Rudy Enstrom – then a mining engineer in Crystal Falls, Michigan – and Jack Christensen – a tool salesman from Menominee in Michigan – decided to collaborate back in the late 50s, raising funds from local businessmen to start the R. J. Enstrom Corporation in 1959, with Christensen as CEO.
Rudy soon left the company and an engineer named Alb Balaur was brought in to refine the design. Along with Paul Shultz and a handful of other talented engineers, the dedicated team laboured through the early 1960s developing the F28, which was certified in 1965 and won Michigan Product of the Year.
The late 70s were the heyday for GA production, and Enstrom would build more than 100 aircraft per year out of its tiny Menominee, Michigan factory. Unlike a lot of small aircraft companies, Enstrom survived the great GA bust of the 80s, and went on to develop the 480 series turbine helicopters in the 90s. This led to a renewed prosperity in the 2000s, and the company continues to produce its popular turbocharged piston F28F and 280FX siblings, and the turbine 480B today.
“It’s really an incredible story,” says Enstrom’s CEO Matt Francour. “I mean, how many small aircraft manufacturers have been in business for 60 years, continuously, with no bankruptcies, mergers, etc. While the aircraft have changed dramatically, we have the same type certificate and production certificate we’ve had since 1965. It’s really a testament to the people we have here, our workforce and our local community. Their dedication has led to an incredible international legacy. I just want to thank all of our past and present customers for supporting us all these years. We hear so many great stories of things people did in their Enstroms, how the helicopters affected their lives. We are really proud to be a part of that.”