Enstrom Helicopter Corporation
|Headquarters||Menominee, Michigan, United States|
|CEO Tracy Biegler|
|Owner||Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co|
Number of employees
110 (July 2011)
The Enstrom Helicopter Corporation is a Chinese-owned design and manufacturing company, based at the Menominee-Marinette Twin County Airport (ICAO airport code: KMNM) in Michigan, United States. The company was founded in 1959 by mining engineer Rudolph J. "Rudy" Enstrom, initially as the R.J. Enstrom Corp..
Enstrom began by attempting to design his own helicopter. His lack of training in this area meant that his first efforts were not outstanding, but his efforts were noticed by local Upper Peninsula businessmen, who decided to back him. They recruited several experienced aeronautical engineers, and the group was incorporated as the R. J. Enstrom Co. (1959).
The company's first product was the piston-powered F-28 (1965). However, Enstrom had been removed from the company before that product came onto the market, although the company continued to carry his name.
In October 1968, a controlling interest in Enstrom was bought by Purex Industries, who wanted to develop a turbine powered version, something that didn't happen until over 20 years later. The lack of success with this venture led the piston-engined variants to languish, and the Purex stake was bought by F. Lee Bailey in January 1971, changing to the current name. Bailey was an enthusiastic entrepreneur, and soon had the factory producing over a hundred units per year. He also orchestrated the development and certification of the sleek 280 Shark, which came on the market in 1974. It was an immediate hit. Bailey, encouraged by this success, embarked on a four-place stretch version of the Shark (designated 280L Hawk). But the combination of technical problems with this development and a cooling economy drained the company's reserves, and Bailey sold the company in 1979. Since then it has changed hands several times. Owners have included Victor Kiam and Dean Kamen, developer of the Segway people-mover.
Kamen worked to improve the company's existing products and to introduce the turbine-powered 480, which was originally developed as a response to a request for bids on a military training helicopter. The company was sold to an unnamed Swiss investor in 2000; Kamen remained with the company as an advisor. In January 2013 the company was purchased by the Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co of the People's Republic of China.
Since delivering their first helicopter shortly after Federal Aviation Administration type certification of the F-28 model in April 1965, Enstrom Helicopter Corporation has produced over 1,100 helicopters (as of July 2011). However, the Great Recession considerably slowed its output; it built only six units in 2010. By early 2013 the company was expanding, having increased its Michigan workforce by 50% and planned to expand its physical facilities, due to increased sales, mostly in Asia.
The company produces three models, the F-28, the more aerodynamic 280 and the turbine-engined 480, each with their own variants. The F-28 and 280 are powered by Lycoming piston engines similar to those found in general aviation fixed-wing aircraft.
A hallmark of Enstrom's helicopter designs from the outset has been the lack of exposed pitch change links for the main rotor, as the mechanisms are contained inside the hollow main rotor shaft, lowering aerodynamic drag.
- Enstrom F-28 (piston engine)
- Enstrom TH180 - training (piston engine)
- Enstrom 280 (aerodynamically restyled F-28 )
- Enstrom 480 (turbine engine)
- BNET Profile: 
- Flying p. 65
- Grady, Mary (January 15, 2013). "Enstrom Helicopters Sold To Chinese Firm". AVweb. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Stephen Pope, Enstrom 480B, Flying, September 2011, pp. 60-65
- Enstom was self-employed as a heating contractor for 10 years after leaving the company that he helped to create. In 1979 he was named Chief Engineer of Hillman Helicopter (Phoenix, Arizona), but that company folded a few years later when its founder, Douglas Hillman, was killed while flying a test helicopter. Enstrom continued working on individual projects, but did not produce another marketable product. He died in 2007. (from Flying p. 63-64)
- Enstrom Website
- Flying, p. 64
- November 2008 Esquire Magazine
- The proposed military trainer would have been designated TH28. The company's proposal was not successful; Bell Helicopter won the bid. (Flying, p. 65)
- Newsletter EAA
- Rotor & Wing Magazine January 2010
- Flying, p. 63
- TH180 - Enstrom training helicopter