Michigan-based Enstrom Helicopter has been acquired by a Chinese investment firm in a move aimed at helping the company grow in the rapidly developing Asian market.

The company has delivered 168 light helicopters over the past decade and has revealed plans to increase production rates in Menominee, Michigan, with capital provided by new owners Chongqing Helicopter Investment (CQHIC).

"This is a major step in moving Enstrom to a new level," says president Jerry Mullins.

The sale moves control from "one foreign owner to another", Enstrom says. The previous owner, who purchased Enstrom in 2000 from Segway inventor Dean Kamen, was never officially identified, but was reportedly a Swiss investor.

CQHIC acquires a manufacturer of two piston-powered aircraft - the F28F and the 280FX - and the 480B turbine-powered helicopter. The company has boosted staffing by 50% over 18 months as demand has picked up, particularly in Asian markets.

After delivering 17 helicopters in 2012, Enstrom has 25 helicopter orders on backlog, including four from China-based buyers, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

Enstrom, which was founded in 1975 by homebuilt helicopter designer Rudy Enstrom, becomes the latest US general aviation manufacturer to be bought by Chinese investors. It follows the acquisition of Cirrus and elements of Epic in 2011 by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft.

Source: Flight International