Enstrom Shutters Factory, Filing For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy


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.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. CGAG : China Green Agriculture, Inc.
    SEC CIK 0000857949
    Ticker: CGAG
    China Green Agriculture, Inc. is incorporated in the state of Nevada. China Green Agriculture, Inc is primarely in the business of agriculture chemicals.

    Another Cfius investigation?

  2. Sad to hear. I learned to fly in an F280C nearly 40 years ago, flying over 400 hours in one. The lower-cost and more economical Robinson R22 (and later, R44) overtook it in the UK. The Enstrom was twice the weight, had twice the fuel burn and cost much more to maintain, with that fully-articulated three-blade main rotor. It was very safe though and easy to land in autorotation.

  3. I’ve owned 2 Bell 47s, and a Hughes 300. I’ve owned an Enstrom F-28A for the past 26 years. The Enstrom has the best autorotation in the piston helicopter world–almost Jetranger in performance due to the heavy rotor. That same heavy rotor limits operation in confined areas, however. It is big and roomy inside, and unlike the Bell and the Hughes, has a baggage compartment. The IO-360 engine is reliable, and much easier to work on than the V-series engines on the Bell.

    Parts are cheap, compared to the rest of the helicopter world–and the factory gave good support. Here’s hoping that someone picks up the pieces.

  4. I am not a helicopter pilot but the Enstrom seemed to be a good machine. Sorry to see them shut down and those people lose their jobs. I am concerned about these Chinese companies buying our aviation resources. I guess is they didn’t Enstrom may have died earlier.

  5. “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'”.

    Uh, yeah, that’s not how bankruptcy works.

  6. Will General Aviation survive “the Green New Deal?” Can a $500K Cessna or Cirrus hold its value over the next 10 or 20 years? Will G/A be regulated out of existence? But I digress. This was supposed to be a reaction to Enstrom. :-/

  7. Perhaps we should retaliate–“Tit for Tat”–buy up any promising Chinese technology for production in the U.S.

    Anybody know of anything the Chinese have developed that is better than what has been developed in the U.S.? ANYBODY? ANYBODY?

    To flip the argument,

    If China was smart, they would have built the aircraft in China–used it domestically–and produced the FAA-approved parts and airframes locally with their labor advantage. Jobs for China–balance of payments advantage China–advancing labor technology market–selling an aircraft that is already U.S. and worldwide certified–and freedom from FAA bureaucracy and associated costs.