B J Schramm’s association with flying began in 1958 when he founded Schramm Aircraft Company, and built and flew a Bensen Gyrocopter.
He studied at California Polytechnic State University and eventually was drafted into the military where he worked on missles as an electronics technician at the White Sands Proving Ground. There he did design and drawings and began to formulate a plan for building a helicopter that the average pilot could afford. After his discharge in 1967, he immediately entered helicopter manufacturing and started his own company, Rotorway, with the goal of producing his own designs.
Schramm began building a horizontally opposed engine based on the VW design. Ultimately it was water cooled and used cylinders and crankshaft of his own design. After years of development it was a 180 lb engine that put out 150 hp. The engine had a 600 hour TBO, primarily due to valve wear.
First established in 1961 in Chandler, Arizona, as RotorWay Aircraft, the company premiered its first kit helicopter model, the Scorpion, at the 1967 Oshkosh Fly-In.
RotorWay Aircraft Inc founded 1970 to market in plans and kit forms the Scorpion single-seat helicopter, developed from the Schramm Javelin. Followed by the two-seat Scorpion Too, subsequently known as Scorpion 133 and using a RotorWay RW-145 piston engine.
1977-80: Rotorway Aircraft Inc. 14805 S. Interstate 10/Tempe, Arizona 85284, USA.
Exec two-seat helicopter appeared 1980 to supplement and eventually replace Scorpion 133, offered in its kit-built Exec 162F form (available since 1994) using a 150 hp RotorWay Rl 162F engine; over 500 Exec 90 and latest Exec 162F kits delivered since 1990, in which year company became RotorWay International.
The Executive model was soon born in 1980 and continued to be the company's premier model until the assets of the company were sold in 1990.
In 1987 Schramm’s health began to fail and he went to the Mayo clinic for treatment. He made some poor business decisions and failed to put the right people in charge of operations during his absence. This resulted in the company declaring bankruptcy in 1990.
A group of British investors, led by John Netherwood, purchased the company. Then, he set about getting the newly christened RotorWay International on its feet with the help of many of the previous RotorWay Aircraft staff and their expertise. John Neatherwood, a British distributor, took over the business, paid off the creditors, and built a plant in Chandler, Arizona. Rotorway was selling approximately 60 units a year.
By late September of 1990, the company introduced a greatly improved helicopter, derived from the original Executive, and called it the Exec 90.
In 1994, RotorWay International moved to a new 37,000 sq. ft. facility, which would house the entire company versus the multiple locations they were previously distributed amongst. Along with the modern, streamlined factory, the company also introduced a new and improved helicopter, the model Exec 162F.
In 1996, when John Netherwood decided to sell the company, the employees negotiated an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) arrangement to purchase RotorWay International. Rotorway remained employee owned until February of 2007 when the company was acquired by an ownership group led by Grant Norwitz, who first became acquainted with the company when he purchased one of its helicopters. He joined Rotorway in 2006 as CEO.
RotorWay International was bought February 14, 2007 by a small group of investors comprising the company's upper level management — Grant Norwitz, CEO, Bill Adams, COO, and Judy Craven, CFO. Of these, only Norwitz is still with the company as of mid-2008.
In February 2009, RotorWay purchased PMC Machining and Manufacturing, a Phoenix-based builder of helicopter parts. The CEO of PMC, Mark Porter, became president and COO of RotorWay as part of the acquisition. The company also announced plans to certify a two-seat turbine helicopter using the Rolls-Royce RR300 engine and said that acquiring PMC will make that possible.
Although it is the third largest helicopter manufacturer in the United States, RotorWay has established a factory in South Africa that manufactures ready-made helicopters in addition to kits. RotorWay has also begun the process of expanding into the certified helicopter market.
Awards and recognition
2005 Exec 162F is named Oshkosh AirVenture grand champion.
2004 Exec 162F is named Oshkosh AirVenture gold lindy grand champion, silver lindy reserve grand champion, and a model wins for outstanding workmanship.
2003 Exec 162F wins Oshkosh AirVenture grand champion and reserve grand champion.
2002 Exec 162F wins Oshkosh AirVenture reserve grand champion and for outstanding workmanship.
2001 Exec 162F wins Oshkosh AirVenture reserve grand champion, champion, and outstanding workmanship.
2000 HAI Aviation Repair Specialist Award for work done on the FADEC system.
1999 Finalist for the Flight International's Aerospace Industry Awards, in the category of Corporate and General Aviation.
RotorWay Exc 162 was featured on Discovery Channel show "A Chopper is Born".
2009: RotorWay International
4140 W. Mercury Way
Chandler, AZ 85226