By Shari Valenta
If you own a business, a helicopter can be a helpful tool. You can use it to oversee construction projects, make aerial photos, get to jobsites quickly and transport cargo or important clients. Owning a helicopter also allows the freedom and enjoyment of taking weekend trips to the mountains or other recreational destinations.
Rocky Mountain Rotorcraft, an Enstrom Helicopter Corporation dealership and service center, is located at Erie Municipal Airport (EIK), in Erie, Colo. The company sells two types of Enstrom helicopters. The 480B is a five-seat turbine helicopter, and the 280FX is a turbocharged, three-seat, piston-powered aircraft. Both models come with a 1,000-hour or two-year warranty.
Jack Ferguson, who co-owns RMR with Robert Dykes, says Enstrom helicopters are known for performance, safety and good looks. The Enstrom 480 was designed to provide an affordable choice comparable to the popular Bell 206B JetRanger and MD500. It can be used for a number of jobs, such as flight instruction, law enforcement, pipeline and power line patrol, charter, electronic newsgathering, aerial photography and cargo/passenger delivery. The 280FX is the sports car of piston-powered helicopters; its aerodynamic body has won several design awards. According to Enstrom, this model is easy to fly and has an enviable safety record. Its fully articulated rotor system provides an unusually stable ride.
After graduating in 1996, with a business degree from Colorado State University, Ferguson began working at Rampart Associates, a small investment bank in Denver that managed mergers and acquisitions for Internet companies. He became interested in helicopters during a British Columbia heli-ski trip. While flying in the mountains during the trip, the pilot convinced him that it was a fun business. Three years later, Ferguson was in Australia, training at Becker Helicopters.
From 2003 to 2005, Ferguson worked as a CFI at Rotors of the Rockies, a flight school located at Jefferson County Airport. During that time, he met his future business partner. Robert Dykes was a “friend of a friend” from the school and was learning to fly. When RMR became involved with Enstrom, a 60-year-old business based in Michigan, Ferguson helped Dykes finish off his private rating. Currently, Dykes also owns Family Tree Oil and Gas, in which he utilizes Enstrom helicopters.
Initially, Rocky Mountain Rotorcraft had three owners. Andy Litteral, a teacher and aircraft mechanic, met Ferguson through the owners of the flight school.
“I think Andy saw the same things that I did; Enstrom had great helicopters for the region, but nobody was out here as a dealership. Most people didn’t know about them or what they could do,” said Ferguson.
He also says Enstrom helicopters are good for Colorado, specifically because of their performance. He said their power allows them to fly safely at the higher mountain altitudes.
RMR opened its doors in the summer of 2005. Although Litteral left the company during its second year, to begin working in the medical equipment sales department of Air Methods Corporation, he still consults for RMR whenever needed.
Ferguson says RMR sales are going well.
“Since we got started, we’ve sold three helicopters and brokered two others,” he said.
RMR is the only Enstrom dealer in the Rocky Mountain region. The dealership prides itself on its customer service.
“We treat customers exactly the way we want to be treated. If Enstrom makes sense for them, that’s great. If it doesn’t; we’ll tell them so,” said Ferguson. “Years from now, we want to make sure people are still happy with what they’ve bought. Most of our customers are individuals and small businesses. A lot of them are using the helicopter for pleasure, with some business applications as well—maybe photo work, flying customers around or surveying jobsites.”
If you’re in the market for a helicopter but don’t know how to fly, RMR provides instruction.
“A lot of guys want to buy, but don’t know how to fly helicopters. We’re able to offer training through our flight school,” said Ferguson.
The school trains customers at both Erie and Centennial Airport (APA).
“We teach beyond FAA’s standards, depending on experience,” Ferguson said. “If the student already has a fixed-wing license, he’s looking at a rough estimate of 40 to 50 hours. For a new guy, it could be 60 to 70 hours for a private license. We focus on off-airport training. Most of it is in the mountains, because that’s where helicopter pilots love to fly. We have no reason to fly patterns through a taxiway all day; we try to provide real world training for pilots who are landing at their ranches or in mountain-confined areas, at 10,000 feet.”
Ferguson says landing on a mountain the first time can be difficult.
“Once you know how to manipulate the helicopter and understand the wind, it can be a lot of fun. Depending on the wind’s velocity coming over the peaks, it’ll create areas of up-drafting and down-drafting, then easing and slowing. It’s best to picture it as a river, moving over rocks. That’s exactly what the wind is doing. So in a helicopter or a plane, you don’t want to be in a spot where the wind is pouring off, because you might end up in the trees,” Ferguson laughs good-naturedly. “You might not have the power to out-fly some of the down drafts.”
He adds that helicopter flying is always very technical, but is probably “the most rewarding.”
Ferguson chooses to sell helicopters instead of airplanes, because he says helicopters are more exciting to fly.
“They’re unique in their ability to do a number of different things that airplanes can’t, such as hover and land on a mountain top ridge at 10,000 feet,” he exclaimed.
For more information about Rocky Mountain Rotorcraft, call 866-422-1744 or visit [http://www.rockymountainrotorcraft.com].