RkyMtnHI Posted September 6, 2013 Report Share Posted September 6, 2013 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: firstname.lastname@example.org aloha, dp Here’s a link to the photos: https://picasaweb.go...tromHelicopter# 3 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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