2024 VFS History Calendar

The VFS History Committee is proud to present the 2024 VTOL History Calendar, which is generously sponsored by Enstrom Helicopter Corporation.

We hope you enjoy the calendar! VFS members can also download a complimentary PDF of the whole calendar by logging into My-VFS or the VFS Online Store.

Check out the historical descriptions in past VFS VTOL History Calendars as well:  

2023 History Calendar2022 History Calendar2021 History Calendar | 2020 History Calendar | 2019 History Calendar | 2018 History Calendar | 2017 History Calendar | 2016 History Calendar | 2015 History Calendar | 2014 History Calendar | 2013 History Calendar | 2012 History Calendar

2024 Calendar CoverEnstrom Helicopter Corporation

Rudolph J. “Rudy” Enstrom (1916-2007) began his career as a mechanic in an iron mine in northwest Michigan who dreamed of designing and building his own helicopter. Starting with conceptual sketches in 1943, he began testing his home-built prototypes in 1957 in Crystal Falls, Michigan. For his first prototypes, Enstrom had the financial backing of a number of local businessmen, and despite lacking technical expertise, he filed three patents from his first design. Eventually, the investors recruited a number of experienced aviation designers, and the company was formed as the R.J. Enstrom Corporation in 1959; the 13-employee company moved to Menominee County Airport at the southern tip of western Michigan the following August.

On Dec. 7, 1960, the first Enstrom helicopter (initially called the F-27) lifted off. It was a two-seat, two-bladed design that was upgraded to three-seat, three-bladed helicopter in March 1961 (see the VFS History Calendar entry for May 2024). In April 1965, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the type certificate for Enstrom’s first production helicopter, designated the F28, and deliveries commenced soon thereafter. The more-powerful F-28A was certificated in May 1968.

In the year prior to reaching certification, however, the company was in extremis and unable to pay its bills. Rudy Enstrom resigned from the company in October 1964. In October 1968, a controlling interest was acquired by Purex Corporation (one of the largest US commercial aviation support organizations at the time), which wanted to develop a turbine-powered model. The unsuccessful pursuit of the new model (using an unproven engine) led to the neglect of the F-28, and the company was on life support for nearly a year before being purchased by celebrity trial lawyer and helicopter pilot, F. Lee Bailey, who changed the name to its current moniker, Enstrom Helicopter Corporation, in January 1971.

Bailey backed the successful development of the slightly faster 280 Shark, first certificated in 1975. But development of a four-seat version again depleted the corporate finances and Bailey sold the company in 1979. The four-seat model was finally certificated in December 1994 as the Enstrom 480.

The company had a series of owners, including a group of Saudi investors, Victor Kaim and Dean Kamen, and was sold to an unnamed Swiss investor in 2000. In January 2013, the company was purchased by Chongquing Helicopter Investment Co. (CQHIC) of the People's Republic of China. However, the company filed for Chapter 7 and ceased operations in January 2022. The company was acquired by Charles Surack, founder of Surack Enterprises, on May 13, 2022. The following January, Enstrom announced that it had flown its first new-build helicopter since the acquisition. The 480B was the 255th of the 480-series and 1,317th helicopter built by the company.

Enstrom helicopters are operated by customers in 50 countries on all six inhabited continents. The company is now working on improving and updating the fleet of Enstrom rotorcraft, which currently includes the F-28F and 280FX piston models and turbine 480B.

Aircraft Milestones

October 31, 1960: First flight of an Enstrom helicopter, the F-27
May 27, 1962: First flight of Enstrom F-28 prototype
December 31, 1978: First flight of the four-seat Enstrom 280L Hawk demonstrator
November 4, 1980: First flight of Enstrom F-28F Falcon
December 20, 1984: First flight of Enstrom 280FX Shark
December 31, 1988: Flight of Enstrom 280FX with Allison turboshaft
October 31, 1989: First flight of the turbine-powered Enstrom Model 480

Photo: The first pre-production F-28, which first flew in May 1962. (Enstrom Helicopter Corp. photo)
Description by Mike Hirschberg


Go to the photo for January

2024 Calendar Index