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Configure Copters in a Jiffy
by Nicole Pizzurro

Helicopters serve a wide range of markets—from medical services and large corporations to the military and offshore drilling. Each field has different requirements for its helicopters, including special equipment, paint schemes, specific payloads, and fuel burn rates. Salespeople at MD Helicopters, based in Mesa, Ariz., often took two to three weeks to complete a sale—they had to meet a customer's specifications, then run the copter's plans by the company's engineering, procurement, marketing, legal, and sales departments.


Independent consultant Bill Levine reduced this prep time to less than 30 minutes with his creation—Electronic Marketing System (EMS). This VB6 suite comprises two applications: Design Order and Customer Helicopter Operations Program (CHOPer). Design Order consolidates legal document verbiage and engineering rules for equipment into one package, allowing salespeople to build a custom helicopter from scratch, determine if a certain piece conflicts with another or requires another part, select a paint scheme, and generate a purchase agreement in Microsoft Word. CHOPer enables salespeople to calculate direct operating costs, hover performance (whether a helicopter can carry a certain payload based on weight, altitude, and temperature), and mission analysis (the amount of fuel a helicopter requires and the amount it burns during each leg of the mission). "This is a huge selling point for the customer, who can actually see how their helicopter is going to perform before purchasing it," says Levine.

The entire app comprises 76,587 lines of code, 70 forms, and 20 modules; Design Order weighs in at 3.84 MB, and CHOPer at 4.5 MB. With the help of Sheridan Software Systems' (now Infragistics') Calendar Widgets, Data Widgets, and ActiveThreed Plus, Levine completed the initial development in one year. When developing a product, he advises, "Make sure that you get all of the requirements down on paper and signed off before you write a single line of code. If you don't, you experience scope creep very quickly."

For more information, contact Bill Levine by e-mail at bill.levine@melson.net.

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