Military, Products

Tabasco, Comings and Goings

By Staff Writer | August 1, 2006

On my desk, I've got a small bottle of Tabasco sauce free for the asking if anyone wants it. First come, first served.

I'd bought the hot sauce after I penned my April 2006 editorial, in which I questioned whether MD Helicopters stood a chance in the U.S. Army's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) competition. Well aware of the limitations of my own intellect, I said at the time that I'd eat my words--at least one page of them--if the Army proved me wrong. The bottle was just in case. I think pretty much everything tastes better with Tabasco sauce; I figured that would be true for crow.

The Army awarded the contract for the first batch of 322-352 of those helicopters on June 30 to the team led by EADS North America with its EC145 entrant. So the hot sauce is off alert status and available for other assignments. (At press time, MD's chief, Lynn Tilton, hadn't yet decided whether she would protest the LUH award. So I may yet have to eat my words. In that case, I'll buy another bottle.)

Advertisement

I take no joy from the Army's decision--other than being spared the taste of the 70-lb-weight, "snap-coated" page on which my editorial is printed. The folks at MD have been through hell in recent years. They make fine products, including the MD902 Explorer bid for the LUH competition. If a win in that competition would have helped secure the company's future, they and their customers would not have been the only beneficiaries. The whole rotorcraft industry would have been better off. We need all the healthy manufacturers we can sustain.

I didn't question in April, and I don't question now, whether MD has a shot at a secure future. As I've said many times in conversation and a few in print, including in that April editorial and one in December 2005, Lynn Tilton has an impressive reputation on Wall Street, a compelling vision for MD and the financial resources to bring that vision to fruition. She runs against the grain of some in this industry, but she's also won some fans (as evidenced by the letters we received and published after that April editorial). I said in April that an LUH loss might benefit MD by leading it away from the defense trough to focus on reviving its commercial line. As reader Jan Ablas of Singapore noted, one of the best things that happened to Bell Helicopter's commercial line was the company's loss to Hughes in the 1960s' U.S. Army Light Observation Helicopter competition. That led Bell to re-design its OH-4 entrant, which became the successful 206-series JetRanger line ("MD and R&W," June 2006, page 8).

I said it before and I'll say it again: If Lynn Tilton succeeds in transforming MD, she will establish a gold standard for customer service that will set its competitors on their ears. Everyone at Rotor & Wing, including me, wishes her and the folks at MD luck in achieving that goal.

While I'm extending best wishes, let me offer them to Douglas W. Nelms, who retired as R&W's managing editor with the July 2006 issue. Doug was on the staff for three years, a stretch in which we all benefited from his background and company.

He served in Vietnam as an aviator with the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Div., then flew for the Army's VIP Detachment at Ft. Belvoir, Va. before launching a career in journalism and public relations.

He had about 4,000 hr. total time and had flown a host of aircraft when he joined the staff in mid-2003, which allowed him to add a bit to both that time and the aircraft list. In total, Doug had written for us for 30 years, most of that as a freelancer. We fully expect he'll continue to do so.

As we wish Doug farewell, we welcome back a familiar face. John Persinos has returned to Access Intelligence, the parent of R&W. Many of you remember John as my predecessor as editor-in-chief of this magazine; he served in that post from 1996 to 2003.

He returns as publisher and editorial director of Aviation Today (www.AviationToday.com), the network of Web sites for this and our other aviation publications, including Avionics and Aviation Maintenance magazines and the Air Safety Week and Helicopter News newsletters. He is leading that team of publications in developing and re-launching Aviation Today as the information nexus of the aviation industry.

John's hit the ground running. Through his efforts, you now can get a daily rundown of the top stories in rotorcraft, avionics, aircraft maintenance and aviation safety. Just visit www.AviationToday.com and look for "Today's Top Stories." This feature is the latest in a series of upgrades of Aviation Today under John's stewardship.

Our goal is to make AviationToday.com more dynamic and more timely to better serve your information needs. With John on board, those efforts are in good hands. Bookmark AviationToday.com now and make it a part of your daily information-gathering routine.

Receive the latest rotorcraft news right to your inbox