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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Year in Review--MD: Nearing a Turnaround?

R&W Staff

Lynn Tilton’s optimism about MD may be starting to bear fruit.

AFTER A TUMULTUOUS COUPLE OF YEARS, MD HELIcopters could be on the brink of a turnaround.

That, at least, is the view of some close observers and former staff of the Mesa, Ariz.-based manufacturer.

The year began with MD owner Lynn Tilton having named industry veteran Charles Vehlow as president of the company. Tilton, whose New York distressed-debt investment firm Patriarch Partners bought MD in mid-2005, had spent most of 2006 running the company directly after having replaced the previous top management team of Robert Rene and Randy Kesterson. Vehlow had been a vice president and general manager for Boeing Helicopter and VP of the Apache program.

Despite professing that she was "very, very happy with the management team," Vehlow was gone within months, as were others. These included CFO Peter Hokanson, Sales and Marketing Vice President David Oglesbee, and Customer Support General Manager Jeff Snyder. COO Ted Gee later left.

Tilton turned to what she called in May a "quiet focus on the execution of strategies" that led to operational improvements that "have exceeded my expectations."

She said the company expected to deliver about 43 aircraft this year. Deliveries have included an MD-902 in the Cox Air Care livery and an MD-600N to Arizona Taxi Aero of Brazil. At the Helitech trade show in the United Kingdom in October, MD said it had recently received orders for 11 aircraft from customers around the world. The Mesa, Ariz.-based manufacturer said the orders came from customers from Switzerland to New Zealand.

"Increasing global orders reflect the growing confidence of our customers in both our performance and the future of our company," said Tilton. "We have made great strides forward and continue to endeavor towards enhanced customer service and increased deliveries. We want our global customers to agree: The Phoenix is rising."

MD’s customers this year included Tilton, who accepted her own Explorer, which was completed by the company.

Tilton recently named Bob Caldwell, a sales veteran of AgustaWestland and American Eurocopter, to succeed Oglesbee.

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