MD Helicopters could select a new manufacturing location in the next 45 days, a move that would give it enough space to integrate two potential new acquisitions into its operations - a composites company and very-light jet manufacturer.
Speaking to reporters at the Heli-Expo conference, MDHI chief executive Lynn Tilton said Arizona (but not the company´s current location in Mesa), Florida, Oklahoma and Texas are the four finalists for the potential move.
"The Mesa [facility] is not well laid out" and is not a "destination" spot for buyers, said Tilton, adding that, if she does decide to buy a VLJ maker and a composites company, the new location will "have enough space to put it all together."
Tilton said she is "negotiating" to buy a composites maker in Italy as well as a very-light manufacturer. Candidates could is Adam Aircraft, with the all-composite A700 VLJ, and ATG, with the two-seat Javelin, both of which recently went out of business. Tilton is CEO of Patriarch Partners, a venture capital firm that bought MD Helicopters in 2005.
She said the company is interested in composites largely to reduce parts count, a process it will begin with MD500-series helicopter fuselages that are built in Mexico.
Tilton also said MDHI is working with Rolls-Royce to provide a new engine, most likely for the MD530F, to boost speed, payload and range.
MDHI delivered 32 helicopters last year, 10 fewer than planned. Tilton blamed the shortfall on an autopilot parts shortage she said was caused by Honeywell. The company plans to deliver 60-62 helicopters this year, said Tilton, and as many as 100 per year in 2009.