Tiger Tugs in Bend, Oregon – An Animal of a Helicopter Towing System

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Moving a helicopter in the air requires skill, coordination and years of training. But, thanks to Steve Hill and Cutting Edge Design, moving them on the ground has gotten a whole lot easier. Cutting Edge Design is the maker of Tiger Tugs, a remote-control electric vehicles designed for transporting helicopters.

“A friend of mine working for Airlink mentioned the lack of a good helicopter tug,” says Hill, Bend resident since 2000. “We talked for a long time and discussed what should be included in a newly designed one.”

Hill, who is no stranger to the aircraft industry, began to design and build a prototype using new and efficient technology. Prior to making his first helicopter tug in 2009, Hill owned and later sold JETporter, a Bend company that built electric-powered aircraft tugs. But where JETporters are ride along vehicles, Tiger Tugs utilize wireless-remote technology.

“Once I decided to build one, we had about atwo month turn around on the first one to try and make a trade show,” Hill recalls.

Cutting Edge Design went through four designs before settling on the current incarnations of Tiger Tugs, named for its orange with black stripes design. After the prototype was created for the trade show, it took seven months of design and product testing before the first one shipped in 2010. There are currently four models, with a fifth model currently being designed to haul small police helicopters. They range in price from $19,000 to $24,000 and are able to handle 5000 to 12,000 pounds.

While about seventy total Tiger Tugs have been delivered, they have already sold thirty this year alone. They also cut their build time down to two weeks.
The design and majority of construction happens at the Southeast Bridgeford Boulevard Cutting Edge Design shop. They take pride in their ability to work with several local companies, including Swift Steel, Commercial Powdercoat, Deschutes Manufacturing, Heavy and Light Welding, and Motion and Flow Control Products.

“We have a close knit employee family who valuesquality,” says Hill. “Really, we are a customer service company instead of a mechanical manufacturing company.”

With that attitude in mind, Cutting Edge Designs works hard to solve customer problems. They even customize devices to fit customer needs. Each passing year has brought an average of 45% growth, mainly through word of mouth.
In Oregon, Cutting Edge Design has shipped Tiger Tugs to the Salem National Guard and a rancher in Antelope. About 35% of the business is international sales, including as far away as Eastern Europe, New Zealand and Australia. The rest are in use in the United States, including by several famous pilots.

“One day, I got a call from a guy who said, ‘Hi, Steve, this is Harrison,’ says Hill. “Sure enough, Han Solo was calling to order one.”

In addition to Harrison Ford, Texas businessman H. Ross Perot, and billionaires Paul Allen and Warren Buffett each own one.

Hill names supplier management as his biggest challenge. Ensuring quality from outside vendors is vital to their ability to main a quality product. Cutting Edge Design doesn’t have growth projections, just a rough goal to make around fifty each year.

“Our goal is to keep coming up with better products,” states Hill.
Cutting Edge Design also develops personalized remote control and loading vehicles.

Cutting Edge Design (Tiger Tugs)
Website: www.tigertugs.com
CEO: Steve Hill
Employees: 3 full time, 1 half time (+ outside sales reps)
Year Est.: 2009
Product: Tiger Tugs, a helicopter transport system
Hot News: revolutionized helicopter transport
Growth Outlook: enjoying an average of 45 percent yearly growth rate

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Bend-based freelance writer Gregg Morris honed his wit in suburban Michigan and his gift for the written word at Michigan State University. When not writing, Gregg can be found riding his bike, earning his turns, or playing guitar alongside his wife and daughter.

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