Enstrom at Rotors ‘n Ribs 2023
Contrary to what might be common perception, a helicopter salesman does not get to zoom around in a new helicopter daily. So, when Enstrom decided to showcase a couple helicopters at the Rotors ‘n Ribs fly-in, you can bet I jumped at the opportunity to help fly one down. Our mission was to safely traverse the 350 miles from Menominee, MI to Goshen, IN.
I took the controls of our newest 480B, equipped with a new all-glass cockpit, an incredible custom paint scheme, and a beautiful, new interior. Accompanying me was our Senior Technical Fellow, Bill Taylor. Vice President of Product Support, Doug Smith, followed us in our journey in a separate 480B. Not keen on flying over the middle of Lake Michigan, our flight plan took us due South around the west side of Milwaukee, and then back Southeast down the lake shore around Chicago, before turning East toward Goshen.
We enjoyed CAVU weather as we flew over the Wisconsin countryside. Milwaukee’s airspace happened to be rather busy, but thanks to the 480B’s 10” Garmin G500TXi display, it proved to be no problem for us. Later in our journey, zooming over Navy Pier, Bill and I noticed we were actually looking up at the buildings. The scale of these skyscrapers never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many times I fly this route.
On a perfect day, we might make it to Goshen without stopping, but the winds that day weren’t ideal. We topped off our tank in Gary, pushing forward to Goshen. We landed at KGSH just in time to join Lunch on the Fly, a free fly-in lunch put on by the FBO.
With our tent set up, I was able to meet and shake hands with an enthusiastic Midwest crowd. We saw quite a mix of people, from existing customers, potential customers, helicopter fans, and locals dropping by to see the fireworks. I love being able to talk with younger folks who are still trying to figure out their future. It’s a joy to see their faces light up as I tell them about the exciting world of aviation and all the ways they can be part of it.
One of the big draws of the event was an attempt at setting a Guinness World Record for most helicopters hovering at one time. My fellow pilots and I would line up in two rows, staggered about 100 feet apart in pre-drawn circles. On cue, the front row would pick up, then the back, and we would perform a couple pedal turns before setting back down. I found myself positioned next to Chuck Surack, owner of Enstrom Helicopter, in his H130. No pressure.
When the command came, we lifted into the air, and I immediately felt buffeted by rotor wash. A quick look out the window let me know I wasn’t the only one. However, all the pilots were absolute pros, and held station long enough for the cameras to record the action. After two minutes of intense flying, I set down the 480B and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But the fun was far from over! A spectacular drone show featuring 175 perfectly synchronized drones delighted the gathered crowd of nearly 3,000 people. It would be no exaggeration to say this was the best drone show I’ve ever seen. The night concluded with a stunning display of fireworks taking its turn to light up the night sky.
Our journey back to Menominee further showcased the value of our 480B’s new touchscreen avionics display. The ADS-B weather alerted us to a series of storms heading towards Menominee. We cross checked our ETA on the Garmin 750, and we knew it was going to be close. When we finally did touch down, we could see the storms only a few miles away. The heavens opened, pouring down rain as we made a final scramble to push the second helicopter into the hangar. I’m always amazed at how, after hours of flying across hundreds of miles, it can all come down to five minutes.
All told, we flew about seven and a half hours over the course of two days. Bill tells me he collected some great feedback for our engineers to work with, and I got to meet some great customers. Not bad for a day in the life of a helicopter salesman.
Dennis Martin is the Chief Commercial Officer for Enstrom Helicopter Corporation. He has been with Enstrom for more than 14 years, working in both sales and engineering, and has traveled to over 25 different countries. Dennis is a commercial-rated rotary and fixed-wing pilot, as well as an A&P/IA.
About Enstrom HelicopterFrom Rudy Enstrom’s early designs in 1943 to initial testing in a Michigan Quarry in 1957 to aircraft operating on six continents, Enstrom Helicopter Corporation has maintained a reputation for safety, value and performance. Based in Menominee, Michigan and proudly made in the United States, Enstrom has a rich history for design innovation. The goal is to provide helicopters to the customer’s exact specification and deliver support and maintenance worldwide.