Enstrom Helicopter Corp., founded in 1959, closed its factory in Menominee, Michigan, on Jan. 21 after announcing it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Citing “several financial difficulties” Dennis Martin, Enstrom’s director of sales and marketing, confirmed in a letter to employees and supporters that “all existing contracts and agreements [with the company] will become null and void” and that all the company’s employees, around 30, including senior management, were losing their jobs.
Enstrom Helicopter delivered more than 1,300 helicopters to customers in more than 50 countries around the world since it was founded by Rudy Enstrom. At its peak in the 1970s, Enstrom was producing more than 100 rotorcraft per year. Enstrom’s models included the turbine-powered 480B and piston-powered F-28F and 280FX models.
Previous owners of the company include celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey and Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and founder of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition for high school students. Ten years ago, CGAG of China acquired the company, investing $8 million to nearly double the factory’s footprint in Menominee. In 2013, Enstrom’s then-200 employees (up from fewer than 60 during the 2008 recession) produced 26 helicopters. The last two Enstrom helicopters were delivered to Peru’s air force in December.
In the letter, Martin wrote, “Enstrom’s management team is aware of multiple groups who have expressed strong interest in buying Enstrom’s assets and reopening the company post-bankruptcy. While we have no control over how and when this may happen, we feel that it is highly likely that a new Enstrom will be in a position to support you and your customers relatively quickly.”