Although his career to this point had focused mostly on the military, Wassmuth gained the of title product support manager and adapted to the needs of the K-MAX civilian sector. Supporting a civilian aircraft is much different from military aircraft support. The military paid for all the support structure and provisioning of its aircraft, but for K-MAX, “We had to set up a complete sustainment organization that made sure spare parts were provisioned, a training program established, and maintenance manuals were available for the first delivery. The commercial sector is all about making money and availability,” Wassmuth sums it up. He says the K-MAX was designed for efficient maintenance, parts usage, and aircraft simplicity. It was a package that was defined and implemented from initial conception.


Wassmuth had been with the K-MAX almost since its beginning, which prepared him to take advantage of the next career opportunity that presented itself. The director of K-MAX marketing left Kaman. “At that time the business development sales folks were typically pilots. Kaman asked me, a non-pilot, to assume that role,” Wassmuth fondly remembers. At the time that Kaman requested Wassmuth transition to his new sales role, company management said something that in hindsight became increasingly insightful over time. They said, “You know almost everything about this aircraft. You know after the customer gets past the purchase price, the most important things are support and reliability.” Kaman made the paradigm shift from pilots promoting aircraft to someone like Wassmuth with more of a maintenance and technical background, who could talk from experience about how Kaman could support the buyer and aircraft after the sales contract was signed. “Exactly,” agrees Wassmuth. “I know a lot of the responsibilities that are involved in getting and keeping aircraft off the ground.”

It was an innovative idea to sell the K-MAX by promoting after-sale advantages, but over the next three years Mr. Kaman became less involved in daily operations and the decision was made to discontinue K-MAX production in 2003. The director of K-MAX marketing found himself without a product to sell. Still, those years were not wasted, Wassmuth says. “I’ve had a lot of mentors and received a lot of advice. Mr. Kaman over a number of years shared his experiences and what he had learned about dealing with customers and what made them tick. It was an advantage and an honor for him to share those lessons he learned with me.”

Just as Kaman had recruited the then-young military maintenance technician at an opportune time, Hamilton Sundstrand came calling and recruited Wassmuth to support its military aftermarket. Wassmuth stayed with his new employer for eight years, briefly left for a little over a year, then returned to Hamilton Sundstrand to head up business development for domestic sustainment programs for its joint strike fighter program. Upon his return, he sent a congratulatory note to a former Kaman boss who was promoted to president of Kaman Industrials. That courteous gesture was returned when the new president wrote his short reply: “Hey, thanks! Do you want to come back to Kaman?” (Courtesy counts.) Yes, Wassmuth was interested and came full circle to where he began, but his career was not going in circles.

18 July/Aug 2018 GOOD TEAMMATE

This time he started not as a young trainee, but as Kaman’s seasoned senior director of business development to lead the team in the aero-systems division. What makes a good team member? “Dependability, a positive attitude, and a willingness to learn. With those attributes, you can overcome a lot,” Wassmuth replies. “You can be really smart and knowledgeable, but if you are undependable or have a negative attitude, it will harm the team and make accomplishments difficult to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, you need smart people, but attitude is extremely important. You can have a great team, but you can have just one person who damages the whole makeup of the team and environment. You have to get negative people onboard or move them along.”

Unlike when he was promoted to director of K-MAX marketing, Wassmuth now has much business to develop, including promoting the resurrected K-MAX that found new production life in 2015, in part due to demand for its hot-and-high operational capabilities. “It can lift 6,000 pounds at sea level and 114 degrees F, and it starts to separate itself even more at higher altitudes. At 15,000 feet it lifts 4,000 pounds, a similar load to much larger helicopters,” Wassmuth notes. “The larger helicopters have their place, but it takes a lot of expense to run one of those machines compared to a K-MAX.”

That inclusive, soft-sell approach is an opportunity that fits Kaman’s market and niche aircraft. “Instead of having three S-70s for firefighting and external lift, have two S-70s and three K-MAXs with less acquisition and operating costs. We’re not trying to completely replace aircraft like the S-70, but we’re trying to get customers to think of their entire fleet and exponentially expand their overall capabilities. Instead of having three Maserati sport cars and all of the expense of maintaining them, you can have two Maseratis and three pickup trucks for less money and get more work done,” Wassmuth says. The wrench-turning executive has been getting work done and helping others do the same throughout his ascending career, but sorry, unlike the K-MAX, his restored Chevy pickup is not for sale.

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