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Enstrom leadership at the manufacturer's booth at HAI Heli-Expo 2024. Brent Bundy Photo

Enstrom set for first deliveries under new ownership

By Oliver Johnson | February 28, 2024

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 11 seconds.

Enstrom president and CEO Todd Tetzlaff said 2023 was a year of “huge growth,” with the resurrected Menominee, Michigan, manufacturer set to soon deliver its first aircraft under its new ownership.

Tetzlaff, speaking during the first day of HAI Heli-Expo, said the company had gone from under 100 employees one year ago to almost 160 today, with a 50 percent increase in its engineering department.

“That did not come easy,” he said. “We had to pull out all the stops, change our strategies, change our tactics to enable us to get some [more] quality folks in engineering.”

This is much needed growth given the scope of the company’s ambition to introduce a raft of product upgrades.

One of the most crucial is the certification of crash resistant fuel systems (CRFS) for the 480B and 280FX.

“We are very near to submitting the final documentation required for certification [for the 480B],” said Tetzlaff. “Those documents will go out in the next two weeks. The piston [280FX] activity is also strong. We are working on the first for credit testing of the piston CFRS. That will be done this spring.”

The certification of the CRFS will allow the company to begin selling the aircraft in the U.S.

“That’s the big ticket item for ree-merging in the States,” he said. “Until those CRFS systems are nailed in, we’re not attacking sales [in the U.S.]”

The aircraft on display at the show included full glass cockpits, and the certification efforts on those are ongoing, said Tetzlaff, but have been hampered by supply chain issues.

“But we are making great strides in getting those units certified and the installation certified,” he said.

At the show, the company announced several major new projects, including the development of air conditioning systems for 280FX and F28 in partnership with Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems.

A three-axis autopilot is also in the works with Genesys Aerosystems for the 480B, with a target certification date by the end of this year. The system will available for installation in new aircraft and as a kit for retrofit.

Tetzlaff said the company has “made a lot of progress” over the last year with the supply chain issues that are being felt across aerospace.

A refurbishment of the manufacturing facility has included the installation of new equipment, and new processes put in place.

Enstrom recently regained its part 145 repair station approval.

“That effort took over a year of effort in coordination with the FAA, and it was very fruitful,” said Tetzlaff. “We didn’t just meet their requirements, we exceeded them, and that was a very proud moment for us. And it’s already starting to show in how we’re able to support our customers.”

In March, the company is set to deliver its first two aircraft since its reopening — two 480Bs to the Zambian air force.

It recently announced an order of four aircraft for Peru — two each to the army and air force — and Tetzlaff said the military training market continued to be a strong source of orders for Enstrom.

The company has a backlog of 10 orders, and Tetzlaff said it will aim to deliver those “as quickly as we can.”

“For 2024, we’re committed to re-energizing our products, our brand, and recommitting our efforts to support our customers,” he said. “Enstrom is here for the long haul, and we’re excited to be here.”

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