Enstrom Helicopter is looking to establish dealerships in China, Russia and Brazil to exploit the growing demand for helicopters within these countries, according to a senior executive at the company.
The airframer, based in Menominee, Michigan, has seen civil sales of its single engine 280FX and 480B plummet over the past three years, prompted by the economic collapse of its largest market - the USA - and the decimation of the owner-flyer market.
"The US economic downturn has hit us hard," said Enstrom director of sales and marketing Tracy Biegler. "In 2008, this country accounted for up to 75% of our sales. We delivered around 30 aircraft a year then, of which just over 50% were for private owners."
This year, Enstrom is planning to deliver between 20 and 30 aircraft, around 90% of which are going to governments around the globe. "We have had to switch our focus to military markets, [where] we have had some success," Biegler said. "We have won contracts [for] our 480B turbine from the Royal Thai Army and the Japanese [Self-]Defence Force and are looking at a number of other countries who are looking at military helicopters for training purposes."
Enstrom is "going to ride the downturn" in the civil helicopter market, Biegler said. "We are already seeing signs of recovery. The inventory of used helicopters is shrinking and the prices are beginning to crawl back up again.
"In the meantime, we are actively looking to establish dealerships in the emerging countries of China, Brazil and Russia," he added. "Not only is there a market here from commercial operators and private owners, but [there is also one] from government and utility providers who are looking for western helicopters to provide essential functions such as police air support and powerline patrol."