/300 I ever flew & I have flown a couple new 300c's. I guess what I'm getting at is this, maybe the Enstrom will be a little cheaper to operate and someday maybe replace the 300c, that's a big MAYBE, but, the Enstrom does not stack up to the all mighty 269!!!

Just one more Helicopter Pilot's opinion. ( We all know there's not enough of these )

Happy Trails

 

P.S. Dennis, what did you think of the beautiful little town in the awesome Upper Mi that Enstrom calls home?

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One more thing, if some of the clowns out there would read a bit s-l-o-w-e-r......then maybe there would be a few less attacks on here. THINK before you speak!

 

That reminds me Dennis, think about your answer about Michigan's U.P.- that way I won't have to forum abuse you. ( I live here )

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"P.S. Dennis, what did you think of the beautiful little town in the awesome Upper Mi that Enstrom calls home?"



CopterKeith,



I really loved the visit, the food and the people. Everyone was really nice. It was green everywhere which was also cool. I was there the week after Oshkosh and the rental car agency was out of cars so they upgraded me to a new Cadillac.. it was nice, but i kept getting these glaring looks... a guy at the hotel told me it was due to the Illinois plates on the car. LOL



I was amazed at the real estate prices, in fact, they are unreal. I looked at a couple of properties, one that i really liked was on the Bay, huge, and under $300K. Here it would have been $500+ easy. They took me to a different places every day for meals, they were all awesome, the food especially. I especially liked seeing the older architecture and the boats on the water, sure made me miss Hawaii. I used to fall asleep listening to the sound of the rigging on the sailboat masts in the harbor.. funny how you miss things that you hardly noticed.



dp



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"P.S. Dennis, what did you think of the beautiful little town in the awesome Upper Mi that Enstrom calls home?"

CopterKeith,

I really loved the visit, the food and the people. Everyone was really nice. It was green everywhere which was also cool. I was there the week after Oshkosh and the rental car agency was out of cars so they upgraded me to a new Cadillac.. it was nice, but i kept getting these glaring looks... a guy at the hotel told me it was due to the Illinois plates on the car. LOL

I was amazed at the real estate prices, in fact, they are unreal. I looked at a couple of properties, one that i really liked was on the Bay, huge, and under $300K. Here it would have been $500+ easy. They took me to a different places every day for meals, they were all awesome, the food especially. I especially liked seeing the older architecture and the boats on the water, sure made me miss Hawaii. I used to fall asleep listening to the sound of the rigging on the sailboat masts in the harbor.. funny how you miss things that you hardly noticed.

dp

 

500K will get you a one bedroom condo in the SF valley section of L.A. !

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I am curious to see this new trainer. I agree with Goldy that the 300 may not be in production much longer. The CEO is quoted as saying that they will watch to see what the market will bare. I.E. We want to raise the price because of our overhead and if the market won't accept it we will discontinue it. My interpretation anyways. I also think it needs to be produced by someone else who will actually care about the aircraft and its market. Thanks for the pics and post dp.

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