MD Helicopters: Change For The Better

Avatar for Jen BoyerJen Boyer | May 8, 2023

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 56 seconds.

There’s a new sheriff in town and things in the world of MD Helicopters are changing for the better.

In August 2022, newly formed MD Helicopters LLC purchased the assets of MD Helicopters Inc., taking over management and production of the iconic helicopter line. Aerospace industry veteran Brad Pedersen stepped in as president and CEO, bringing more than 35 years of business growth experience to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

A former test pilot and program manager at MD Helicopters when it was under the ownership of McDonnell Douglas, Pedersen also served as a program manager at Sikorsky for multiple helicopter programs. From there, he stepped into the C-suite at several smaller aerospace companies as president and CEO where he led multiple successful turnarounds. He has brought this experience back to his roots.

“I enjoy working for big corporations, but what I love even more are the smaller companies where you can make decisions and take action quickly,” Pedersen said. “In a smaller company, you get to know who you’re working with, and you get to know your suppliers and customers on a first-name basis. You build relationships personally. I’d kept an eye on MD all these years, often thinking what I would do if I was able to take action. When I was approached for this position, it was a dream. This is my dream job where I can put all my knowledge and skills to work to strengthen a company I truly love — the company where I began my career.”

Pedersen hit the ground running in August. His priority was keeping MD customers flying through increased customer support. He wants MD to achieve a 95 percent (or more) spares fill rate within 24 hours of order. Recognizing the company’s past shortcomings, he hired Ryan Weeks as vice president of aftermarket. Weeks’ strong background in helicopter customer support built at Honeywell and Bell was a perfect fit to achieve this goal.

The company determined 1,700 MD aircraft are in the field today. After researching historical demand, a little over 700 unique part numbers were identified as required spares for those aircraft. The company is now working toward having these parts on hand.

Together, the two and their team, including vice president of global supply chain Mario Coracides and vice president of sales and marketing Jason Lindauer, have begun rebuilding relationships with suppliers and vendors. These leaders are visiting with and calling suppliers, while Coracides works to sign longer term agreements — a key step to help ensure a steady supply of parts.

“We recognize a number of customers and suppliers were not treated as they should have been, and we are taking that seriously,” Pedersen said. “I tell people we don’t deserve anything. We need to earn our reputation and the only way we’re going to do that is by being responsive, being predictable, and being understanding. We must listen to both our customers and suppliers and respond with actions that matter.”

The MD executive team visited more than two dozen suppliers and customers in the first three months and the feedback has been positive. Many suppliers noted this was the first time anyone from MD had ever visited. Customers have also taken notice.

“We really are making strides to affect real change by personally being more involved than in the past,” Pedersen said. “While we don’t expect the needle to move until maybe the third quarter because the effects of these changes take time, the feedback we’ve received already is very positive.”

Another of Pedersen’s high priority goals is reviewing MD Helicopters’ service centers to determine quality of support while also identifying where new service centers are needed to provide the best regional support to customers around the world. He sees opportunities to not only strengthen the system, but also grow it to meet customer demand.

Recognizing the need to stay cost competitive, Pedersen’s team is closely examining how to reduce costs. One step is implementing lean manufacturing principals on the production line. These steps will help reduce costs and free the company to develop enhancements for current aircraft and, eventually, new models, Pedersen said.

Concurrently, MD Helicopters is moving forward with product upgrades that deliver more utility to customers. In the past, MD had not embraced the parts manufacturer approval (PMA) market in a way that could benefit customers, Pedersen said. With today’s robust PMA market, he sees ample opportunity to partner with companies to provide the modernization enhancements customers need. The company is researching adding PMA parts as options or standard equipment on new aircraft, as well as exploring upgrade options.

“If you want a different change, you have to change to be different,” Peterson said. “This leadership team with deep expertise in aerospace is led by a diverse board of directors that balances aerospace expertise with financial and turnaround experience. We have the tools and we’re going to work.” 

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