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Enstrom upgrades 280FXEnstrom upgrades 280FX

New trainer moved to back burnerNew trainer moved to back burner

Enstrom Helicopter debuted several new enhancements to its flagship 280FX at Heli-Expo in Atlanta in March. The company’s newest 280FX sports redesigned cabin doors, a new collective design with additional controls, and lighting upgrades that include forward and aft LED landing lights.

This Enstrom 280FX, displayed at HAI Heli-Expo 2019, sports larger and wider-opening doors designed for Enstrom's TH180. Photo by Mike Collins.

“The new collectives are great,” said Bayard DuPont, Enstrom’s senior technical representative and CFI. “They make all the lighting and start switches easily accessible for both pilots, which is great for instruction, and they mimic the larger 480B turbine collectives for easy transition. And the new avionics and switch consoles mimic the 480B as well, with clean backlit panels for night flying. These are the kind of features you’d expect to see on expensive turbine aircraft, and we’ve brought them to piston market.”

Enstrom’s new door design gives 280FX owners and operators increased utility. “The 280FX is one of the best-looking aircraft ever produced, and it has a ton of room inside, but the doors were a bit small,” said Roger Sharkey, a longtime Enstrom dealer and operator. “Not anymore. These new super-wide doors are great. Now pilots and passengers of any size can get in and out of the large cabin comfortably. In addition, it makes it easier to load gear, or turn rides quicker. These new doors are exactly what the helicopter needed.”

The design improvements, which are included as standard equipment on new 2019 and later Enstrom 280FXs, were adapted from other Enstrom models, said Dennis Martin, Enstrom director of sales and marketing. “The 280’s got a nice shape and it has lots of room, but the doors were weird and didn’t open that far,” he said, explaining that the new door design is from the TH180 training model in development. The 280’s new collective came from the 480B. And the LED landing light includes a pulsing feature, for increased conspicuity. “Until you get one on your own airplane, you don’t realize how cool it is.”

A new collective in the Enstrom 280FX includes lighting controls, as well as an engine start switch. The design was adopted from Enstrom's 480B turbine helicopter. Photo by Mike Collins.

The 280 also sports a new, full TT strap like the turbine 480B’s, which eliminates the need to comply with an airworthiness directive on the previous design, Martin said. “When we put the TT straps in, we were able to take some of the balance springs out of the collective. It actually makes it an even nicer-flying aircraft.”

Enstrom announced the TH180, a new training helicopter, at Heli-Expo 2014 with certification anticipated the following year. Early in its flight program, a nonconforming test aircraft had a hard landing. “Right now it’s on the back burner,” Martin said, and not because of the hard landing. “The primary reason is we’re doing some development work on the other models. And the TH180 market is not as strong as we originally anticipated.” There’s no comparison in today’s market to the performance of the turbocharged 280EX up to 10,000 feet, and its three-blade rotor system, he explained, and “we feel this is a little bit better positioned right now.”

Other technology designed for the TH180 will follow its new doors into other Enstrom models, Martin noted. “We continue to look at the market. The TH180 flies great. We’ve done a lot of the cert[ification] work.” Two conforming TH180s are ready to fly—and will if, for example, weather hits the specific conditions needed for a required snow demonstration. “And we’re using them to do other R&D work.”

At Heli-Expo, Enstrom announced the sale of six turbine-powered 480B aircraft to M-Landarch, the Enstrom representative in Thailand. The $12 million contract includes flight and maintenance training, and the aircraft are expected to deliver in the second half of 2019. The helicopters will be used for ab-initio and advanced flight training. At the show, Enstrom delivered the newest 280FX to the French training company Golf Tango; the bright yellow helicopter was displayed on the show floor.

Enstrom Helicopter Corp. was founded in 1959. It designs and produces light single-engine helicopters for training, police, and wildlife patrol; aerial photography and tours; agricultural uses; and personal transportation worldwide. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chongqing General Aviation Industry Group Co., Ltd.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
Topics: Helicopter, Helicopter Association International

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