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The Enchanting Enstrom

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  • The Enchanting Enstrom

    As many will know, the undersigned was instrumental in bringing the Enstrom 28A to Europe in the early 1970's.

    My first flight in the type was when my boss, Roy Spooner, turned-up at Fairoaks Airport one summer day in ... (and for the reggie buffs) G-AVUK. I think her serial number was in the 040s. I immediately jumped in to try her out ... and there was me thinking that as an ex Royal Air Force guy, I'd just learn the required control handling right away. Mistake ... BIG ... of course I soon realised some very special handling and additional thinking went with the new territory.

    Hence I fancied starting this dedicated thread for the type. Hopefully for some general chat, a little history and perhaps technical advice. I suppose that out of my 13,500 hours around 6,000 are on the Enstrom 28s and 280s and, as I approach retirement, I'd like to hand back some of that experience to the new guys.

    I have form on the subject having introduced one of the early owners to his very English wife, the lovely Linda. F Lee Baily, was in fact, an USA military pilot who became a noted Defense Attorny having represented the famous Ernest Medina of Lea Mai massacre fame. Medina was acquitted while his superior who gave the orders, Lt Calley was convicted. Lee Bailey promptly hired Medina as his VP of his sales division. Some time later I'll tell the story of Medina's threated action for dealers who were not prepared to 'sign up' for the new Enstrom 480! Hold the front page!

    Bye for now guys & gals. Dennis K.

  • #2
    Great stuff! Looking forward to learning more about this delightful helicopter with which you are so famously associated.

    Starting at the beginning .. I suppose it would be in order to provide a brief summary of Enstrom Helicopters. Please offer your corrections and comments Denissimo!

    Early Days

    In the 1940's an iron-mining mechanic by the name of Rudy Enstrom, equipped with little more than a passion to pursue vertical flight, began designing and constructing home-built helicopter prototypes. By 1957 these prototypes had advanced sufficiently for Enstrom to be able to invite a collection of local businessmen and potential investors to a quarry in Crystal Falls, Michigan, from where he demonstrated his gravity-defying contraption.

    Those invited were sufficiently impressed with Enstrom's work to commit to its further development and which, with the backing of a group of investors from Michigan's Upper Peninsula region, led to the incorporation of the 'R.J. Enstrom Company' in 1959 for the purpose of formally developing Enstrom's design.

    Founder Rudy Enstrom with President Jack Christensen and Salesman Fred Hill in N195D, a two-bladed experimental helicopter designated as the F-27, as seen in October 1960. (Photo taken by Enstrom Engineer Al Ballauer)

    On 12th November 1960 Rudy Enstrom test flew a two-bladed experimental helicopter, designated the F-27, which represented the accumulation of his ongoing design improvements. The aircraft was registered as N195D and would serve as the prototype for the company's first production helicopter the F-28.

    The F-28 first flew in 1962 and received FAA type certification in April 1965 by which time Enstrom's investors had assumed management of the company with, sadly, Enstrom himself no longer being involved.

    An Enstrom F-28A N4893 (cn 045) as seen at Hilsboro Airport, Oregon in November 1969 (Photo: Ron Dupas)

    In October 1968 the controlling interest in Enstrom was bought by Purex Industries who made the company a subsidiary of their Pacific Airmotive division. Purex were interested in developing a turbine-powered helicopter and, in addition to producing a new turbo-charged version of the F-28, the 'B' model, also experimented with a turbine version, the T-28. However, this never entered production.

    The Lee Bailey Years

    Under Purex, and with their priority of developing a turbine-powered aircraft unrealised, Enstrom's commercial performance lagged during the late 60's. Then, in January 1971, the company was bought by F. Lee Bailey who changed the company to its present name - the Enstrom Helicopter Corporation. Bailey was an enthusiastic entrepreneur and, before long, had the factory turning-out over a hundred units per year with the 500th example of the F-28 being delivered in June 1977.

    Bailey additionally orchestrated the development and certification of the new sleek-looking 280 Enstrom 'Shark' which came to market in 1974 and was an immediate success.

    Enstrom's successful 'Shark' helicopter: Skyline Helicopters Enstrom 280C Turbo Shark G-WSKY as seen at Cranfield on 3rd September 1983 (Photo: Derek Heley). This aircraft was Formerly G-BEEK

    Encouraged by the reception of the Shark, Bailey embarked on the development of a four-place design which was designated the 280L 'Hawk'. However, a combination of technical challenges and limited resources meant that this project was never completed. Bailey went on to sell the company in 1979.

    The Enstrom 280L 'Hawk' (Photo: Dennis Kenyon's Personal Collection)

    The Changing of Hands and Current Owners

    Since Lee Bailey's tenure of the company, Enstrom has changed hands several times. Owners have included Victor Kiam and Dean Kamen (developer of the Segway people-mover). Kamen actively sought to improve the company's existing product line and was responsible for introducing Enstrom's first turbine-powered production aircraft, the 480, initially developed as a military traininer.

    In the year 2000 Enstrom was sold to an unnamed Swiss investor, with Kamen retained in an advisory capacity. In January 2013 the company was purchased by its current owners, the Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co. of the People's Republic of China.

    The new Enstrom Corporation


    • Adrian Batchelor
      Adrian Batchelor commented
      Editing a comment
      Got to say that the Hawk is stunning looking helicopter very impressive , i know nothing about this particular type at all , its a pity that this never made it into our sky`s ,i would have thought that it would have sold well.

  • #3
    Hi all Enstrom fans ... perhaps not so many now that the Torrance guys are turning out 22's & 44s like shelled peas. But its lovely to see the sleek Enstrom FX posing alongside a Chinese model! Courtesy of the new owners .... The Chongquing Investment Corporation.

    So a few more titbits of history. Savoia has shown us the very first Enstrom 27 but somewhere in my files I have a picture of the wheeled version and still two blades. The Menonminee factory built just the one. I'll have it posted. Also to add to the above history ... yes the 500th Enstrom 280C model left the factory in 1977 on its way to me at Shoreham and as I sit here tapping away for Aviafora, above me is the painting commissioned by EHC to mark the occasion. Its an overhead shot of my Farnborough display that year.

    I enjoyed many happy days working with the guys at Menominee and over the years of 1972 to 1983, my firm sold no less than 138 new & used versions. AND another factor that has to be recorded is that in 45 years of UK operations, there has never been a single fatality in an Enstrom. An enviable record so I touch my forelock as I write the words.

    The early 28A 'flat nosed' models were normally aspirated and not the mightiest performers. Sadly, and as you will often hear quoted by an 'armchair expert' ... "the type is underpowered". Not quite correct of course, since the lusty old Lycoming 360 cubic inch engine produced 205 bhp. The problem was the type was overweight and I suggested so many times that a good 'weight reduction' programme would solve the problem. As is known, the factory went in a different direction and added a RayJay exhaust gas driven turbo charger at 36.5 boost pressure and announced the new engine could deliver ... wait for it. 205BHP!! No doubt a certification woble ... but whatever, the ROC improved by 500 fpm to give 1250. The latest FX with 39 boost pressure hits 1475 fpm. At the same time, Greg Focella, the industrial cosmetic designer was called in to 'sex up' the shape and so the sleeker Shark shape was born. In fact in 1976, the type won the USA Fortune magazine's 'best designed product of the year'!

    I've tons more to cover for the interested and will close by saying the Enstrom IS a great performer and has twice won the 'Freestyle' section of the World Helicopter Championships! So it goes without saying, I'm still a supporter.

    Take care all Avia flyers!

    Dennis Kenyon.


    • #4
      Great to have the 'inside track' on these events Denissimo!

      Originally posted by Dennis Kenyon View Post
      My first flight in the type was when my boss, Roy Spooner, turned-up at Fairoaks Airport one summer day in G-AVUK. I think her serial number was in the 040s.
      Certainly 'within' the first 40. She was in fact serial no. 12:

      Spooner Aviation Enstrom F-28A G-AVUK (cn: 12) as seen at Biggin Hill Aerodrome on 20th May 1972 (Photo: Stephen Rendle)

      This is quite possibly the colour scheme G-AVUK would have been wearing when Denissimo first flew her at Fairoaks.

      The craft was originally delivered to Twyford Moors helicopters in September 1967.


      • #5
        Posted on behalf of Denissimo:

        Twyford Moors Enstrom F-28A G-AVUK as seen at Southampton Heliport c. late 60's-early 70's (Photo: Dennis Kenyon's Personal Collection)

        Denissimo says:

        In the group picture you can see that wonderful gentleman, Captain Ken Reid who joined the CAA on leaving the service. The pictures were taken at Southampton Heliport (1968 - 1972) which had a flying school operating over the Solent in those days! The CAA wouldn't accept that now. I flew with Ken many times while obtaining UK certification of the Enstrom types. Ken ALWAYS wore a black bow tie of course.

        The more portly gentleman I feel sure is a co director of Twyford Moors, being Frank Mitchell and I'm trying to recall the third TM director, but it will come to me at some stage. He had a helipad on the River Thames on the north bank just east of the present London City Airport. I landed there on several occasions as did the Met Police for a while.


        • #6
          Hi Avia guys & gals ... I think the guy with his back to us and the baldish patch, may well have been Roland Absolum. His lovely daughter Gay was the very first English lady to hold a CAA Commercial Licence. Gay flew the Enstrom Turbo Shark, G-PALS for my firm when shooting the TV series "To the Manor Born"

          I still cannot think up the name of Twyford's third Director. Any one on here help?

          Another very early Enstrom 28A owner was the Jecco business owner, Sam MacDonald Hall. I seem to remember he paid around £25k for G-BAAU and promptly spent another £10k installing what was then the latest Decca 'Danec 10' navigation system. He later acquired a Hughes 500C from my firm.

          And for those who might not know, although the non turbo-charged Enstrom A model was a heavy old beastie, in 1973 at Middle Wallop, that little item never stopped Mike Meger winning the World Helicopter 'Freestyle' Championships in G-BAHU.

          These days there is very little competition for the 'Freestyle' title but in 1973, Mike saw off, the Russians, American and the British ... the Germans, Belgium, South Africans, and the French. I was a 100 hour rotary man then but recall at the close of Mike's display, even the judges stood up to clap.

          Later on the final day of the championships, a posh dinner was held at the Chewton Glen hotel. There I did my best to make friends on the dance floor with the Russian woman's world champion, the lovely Tamara Ergorkina. She must be close to my age now but is still serving as a WHC Judge.

          More Enstrom tit bits on request.

          Safe flying to all!

          Dennis Kenyon.


          • #7
            Bravo Denissimo !! Most interesting.

            Originally posted by Dennis Kenyon View Post
            I think the guy with his back to us and the baldish patch, may well have been Roland Absolum.
            I suspect you may well be right.

            Here's a wee clip of Roland flying a Brantly B-2B (G-ASXD) in 1965:

            Originally posted by Dennis Kenyon View Post
            Gay flew the Enstrom Turbo Shark, G-PALS for my firm when shooting the TV series "To the Manor Born"
            And here's a (slightly blurred) screen shot of G-PALS as she appeared on the programme:

            G-PALS as she appeared on 'To the Manor Born' and seen here with Peter Bowles and Penelope Keith


            • #8
              VIKI Helicopter - based on an Enstrom fuselage !

              Wonder if DK has seen this or knows anything about it ???


              • #9
                Elipix .. Denissimo writes:

                Originally emailed by Dennis Kenyon

                As best I can recall, an American enthusiast with some heavy engineering experience was using an F28 airframe to put together his own design.

                Enstrom F28-A G-BBHD as seen at Cranfield Aerodrome on 3rd September 1977 (Photo: Keith Sowter)

                This craft may have been accompanying Denissimo at Cranfiled '77. I believe he would have sold her to Suttons Helicopters of Lancashire before she joined Auto-Alloys in 1976. She seems to have been imported in 1973 and I think The Maestro may have sold her on to David George in 1978 or .. that DG took 'HD' in part-ex for a Hughes 500!


                • #10
                  Enstrom`s at Oxford

                  Seen at Oxford Kidlington on one of my very lucky visits during 1985 I was offered a trip out with a good friend who was finishing off trimming work on a fixed-wing aircraft. Basically managed to get round the whole airfield with my camera and not asked once what I was doing A fantastic day.

                  Tucked away in one of Kidlingtons many hangers were this pair of Enstroms. The first is the ill-fated G-BALE an F28A-UK c/n 119 seen in the colours of Reynard Racing Cars, this was later involved in a fatal incident at Thruxton Aerodrome where a parachutist was killed during a parachute drop where the parachutist hit the main rotor blades and was killed instantly. The Enstrom itself was damaged beyond economical repair and written off on the 9th August 1987.

                  Also the CSE Aviation owned G-BBXO F28A-UK c/n 181, originally sold through Spooner`s at Shoreham to CSE and which would later would return to Shoreham to join Southern Air.

                  Last edited by Adrian Batchelor; 28th December 2015, 22:25.


                  • Savoia
                    Savoia commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Nice shots Adrian!

                    I'm sure Denissimo would have something to tell us about these craft.

                • #11
                  Enstrom 280 Shark on Ebay

                  CN: 1013
                  TT: 472
                  • Last flew in 1984 and hangered since
                  • This Helicopter has been evaluated by an Enstrom dealer. Copy of the report can be provided along with a copy of the log book



                  • #12
                    Having just surfaced from deepest and darkest light helicopter land, can I add a note or two concerning my time with that wonderful entrepreneur, Roy Spooner. Roy founded the Spoonair Group initially at Fairoaks and asked if I would join him. With my selling boots on, I was whisked off to Menominee Airfield on the Michigan .. Wisconsin state line. There I spotted my first ever Enstrom. Enstrom's Chief Pilot was the genial Mike Meger. (Mike won the second ever World Helicopter 'freestyle' event in 1973 using serial number 124, UK Reg G-BASB.) Mike took me under his wing to make my first ever sales demonstration flight so to impress my new boss. It worked 'cos Roy promptly placed an order for no less than twelve ships to be delivered at one per month.

                    Back in the UK I just pretended I was selling cars and fortunately for me the first few buyers already had rotary licences. I recall selling serial 92 to Sam McDonald Hall, 94 to the builder Bill Spear with 97 to a Mr Howes. Bill Morley purchased 103 with 123 & 124 going to David Mappin and Walter Holmes respectively. And I still couldn't fly the beasties. Mike Hughes became our 7th customer all within the space of a few months, so my boss had surely spotted a niche in the market and promptly returned to the factory where he ordered another 12 ships. By now it became obvious I needed to fly rotary. At this point I was introduced to that lovely ex-AAC gentleman being Bill Bailey of Westland Scout fame. Bill soon had me off solo and with immediate thoughts of copying Mike Meger's superb display handling, I set out to gain some serious helicopter handling.

                    In the opening years of the Spoonair sales dealership, and armed with my new commercial rotary licence, we made the sale of 27 A models in the two years which actually constituted some 25% of the entire factory production. In 1975 the innovative 280 Shark model appeared at serial number 1000. Now sales really got going, but that in itself is another story.

                    PS It would be super to hear from others who had some association with the early times of the Enstrom.

                    Happy & safe flying to all.

                    Dennis Kenyon.


                    • #13
                      Enstrom Serial No.92 - G-BAAU

                      Enstrom serial No. 94 - G-BACH

                      Photos from HELIPIXMAN Collection


                      • #14
                        Enstrom serial No.97 - G-BAIB

                        Enstrom Serial No.103 - G-BAHU

                        Photos from HELIPIXMAN Collection
                        Last edited by Helipixman; 13th March 2017, 20:47.


                        • #15
                          Enstrom serial No.113 - G-BASV

                          Enstrom serial No. 119 - G-BALE

                          Photos from HELIPIXMAN Collection


                          • #16
                            Enstrom serial No. 120 - G-BAWI

                            Enstrom serial No.123 - G-BALT

                            Photos from HELIPIXMAN Collection


                            • #17
                              Enstrom serial No.124 - G-BASB

                              Enstrom serial No.127 - G-BATU

                              Photos from HELIPIXMAN Collection