Enstrom Gets Ability To Resume Helicopter Production

The legacy rotorcraft OEM acquired its production certificate from the FAA this week.

Though it has been building parts for months now, Enstrom can now resume the manufacture and delivery of new helicopters under the production certificate granted this week by the FAA.

In a ceremony at the FAA’s Minneapolis MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office), Enstrom’s vice president of operations Doug Smith received production certificate No. 26CE. Included in the authorization is the disposition to manufacture parts for all models of Enstrom helicopters.

The milestone marks a coming full circle for the manufacturer, which filed for bankruptcy 11 months ago, as it struggled to make money—owing to a slumping market during the pandemic. Shuttering its factory doors on January 21, the company looked like it would end its 64-year run.

A Fortunate Sale—and Turnaround

Help was on its way, however, when Indiana-based entrepreneur Chuck Surack purchased Enstrom’s assets in May. Surack Enterprises also owns Sweet Helicopters, which provides helicopter service to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, among other aviation businesses.

“I am so proud of the team at Enstrom,” said Surack, a helicopter pilot and owner of an Enstrom 480B. “To go from where we started to receiving a [production certificate] in only six months is just incredible. 

“We are on pace to start delivering helicopters this spring, and in fact the first new Enstroms are already coming down the line!”

“This is really a testament to the relationship that Doug and Bill Taylor (Enstrom’s vice president of engineering) have with the FAA,” said Matt Francour, Enstrom’s CEO. “It was a tremendous amount of work, but with their experience and knowledge we were able to get it completed in record time. 

“We had been building parts for the last six months under our type certificate holder authorization, which allowed us to support our customers, but with the PC in hand now we can start approving parts under our normal processes, which will really speed things up.”

Collaborative Effort with FAA

Gary Bockman, FAA Senior Aviation Safety Inspector (SASI) at the Minneapolis MIDO, presented the production certificate to Enstrom’s Smith. “I’ve been working with Gary for 9 years, and while he has always been by the book and held us to account, he and everyone at the MIDO have also always spared no effort to support us,” said Smith. “The FAA has been a true partner, and together we’ve made Enstrom stronger and our aircraft safer.”

The event took place on a special day for Bockman, as it was his last before his retirement from the agency. “On behalf of everyone at Enstrom, I want to wish Gary all the best in retirement,” said Smith. “He’ll be missed.”

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