Going behind the scenes at a Mesa helicopter company

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by Scott Pasmore

Bio | Email | Follow: @scottpasmoretv

azfamily.com

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 26 at 8:58 PM

MESA, Ariz. -- You may not have ever driven past the company, but we bet you’ve seen its products flying high in the sky!

MD Helicopters is a local company that not only manufactures and tests choppers right here in town, but also teaches folks to fly and maintain them.

The Mesa-based company sells helicopters to police departments around the nation. Its customers can also be found in many different companies, including Saudi Arabia, Korea, Brazil, Japan and Italy.

MD Helicopters has expanded to 250 employees. And the facility is turning out more and more choppers each  year.

“When you look out at a day like this, we can fly virtually 360 days a year here,” says the company’s COO, Carl Schopfer. “We have a good infrastructure with the aerospace industry and such, and we're happy. We started here too. “

The company makes five different types of helicopters. And 3TV’s Scott Pasmore got an inside look at how it all works.

“And once they come off the production line then they go to the completion center,” Schopfer explains. “It’'s about six weeks to complete them for the customer,  getting in the radios and interior and all the specifics, whether it’s the police department or the army, or whoever the customer may be.”

MD Helicopters is the only company doing the “NOTAR” technology, meaning many of their models have no tail rotors. It’s a patented process that makes for an extremely smooth ride.

“What we do, the love of flight is amazing,” says company owner and CEO, Lynn Tilton. “It's all over our customers and really who gets to support those who serve for love of country, the EMS workers, the police. And you love your customer, you love your product. It’s just sort of magic.”

Tilton is one of the most prolific female business owners in the country.

When she saw MD Helicopters struggling about a decade ago, the businesswoman stepped in.

“Basically, I buy broken companies and rebuild them,” she says.

After a stint on Wall Street, Tilton started her own company and started buying businesses across the  country. But she doesn't just close them down, rip them apart and sell them. Instead, she tries to make  the companies work again and turn a profit. 

Right now she’s focused on the success of her Mesa helicopter company.

“This is the one I spend the most time with,” she says. “It's the child the screamed the loudest. But in the end, I love what flight represents: the freedom, humility in the face of a higher power, and really, just destiny.”

Tilton's company "Patriarch Partners" owns some 75 companies around the United States, including Rand McNally, Spiegel, Stila and Jane cosmetics.

But the billionaire businesswoman thinks that while the US economy is looking better, she still believes there are a bunch of potholes in the road ahead.

“I think there's a slowdown in the global economy in general," Tilton tells us. Supply has outpaced consumption. We need to grow our manufacturing in our economy and put people back to work and that's why this and the automotive sectors are such an amazing example of what America was built on, and what we need to get back to."

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