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Innova Composite Helicopters – Insight Series Part II

Posted by: Matt

Innova Composite Helicopters are an innovative helicopter manufacturing company based on a small rural airfield about 15 minutes’ drive from Albany on Auckland’s North Shore. Innova Composite Helicopters are currently looking to recruit a number of additional Engineers to help them attain NZCAA Part 27 type certification for their unique single turbine rotorcraft. The design of the rotorcraft features a unique monocoque composite fuselage that delivers unparalleled impact and corrosion resistance.

The team at Innova are passionate about what they are achieving but we were keen to find out more about what makes Innova a great place for engineers to continue developing their careers. We managed to grab some time with Van B Dardis, Dirctor of Helicopter Programs at Innova Composite Helicopters. This is what he had to tell us;

How did you get into aviation?

I had an uncle in the crop-dusting business and I have gone to the airport every working day since I was 14.

How did you come to be working with Innova?

Innova was working with an ODA I had previously managed.  When Innova started looking for someone to head-up this effort in New Zealand, a friend connected us and the rest is history.  I have been in New Zealand since late last year and love it here.

 What are the biggest changes to the current aircraft design compared against the original concept?

While we have incorporated a good many changes in the design, the effort was to bring the design into compliance with the requisite rules, not change the design.  In essence the helicopter remains the same.  From the naked eye, the biggest change would be a change to the engine cowling to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag.

 What engineering/certification challenges remain?

This is the aerospace industry…always engineering and/or certification challenges.  When the design is finalised, there will be cost reduction and manufacturing improvement exercises to complete, modifications to design and approve and another new helicopter to design and certify.  We have a family of rotorcraft planned around this technology.

 What are the company’s main objectives over the 12-18 months?

Continue to build a strong team of engineering and manufacturing individuals as we certify the C630 and begin the initial design of the C650.

What kind of new recruits are you looking for to help you achieve those objectives?

I look for the “A” type personalities and players.  People who accept the challenges we face, take ownership of some of these and then bring innovative solutions to the table for consideration.  At the same time, I want people willing to mentor younger engineers and assist them on a path to success in this industry.  Many people have helped me over my 40+ years in this industry without the desire for compensation or recognition.  Those are the individuals who will thrive in an atmosphere like we have here at ICH…no micro-managers here…no one has the time.

Aside from the obvious attraction of working on the development of such an innovative rotorcraft, why else would an engineer choose to work for Innova Composite Helicopters over another company?

I’m from Texas.  New Zealand is a wonderful place to be.  The ICH team includes individuals from all over the world, literally.  It is a great mix of talent and knowledge, skills and educations, traditions and habits that make this a unique environment that values contributions over status or education.  If you are an individual that wants to contribute and see those contributions incorporated, this is a good place to be.  We all wear many hats on a daily basis.  If you want to bolt the proverbial front bumper on the pick-up, this is not the place for you…

What kind of career paths or development opportunities can new employees expect during their time with Innova Composite Helicopters?

As I have already stated, we intend a family of rotorcraft around the technology we are creating and using on the C630.  In addition to the new rotorcraft, the manufacturing, modification, and maintenance organizations have to be created.  Opportunities abound for any individual willing to dig in and take care of business.  We are 25-30 people headed to much larger numbers and with that increase comes opportunities.  This is the possibility to join a new rotorcraft company which could be a career and last a lifetime in a wonderful environment.

How important is a positive organisational culture for any business?

Negativity destroys initiative.  Plain and simple, if people don’t enjoy coming to work, their work will reflect that.  We don’t come here for the money…we are here by choice and are excited about what we are creating.  I won’t tolerate negative people…they are a drag!

 Where do you see the future for your industry?

The helicopter industry is in a slump due to the oil industry slow-down.  Like all of aviation, the industry is cyclic and we want to be prepared to ride it back up.  There is definitely a market for a rotorcraft of our size and price point and I am excited about our future.

Thanks for those insightful comments Van. Find out more about a career with Innova by clicking HERE


Categorised as: Engineering, Innova Composite Helicopters