What: Blue Moon Designs LLC

What it does: Manufactures tools to help helicopter mechanics

Pictured: Founder Dale Neubauer

Where: 63025 OB Riley Road, No. 14, Bend

Employees: One

Phone: 541-647-3537

Website: www.helisaddle.com

Over the course of his career as an aircraft mechanic, Dale Neubauer has seen first-hand the challenges that come with repairing aircraft with tools that aren’t intended for the task.

For example, Neubauer said, a lot of helicopter maintenance is done from standard step-ladders, which can be unstable and distract from critical maintenance.

“As you’re doing that (maintenance), half of your mental energy is put into: Don’t fall,” Neubauer said. “That’s where half your concentration is.”

To combat that, Neubauer’s company, Blue Moon Designs, in 2014 developed the HeliLadder. The cantilevered ladder combines elements of a portable, self-supporting step-ladder with a mechanic’s work station, and is designed to bring the mechanic closer to a helicopter without sacrificing stability, Neubauer said. The 80-pound ladders come in 7- and 8-foot variations, and are placed on rollers to make it easier to transport them to a helicopter. Neubauer added that several U.S. Army bases have ordered HeliLadders to make helicopter maintenance easier.

“As a mechanic, there’s two tools I use every day: a flashlight and a ladder,” he said. “Both should be the top quality. And that’s what I try to provide with the ladder.”

Blue Moon Designs was founded in 2000. One of the company’s first products, the Heli-Saddle, is a clasp that can support helicopters, making it easier to transport them on the ground. Neubauer said many helicopter saddles feature a steel frame with a rubber coating, which can slough off and do thousands of dollars of damage to helicopters in the process. By contrast, Blue Moon Designs’ model features a polyurethane coating that can support the helicopters. A set of four saddles costs $900, and Neubauer said he has sold around 1,600 to hospitals and private buyers all over the world.

“When I came out with those, there was really nothing like it out there,” Neubauer said.

He added that his products are manufactured in Central Oregon, with more than half a dozen local firms contributing to the design of the ladders and saddles.

Blue Moon Designs also sells its saddles to Tiger Tugs, a Bend company that makes electric vehicles designed to move helicopters. Steve Hill, founder of Tiger Tugs, said Neubauer was one of the reasons he began making the tugs in 2009, and their business relationship has continued ever since.

“They have a mission statement of producing high-quality equipment for the helicopter industry,” Hill said of Blue Moon Designs, “and that’s our focus as well.”

Going forward, Neubauer said Blue Moon Designs plans to release a new, adjustable version of the HeliLadder, which will allow users to adjust the height of the ladder, around the beginning of 2017.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

Q: How has being in Bend helped you?

A: Dale Neubauer: Bend has surprised me. To date, all of the resources I need are right here. CLS Fabrication, Bend Plastics, Commercial Powder Coating, Dana Signs, you name it. Bend has a quite impressive manufacturing center.

Q: Where do you see the company in five years?

A: I think this unit has incredible potential. Right now, the limiting factor on really getting it out there are time and money for marketing. My hope is to get our sales up to the point where I can devote all my time to this.