Brad Smelser using radio to speak with pilots

Brad Smelser, K-MAX Expert

Oct 28, 2019

Brad Smelser, Senior Manager of K-MAX® Customer Service, has dedicated his career to learning about helicopters, maintenance, and everything else that goes along with rotary wing aircraft. A wealth of knowledge and experience, he has worked in Kaman's blade shop, transmission shop, and every other sub-shop at our Bloomfield, Connecticut facility. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was first exposed to helicopter maintenance with the UH-1H and UH-60 aircraft.

In 1992, after leaving the Army, he joined Kaman Aerospace as a Quality Insurance Inspector on the U.S. Navy SH-2G Seasprite production line. He has continued to stay involved with the SH-2G program, and contributed to the development of the Magic Lantern Program, as laser-based mine detection system and predecessor to current-day LIDAR systems, which Kaman developed for the U.S. Navy.

As he was completing the final SH-2G aircraft, he became involved in the project to build the first k-MAX helicopter, serial number A9400002 in 1992. He followed that first aircraft through its FAA Part 21 Production Certification process, which included altitude testing in Leadville, Colorado. While at Kaman, Brad earned his FAA Airframe and Powerplant license and FAA Inspection Authorization, which allows him to work on all civilian aircraft.

After ten years in Quality Assurance Inspector and Flight Test Inspector roles, he became a K-MAX Customer Service Representative. During his seven years as a Customer Service Representative, Brad not only returned to aircraft maintenance, but also found that he enjoyed teaching others about the K-MAX aerial truck. With the development of the Unmanned K-MAX program in 1997, Brad returned to a Flight Test Inspector Role.

As he gained more experience in aeronautics and aviation maintenance at Kaman, Brad returned to school, completing an associate's degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Aviation Maintenance Technology in 2012 and a bachelor's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Aeronautics with a minor in Unmanned Aerial Systems in 2016. Brad was able to take advantage of Kaman's tuition reimbursement benefit while he pursued both degrees.

After earning his bachelor's degree, Brad was promoted to the position of K-MAX Production Manager. During his two years in that role, his team built a total of nine airframes.

Brad Smelser standing in front of unpainted K-MAX airframe

Throughout his illustrious career with Kaman, Brad has traveled to many places, both domestically and internationally. In 1998, he lived in New Zealand for over six months as he worked to transition and train the New Zealand Air Force and Navy on their new SH-2G systems. He still returns to New Zealand, on occasion. Brad also traversed to Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, South Korea, Japan, Colombia, Australia, and Canada, where he helped customers maintain their aircraft fleets, among other things. Domestically, he has been to Arizona, Virginia, and many places in between. "Traveling is one of my favorite parts of my job at Kaman. I've had the pleasure of helping our customers, meeting new people, and experiencing their different cultures," he said.

In his relatively new role of Senior Manager of K-MAX Customer Service, Brad fills parts requests, troubleshoots aircraft problems, and acts as a communications conduit between Kaman and customers.

"I love working for Kaman, because it has always had a family feel. No matter where you move within the company, I always feel like I belong," he said. "If you work hard and show your worth, you are given opportunities to move around the business and pursue your passions."


Malissa Nesmith

Senior Director of Business Development

Malissa Nesmith has over 25 years of aviation experience, including aftermarket support, MRO and aerospace manufacturing.  She is active with Kaman customer visits, trade shows, marketing and communications.  She has also been a member of numerous trade organizations, including NBAA, AEA, ASA, and has sate on the boards of The Wichita Aero Club, ADMA, and GAMA.