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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Rotorcraft Report

In March to Efficiency, Sikorsky Buys Keystone and CTI

Sikorsky Aircraft is looking for buyout candidate that can help it streamline military aircraft production in the same way it hopes to boost the efficiency of its commercial aircraft lines with the acquisition of Keystone Ranger Holdings.

Sikorsky on Nov. 1 said it would buy the $225-million-revenue Keystone Ranger, which controls Keystone Helicopter and the rotor-blade specialist Composite Technology, Inc., for an undisclosed sum. The deal, which is subject to numerous U.S. and other nations' government approvals, was expected to close by early this month.

"Keystone is a great strategic fit for Sikorsky," said Sikorsky President Steve Finger. "This acquisition allows Sikorsky to meet growing demand for its products and services while adding flexible internal capabilities to meet increasing industry requirements for highly-customized commercial aircraft for a broad portfolio of customers."

The Stratford, Conn. company is in the midst of a drive to double production and reshuffle its manufacturing to focus on core competencies while farming out other work to companies that can do it more efficiently. That was a key reason for acquiring West Chester, Pa.-based Keystone Ranger, whose Keystone Helicopters unit specializes in completions and modifications.

"We need to build one kind of helicopter" on each line, said Jeff Pino, Sikorsky's senior vice president for corporate and commercial programs. "A helicopter has to move every three days."

To do that, he said, Sikorsky has to focus on producing the basic, "green" aircraft and have it completed and modified to a customer's specifications someplace else. Keystone "is better at one-off stuff than we are."

While Sikorsky will spend the next several months absorbing Keystone and Grand Prairie, Texas-based Composite Technologies and rationalizing the operations of all the recently acquired companies, Pino said Sikorsky "is looking at a military variation of the same thing."

The Keystone-Composite Technologies, Inc. (CTI) deal, which follows Sikorsky's acquisitions of Schweizer Aircraft in 2004, Helitech in Australia in 2003, Derco Holdings in 2002 and Helicopter Support, Inc. in 1998, comes as Keystone Ranger had exhausted the limits of the investors that owned it. With annual revenues of $2.5 billion, Sikorsky has "better, deeper resources," said Steve Townes, CEO of Ranger Aerospace, which led the investor group's takeover of Keystone in 2002 and CTI in 2004.

Those companies "won't have to go schlepping for capital every time they want to do something," Townes said."

Keystone President Dave Ford and CTI President Mike Topa agreed.

"We're straining to grow and [the investors] simply don't have any more capital resources" within their own guidelines, which limited how much of their portfolios can be in one company, Ford said. "So the timing was absolutely perfect in terms of Sikorsky's strategic interest in us and our desire to be put in stronger hands so we could continue to grow."

In addition to its engineering and completions facilities in West Chester and Coatesville, Pa., Keystone has air medical operations throughout the eastern U.S. CTI has substantial rotor blade and composite-structures overhaul capabilities in Grand Prairie, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Singapore.

Keystone will continue to operate under the Keystone brand name as a wholly owned subsidiary of Sikorsky. CTI also will continue to operate under its own name, reporting to Sikorsky's Helicopter Support, Inc. subsidiary.

An immediate challenge for Keystone will be easing concerns among the many other airframe makers for whom it does completions and engineering work, either directly or indirectly through their customers. Keystone this year, for instance, has served as an overflow facility producing A119s and completing A109s for Agusta Aerospace, whose Philadelphia production facilities have been tapped out by new orders. Keystone also has relationships with Bell, Eurocopter and MD Helicopter, as well as Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Turbomeca.

Ford said he is confident he can persuade the manufacturers that Keystone can protect their intellectual property as a Sikorsky subsidiary.

CIVIL

Schweizer Flies X2 Technology Demonstrator

A 333 test bed for Sikorsky Aircraft's fledgling X2 Technology project (shown below) is conducting flight tests to validate a prototype fly-by-wire system developed by Honeywell at Sikorsky subsidiary Schweizer Aircraft's "Hawkworks" in Elmira, N.Y.

The first flight of the test bed on Nov. 3 marked a key milestone for Sikorsky, which said last June that it would begin flight testing X2 technologies before year's end. That 90-min. flight demonstrated basic capabilities and, according to Sikorsky, the aircraft performed flawlessly. "The X2 Technology demonstrator program continues to advance on plan toward first flight before the end of 2006," said Carey Bond, Sikorsky's new vice president of corporate strategy and advanced programs.

The program's objective is to demonstrate the ability to build a vertical-lift aircraft that can exceed 200-kt. cruise speed without sacrificing the abilities that make a helicopter unique and valuable--"all the hover, confined-area, rough-field, low-speed maneuvering, nap-of-the-earth and autorotation capabilities," said Sikorsky President Steve Finger.

Sikorsky aims to fly a counter-rotating, coaxial-rotor helicopter with an aft propulsor at 250 kt. cruise speed. It has set up a fly-by-wire integration lab at Schweizer, which it bought in 2004, to support that. The X2 Technology plans are based on a fly-by-wire system with advanced control laws that can integrate cockpit commands to the main rotor, aft propulsor and engine. Schweizer also is manufacturing an X2 prototype designed by Sikorsky engineers.

In addition to the fly-by-wire flight controls from Honeywell with advanced flight control laws, the X2 family of coaxial-rotor aircraft is projected to include new, rigid main rotors based on composite-material advances from the abandoned U.S. Army RAH-66 Comanche program, a Sikorsky-developed integrated propulsion system powered by the Comanche's LHTEC T800-LHT-801 that would have a greater horsepower-to-weight performance and the ability to seamlessly transfer power from the main rotor to the aft propulsor, and an active vibration control system designed by Moog.

Columbia Gets Vertol 107 and BV234 Type Certificates, Buys "Baby Chinooks"

Columbia Helicopters has acquired the type certificates for the Vertol 107II and BV234 Chinook helicopters from Boeing. The 107 is the civilian version of the CH-46, while the 234 is the civilian version of the CH-47.

Only 13 commercial versions of the Chinook were built, of which two were lost in accidents. Of the remaining 11, Columbia has eight, only seven of which are airworthy. The remaining three were purchased by the Taiwan Army for disaster relief, search and rescue and VIP transport. Those were subsequently donated to the Taiwan Department of Forestry.

Based on the CH-47C, the Model 234 has a longer nose to accept radar, extended-range fuel tanks, passenger-type windows and overhead baggage compartments.

Columbia has also acquired eight Vertol CH-113 Labradors from the Canadian government that have been retired from SAR operations. The CH-113 is the Canadian designation for the 107. Added to its fleet of 15 107s, the Canadian aircraft will give the Aurora, Ore.-based company a total of 23 Vertol 107 types. Their acquisition was based on future fleet expansion plans, said Peter Lance, Columbia's executive vice president and vice president of flight operations.

The acquisition of the Canadian 107s, or "Baby Chinooks," makes Columbia the world's only commercial operator of the 107 or 234 helicopters.

Acquisition of the type certificates for the two cargo rotorcraft primarily was aimed at reducing the maintenance process for the aircraft, eliminating the requirement to go through Boeing when dealing with either the FAA or parts vendors for the aircraft. "This allows us to take over our own destiny in acquiring parts and dealing with vendors," Lance said.

Phoenix Police To Add Koalas To A109 Power and AStars

The Phoenix Police Dept. Air Support Unit, which took delivery of an Agusta A109 Power last June, has ordered two new A119 Koalas for delivery next March.

The order is part of the department's plan to totally replace its fleet of MD Helicopters MD-520Ns. Along with the A109, it has also taken delivery of one Eurocopter A350B3 AStar last year and two this year. Phil Tilford, chief pilot for the Air Support Unit, said the plan is to end up with nine or 10 helicopters.

The A109 Power is shared with the Phoenix Fire Dept., which has indicated a desire for a second twin-engine helicopter. The order for a second twin is still under consideration, Tilford said, as is the type it would be if the department decided to order another aircraft. Delivery of the two A119 Koalas would give the unit six aircraft, with another two planned for fiscal year 2007.

EMS Voice on Capitol Hill

Two members of Congress have formed the Air Medical Caucus to focus attention on issues of national importance to the air medical service industry.

Spurred by the chaotic response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast and poor use of available helicopters in that response, EMS operators pushed for a group to address those and other problems on Capitol Hill.

Reps. Thomas Allen (D-Maine) and J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) agreed to co-chair the caucus. They hope to get members of the Senate and other House members to join the group, a traditional means in Congress of identifying and advancing legislative priorities for particular interest groups.

The caucus' first meeting, on Oct. 19 on Capitol Hill, featured briefings on the nature of the air medical service industry, the shortfalls of the Katrina response and the emergency plans of the state of Florida, which integrate helicopters.

Potential priorities for the caucus include incorporating air medical services as applicable agencies for future funding for interoperable communications, prioritizing them for federal grants, and expanding federal funding for hospital helipad construction.

After 20-Plus Years, Is Bristow Out of U.K. SAR?

The United Kingdom's Maritime and Coastguard Agency has named CHC Helicopter Corp. the preferred bidder to provide commercial search-and-rescue helicopter support from four bases in that country for five years starting in mid-2007.

The announcement signals the agency's intention to oust Bristow Helicopters, which has performed that job for more than 20 years, from that role.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based CHC proposes to the Sikorsky S-92 for the commercial SAR services. Bristow, which flies the S-61N for U.K. commercial SAR services, is expected to challenge the preferred-bidder designation. Bristow is part of the Offshore Logistics Group.

The government and CHC must now negotiate terms of a contract to provide SAR services from three dedicated, civilian-run bases at Sumburgh, Stornoway and Lee on Solent on a round-the-clock basis and from Portland on a day-time only basis.

The commercial SAR contract would start July 1, 2007 and have a one-year option. Award of the contract is not assured and remains subject to final approval by the U.K. Department for Transport.

The contract is one of the first steps leading toward an initiative to rationalize and standardize SAR operations, both offshore and inland, by the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and a commercial operator in the United Kingdom.

CHC today provides SAR and emergency helicopter services in Ireland, Africa, Australia and Norway.

Moving Map Available for R44 Police Helicopter

Robinson Helicopters is offering a moving map for operators of R44 Raven 2s. Aimed at law-enforcement operators, the map allows the crew to type in an address, which is then displayed on a street map showing its location and the aircraft's position. Direction, distance and estimated time of arrival are also displayed, providing an easy-to-use map to guide the operators to their destination.

The moving map was created with software designed by Flight Management Systems. FAA-approved, it includes a Stealth personal computer with Intel 1.2-GHz. Celeron processor and custom keyboard. Its image is displayed on the same 10-in. Transvideo fold-down monitor used with the forward-looking infrared camera system. Buttons on the screen allow the observer to switch between the FLIR images and map display. GPS position data is provided by the Garmin 420 GPS/Com, standard on the Raven 2 police helicopter. The onboard computer also supports a mobile data terminal, which allows two-way communication with police dispatch computers and squad cars.

Eurocopter Commanding Lion Share of U.S. EMS Market

American Eurocopter claims recent orders of Eurocopter helicopters by major U.S. air medical service providers have given it an 88-percent share of what it says is a 371-helicopter U.S. EMS market.

In the last two years, its vice president of commercial affairs, Larry Roberts, said, American Eurocopter has sold aircraft to major operators like Air Methods, CJ Systems, Omniflight Helicopters and PHI Air Medical Group as well as an assortment of other operators, such as Air Life of Oregon, STAT Medevac, Eagle Air Med, UMass Memorial Medical Center and Vanderbilt LifeFlight.

Air Methods, the largest U.S. air medical services provider, bought six twin-engine EC135 Eurocopters in 2005 and 11 the year before. With 76 Eurocopter helicopters in its 110-aircraft fleet, CJ Systems Aviation Group is one of this country's largest air medical services operators. The company has ordered a mix of 15 EC135s and EC145s with options to buy more into 2007. Omniflight's 45-plus helicopter fleet is being expanded through the purchase of new EC135s, AS350 B2s, and AS350 B3s. PHI ordered a mix of 24 Eurocopters in the last two years.

Eurocopter Creates Japanese Subsidiary

Eurocopter has created a new unit to manage and enhance its position in what it calls the "rapidly evolving conditions" of the Japanese helicopter market. Eurocopter Japan will coordinate the network and the sales activities of the consortium in Japan, working with the distributor and Eurocopter unit EuroHeli. The CEO of Eurocopter Japan and managing director of EuroHeli, Stephane Ginoux, said Eurocopter Japan will "better address present customers' needs, as well as tackle business development activities."

Eurocopter claims to hold more than 50 percent of the Japanese civil and para-public market, with a fleet of 355 helicopters there. It recently completed the sale of an EC225, the newest version of its Super Puma, to the Japanese Defense Agency for transportation of the emperor and foreign heads of state. The Super Puma and AS365 Dauphin are popular with high-profile customers such as the Japan Defense Agency, the National Police Agency, the Tokyo Fire Dept. and numerous prefectures, Ginoux said. The 6-9-seat BK117, which was developed jointly with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, has also been successful in Japan, with more than 60 in operation there.

Museum Hosts All-Helo Air Show

About 6,000 visitors crowded the ramp of the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center (www.helicoptermuseum.org) in West Chester, Pa. for its ninth annual Rotorfest open house and all-helicopter airshow Oct. 15-16. They saw more than a dozen helicopters, including a privately owned, mint-condition, 1957 Bell 47, a Pennsylvania State Police Agusta A119, and a U.S. Army CH-47. The highlight was a full-size U.S. Marine Corps V-22 prototype on long-term loan and open for walkthroughs. A pair of corporate Bell 206Bs gave demo rides. Guests were treated to air performances thrice daily, including a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65A simulated basket rescue, an airborne assault from Bell 407 by New Jersey State troopers, and an aerial ballet by a Bell 47.--Sgt. Ernie Stephens

S-92 Gains FAA, Transport Canada Icing Certification

The FAA and Transport Canada have certified the S-92, equipped with a new Rotor Ice Protection System, for flight into known icing conditions.

The regulatory agencies granted the approvals in October, clearing the S-92 to what Sikorsky said are the newest and most stringent all-weather flight safety standards in North America.

Any S-92 with the system will now be allowed to launch in icy weather that might otherwise delay or cancel flight operations. The system actively assesses the temperature and moisture content of ambient air and applies heat to the main and tail rotor blades to remove ice.

The FAA certification followed Sikorsky's completion of final flight tests in Alaska in October. Transport Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency flew the S- 92 there to test the de-icing system immediately after the FAA flights.

"Icing conditions in Canada are among the most severe in the world," said Mick Maurer, Sikorsky vice president of commercial programs. "This makes the Transport Canada endorsement particularly meaningful." Cougar Helicopters Ltd., an early S-92 customer, was a key participant in the certification effort. Its operations in Newfoundland are affected much of the year by severe icing and the company has special expertise in these types of operations.

A key feature of the S-92 is now "its all-year, all-weather capability," said Jeffrey Pino, Sikorsky's senior vice president for corporate strategy and commercial programs.

Blue Sky Network Wins U.S. Contract Approval

Blue Sky Network has won a five-year U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) schedule contract that allows government agencies to more easily acquire and deploy the company's mobile satellite communications products, made primarily for aviation assets.

Blue Sky Network's FAA-certified products lets customers track their aviation assets via satellite anywhere in the world, a capability important for government agencies operating in remote locations or conducting relief and recovery efforts after disasters that knock out land-based communications. Blue Sky Network obtain the contract (GS-35F-0918R) on the GSA IT Schedule 70. GSA establishes long-term, government-wide contracts with commercial firms to provide access to more than 10 million commercial supplies and services that can be ordered directly from GSA schedule contractors. The GSA schedule is a direct procurement vehicle intended to simplify the administration of the government's extensive requirements and reduce the time and expense of acquisition for both the contractor and the federal customer.

OuterLink Adds Canadian Repair Center

OuterLink Corp. has appointed Kitchener Aero, located at Waterloo Regional Airport in Breslau, Ontario, Canada, as an authorized OuterLink repair center.

"Kitchener is recognized as a leading repair center of choice for many major avionics manufacturers," said Paul Newcomb, president of OuterLink. With its appointment, "Canadian users of OuterLink products and services will be able to avoid complicated cross border issues and receive the rapid, high-quality service and information they deserve. This appointment is important for our existing customers and for future growth anticipated with the release of our new range of products and services."

"We are excited to add OuterLink's product line to our service capabilities," said Barry Aylward, president of Kitchener Aero. "They are the established industry leader in flight-following technology and products. Our goal is to help our customer base meet their service needs by providing the resources necessary to keep their aircraft operating at peak performance. I'm excited about teaming with OuterLink. They have the same deep commitment to customer support and service as we do."

Enstrom Ends 480B Demo Tour

Enstrom Helicopter last month completed a tour of 12 police and sheriff's offices across the northern United States, from Menominee, Mich. to Los Angeles, showing off its newly configured 480B Guardian. The 480B Guardian was demonstrated to the Minnesota State Patrol and South Dakota State Patrol, along with several sheriff's and police departments in Montana, Washington, Oregon and northern California. Company officials said visiting the police and sheriff departments throughout the country was the best way to publicize Enstrom's "very competitive turbine aircraft for police patrol missions." The aircraft has already been shown at the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn. annual convention as well as on a tour of the East Coast, during which it visited more than 27 police precincts, with more than 40 police pilots having the opportunity to fly the aircraft.

Air Methods' Products Div. Now Designated Alteration Station

Air Methods Corp. has won FAA approval for its Products Div. to exercise the authority of a designated alteration station (under certificate DAS-635841-NM) as permitted under Federal Aviation Regulations Part 21, Subpart M. This authority permits the division to approve modifications and repairs to aircraft that it currently supports under its FAA-certified repair station using the supplemental-type-certification method of approval with only minimal involvement from the FAA.

Of the many companies in the United States providing modifications and maintenance for helicopters, the company said, Air Methods' Products Div. is one of only a few to be granted this authority.

"Air Methods Products Div. provides air ambulance operators and other customers with aircraft modifications that must be FAA-certified before entering service," said Arthur Torwirt, vice president of the division. "Minimizing the length of time required to complete these projects increases availability of valuable aircraft. The DAS authority allows our team to control the schedule and reduce the time the aircraft is being modified."

Schweizer Delivers 1000th Helicopter

Schweizer Aircraft has delivered its 1000th helicopter, a 300CBi (right), which went to BC Helicopters in Abbotsford, British Columbia. The new helicopter is BC Helicopters' 11th 300CBi. The 300CBi is part of the 269 Series, which Schweizer purchased from Hughes Helicopters in 1983. Schweizer is a subsidiary of Sikorsky Aircraft. "The transition of the 269 Series program from Hughes Helicopters to Schweizer Aircraft has been a true success story," said the company's president, Paul Schweizer. "The purchase of the 269 Series enabled Schweizer to diversify its product base, increase its manufacturing and engineering sophistication, and expand its business. With the support of our employees, the 269 Series helicopter program has been revitalized and expanded, making this important achievement a possibility and enabling Schweizer to become a leader in both light helicopters and unmanned vehicles."

CSAR-X UPDATE

Flyoffs Begin at Nellis as V-22 Withdraws From Race

Contenders in the U.S. Air Force's competition for a new combat search-and-rescue aircraft have begun flight demonstrations at Nellis AFB, Nev., near Las Vegas, but Bell/Boeing's V-22 will not be among them.

The Bell/Boeing team withdrew from the Combat Search And Rescue-X (CSAR-X) race in late October. The move did not surprise observers, who viewed the Osprey's $70-million-plus unit price as too steep for the competition. Bell/Boeing officials said revised speed requirements made the V-22 less attractive.

"After a thorough review of the revised request for proposals," Bob Kenney, vice president of Boeing's V-22 joint program, said Oct. 20, "it was clear the CSAR-X program's requirements and funding profile did not call for the advanced speed and range offered by the V-22."

He said the V-22 team would focus on the needs of the Air Force's Special Operations Command, which has ordered the CV-22 for combat insertion and search and rescue. The move followed by two days the unrelated, unscheduled landing in Prescott, Ariz. of a CV-22 that suffered damage to both engines after ingesting ice in flight. It was being delivered from Bell's Amarillo, Texas facility to Edwards AFB, Calif. for testing. After engine changes, the aircraft--the second Air Force test article--arrived at Edwards Nov. 4.

Withdrawal of the V-22 from the CSAR-X competition leaves the Sikorsky HH-92 Superhawk variant of the S-92, the US101 based on the EH-101 and the Boeing HH-47 based on the MH-47G. The S-92 (shown above) began flight demonstrations at Nellis in early November.

Meanwhile, Team US101, led by Lockheed Martin, picked Air Methods Corp. to develop the multi-mission aeromedical interior for its CSAR-X contender. Air Methods is noted for multi-mission interior systems for aircraft such as the S-70 Firehawk and the HH-60L Blackhawk.

MILITARY

U.S. Army Seeks Avionics Spares Help

The U.S. Army is soliciting refurbished avionics to maintain an adequate parts supply for its helicopters. The Army Communications-Electronics Command's Logistics and Readiness Center realized the need and economic effectiveness of more refurbished parts after meeting with an avionics test equipment supplier.

At the meeting, said Bob Mansfield, senior logistician with that center's Airborne NavComm Div., Army officials discovered the supplier had acquired a significant quantity of Black Hawk horizontal situation indicators to refurbish and sell. "We realized that if one supplier was doing this, perhaps other companies are out there who can help us to meet our heavy demand," he said. Since then, two more suppliers have been located, with more than 200 HSIs acquired from the three.

"It worked out well for everyone involved," Mansfield said. "The suppliers found a willing buyer, the U.S. Army is able to get spare parts to the warfighters more quickly and the U.S. taxpayer saved money." The division has now begun a commodity-wide market survey to identify opportunities to buy quantities of other urgently needed avionics.

AgustaWestland Sees Solution Soon for EH101 Cracking

AgustaWestland says it is confident it understands how to prevent EH101 tail rotor cracking that is the subject of an investigation by it and the Canadian military.

Resolution of the problem is a top priority at AgustaWestland, which is developing a version of the EH101 to carry the U.S. president, pitching the aircraft for the U.S. Air Force's Combat Search And Rescue-X competition and building variants for governments in Europe and Asia. An AgustaWestland official said the company also is confident the issue "will be solved in the near future."

A lay-up change resolved a previous problem with superficial cracking in glass-fiber sheathing of the part's "window" area on Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorants. But in August Canadian inspectors found cracking near the attachment bolt hole that extended to the structural core on one tail rotor. That led to imposition in Canada of a 25-hr. inspection on the part and operational restrictions on the aircraft.

NH90 Completes French Army Engineering Trials

The Airmobile Group of the French Army Engineering Branch has completed an evaluation of the tactical capabilities of the NH90. Using the aircraft PT4 with German Army markings, a team of pilots and flight engineers from the group, which is known by the French acronym Gamstat, ran the helicopter built by the NH Industries consortium through its paces for two weeks in late September.

The primary goals of the operational engineering evaluation were to verify that the aircraft's mission system operated as intended in an operational environment, to validate the flight-vision system and to study work sharing between crewmembers.

After an initial daytime familiarization flight, the majority of the missions took place at night to test the use of the standard French Army Air Corps (ALAT) night-vision goggles and then the Thales Top Owl helmet coupled to the piloting forward-looking infrared sensor. Both systems are to be fitted on the ALAT aircraft. The FLIR-coupled Top Owl helmet displays a visor-projected image from an IR camera pointing in the direction in which the pilot is looking. The pilot can thus control his aircraft "from the outside" without interference from the cockpit structures.

Nighttime nap-of-the-earth flights were made in the Valence area at heights up to 400 ft. and at speeds of 130-140 kt. The team also measured the NH90's IR signature.

Turbomeca Bench-Tests New Ardiden Engine

Turbomeca has developed and successfully bench-tested a new turboshaft engine designed for helicopters in the 5-6.5-ton category.

Designated the Ardiden, it features a simple, modular and compact design built around a gas generator with two centrifugal compressor stages coupled to a single-stage, high-pressure turbine. The power turbine comprises two stages. The engine will be controlled by a dual-channel engine electronic control unit.

The Ardiden is planned for use initially in the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) Dhruv, and was designed in response to that aircraft's demanding missions at higher altitudes and in hot weather. It is rated at 1,200-shp. takeoff power, and is designed to retain full performance under high altitude and hot temperature conditions and offer very low cost of maintenance and ownership, according to Turbomeca said.

For its application in the Dhruv, a variant christened the Ardiden 1H (and Shakti in India) was jointly developed and produced with HAL. Completion of the bench-test run opens the development and test phases. This will be followed by the first flight planned for July 2006 and completed by CASA certification in December 2006. It is to enter service in March 2007 with the Indian armed forces. Click here for more Turbomeca news from Rotor & Wing

Tech Partner Likely, but Talks on Korea Helicopter Program Falter

Press reports in South Korea quote that nation's Defense Ministry as identifying Eurocopter as the most likely contender to proceed with the long-delayed and contentious Korean Helicopter Program. AgustaWestland and Bell are vying with Eurocopter for it, which calls for spending more than $1.2 billion to acquire 245 advanced utility helicopters starting in 2011. They would be produced in Korea with technology from abroad. The Joong Ang Daily quoted a ministry official as saying AgustaWestland and Bell proposed "their own helicopter development projects," while Eurocopter's bid appealed more to Korean officials.

Deepwater Taps Eurocopter To Help With HH-65 Re-engining

American Eurocopter has received a subcontract from Lockheed Martin to re-engine and upgrade the U.S. Coast Guard's HH-65 Dolphin helicopter fleet under the Integrated Deepwater System program.

Under terms of the contract, American Eurocopter will manage the conversion of 11 HH-65B helicopters to the upgraded HH-65C version, replacing Honeywell LTS-101-750s with Turbomeca Arriel 2C2 engines, at the company's Columbus, Miss., facility, with the work planned for completion in late 2006. The contract also contains an option for upgrading six additional HH-65s.

The Coast Guard has sold Congress on a budget plan that called for saving money by modifying the aircraft in its own facilities. But that work fell behind schedule for a variety of reasons, including what a top Coast Guard official said was a shortage of parts. Since Coast Guard leaders had stated publicly that problems with the Honeywell engines were limiting HH-65 aircrews' capabilities and jeopardizing their safety, accomplishing the mods became a priority that led to the agreement, long hinted at, with Eurocopter.

Coast Guard officials said shifting work to Columbus will help their ongoing conversion of the HH-65 fleet to the improved-performance HH-65C model. That work has been under way at the Coast Guard Aircraft and Supply Center in Elizabeth City, N.C. The second re-engining line in Columbus will provide capacity to accelerate the upgrades.

"American Eurocopter is ready to support the Coast Guard and Lockheed Martin in this important program," said American Eurocopter President Marc Paganini.

In a related development, Eurocopter won FAA approval to build the AS350B2 and B3 in Columbus. The facility opened at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport there on Oct. 20, 2004.

Eurocopter President and CEO Fabrice Brégier said the approval "is a major step in our strategy to invest in our manufacturing capabilities in the largest market in the world. "

Initial AS350 production will be about 30 aircraft a year. That could grow based on sales, he said. If Eurocopter wins the competition for the U.S. Army's Light Utility Helicopter, Bregier said, the UH145 LUH would be built in Columbus. He noted that 1,127 AS350s have been sold to 587 customers in 45 countries, including to 27 U.S. law enforcement agencies. Eurocopter claims 60 percent of the sales of helicopters to the U.S. law enforcement market.

The facility is also used to manufacture parts and subassemblies, as well as assemble, other Eurocopter helicopters, including the EC120, EC135, EC145 and EC155.

Bell Offers India Joint Venture For Light Recon Helo Competition

Bell Helicopter is proposing a joint venture with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and other indigenous manufacturers to co-produce helicopters in India for the Indian Army if it wins that nation's competition for a Light Reconnaissance Helicopter. "We're committed to build in country if selected," Bell CEO Michael Redenbaugh told Rotor & Wing. Redenbaugh recently visited India as part of a three-week world tour. He visited HAL to receive the ceremonial first articele of more than 5,200 206 tail rotor blades that HAL is now manufacturing under a $5.4-million, six-year contract with Bell.

Bell is competing with Eurocopter to supply the Indian Army's Aviation Corps with 197 light helicopters to replace the corp's fleet of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters. The Chetak is the Indian version of the Aerospatiale Alouette 2; the Cheetah is their version of the Lama. The corps plans to buy 60 helicopters outright from the winning manufacturer, with the remaining 137 to be produced under license by HAL. A primary requirement is for a helicopter capable of carrying a 165-lb. payload to altitudes of 23,000 ft., which would be required to resupply troops based at some posts in Kashmir and on the Siachen Glacier.

Bell is bidding the 407, while Eurocopter has proposed its AS550. The contract is valued at $500-$600 million. Kamov reportedly had submitted its Ka-226 in the competition, but was eliminated because it had been unable to obtain flight certification. Kamov reportedly has now received certification and requested participation in the upcoming evaluation.

U.S. Marines Get First UH-1Y and AH-1Z for OpEval

The U.S. Marine Corps took delivery of the first UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters in October to begin operational evaluation training. The two aircraft were manufactured by Bell as part of the Marine Corps H-1 upgrade program and had been operated by a joint Bell/government integrated test team for the engineering manufacturing development phase of the program. The aircraft were transferred to the Naval Air Systems Command, which turned them over to the Operational Test Unit at NAS Patuxent River, Md. The initial development phase was also conducted at Pax River. Two more aircraft are scheduled to be turned over for operational evaluation training this month after modifications from the engineering, manufacturing and development program have been completed. The actual OpEval phase is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2006 once the training for both aircrews and maintenance personnel is completed.

A total of 180 AH-1Z Cobras are scheduled to be remanufactured from the Marine Corps fleet of AH-1W "Whiskey" SuperCobras, while 100 UH-1Ys will be new-built aircraft. As the new UH-1Ys are introduced into service, the UH-1Ns they are scheduled to replace will be phased out.

US Air Force Takes First New Huey Trainer

The U.S. Air Force has taken delivery of the first of 24 new TH-1H training helicopters to be delivered through 2009. The first was rolled out Nov. 5 at Randolph AFB, Texas,home of pilot instructor training and Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, as part of the base's 75th anniversary. The aircraft are being fielded for the Air Education and Training Command, the USAF center for helicopter training at Fort Rucker, Ala.

The TH-1H has undergone an extensive refurbishment, including upgraded components and a new avionics suite with a glass cockpit. Four of the original round-dial gauges, however, remain in case there is a total failure of the new system.

"The TH-1H's advanced electronics provide expanded training opportunities and improved operational capabilities by upgrading the engine, transmission and rotor system," said Brig. Gen. Richard E. Perraut, Air Education and Training Command Plans and Programs director.

South Africa Receives First A109LUHs

The South African Air Force has taken delivery of the first of its AgustaWestland A109 Light Utility Helicopters, which are fitted with Turbomeca Arrius 2K2 engines.

As part of the air force's order of 30 twin-engine A109LUHs, the first four aircraft were delivered to the air force Oct. 19 at AFB Bloemspruit, Bloemfontein. The air force plans to use the A109LUHs for EMS, surveillance, troop transportation and rescue missions.

In a related development, AgustaWestland has won Swedish FLYGI military type certification for the HKP15 helicopter, the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration designation for the A109LUH.

LUH UPDATE

U.S. Army Takes Bids For LUH Competition

AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and MD Helicopters have officially tossed their hats in the Light Utility Helicopter ring, having sent proposals to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. in late October.

AgustaWestland is proposing a version of its A109 Power for the competition.

Bell is proposing its 412EP, having been forced to drop the new, FAA-certificated 210 Huey derivative that it developed with the LUH competition in mind.

The 210 was knocked out of contention when National Guard officials succeeded in setting a requirement for IFR certification for the LUH to provide a platform to keep their pilots IFR-qualified. The 210 is not IFR-certificated.

Eurocopter is bidding a militarized version of its EC145, which it says would be manufactured at its Columbus, Miss. plant if it wins.

MD Helicopters broke off its original partnership with Lockheed Martin for the LUH competition. To support its MD902 Explorer-based bid, it now has formed the Contractor Logistics Support team, which consists of MD as the prime contractor and DynCorp International, Aviation Systems of Northwest Florida and GENCO Infrastructure Solutions. The team proposes to provide both the aircraft and contractor logistics support through the life of the Light Utility Helicopter program. DynCorp International would provide the management and field-service/maintenance personnel and contractor field teams. GENCO would provide supply-chain management services and Aviation Systems would build and supply LUH training devices.

MD has upgraded the MD Explorer to include a Heli-Dyne Systems 600-lb.-capable hoist for rescue operations. It also has added primary flight displays featuring the FlightLogic 3-D Synthetic Vision electronic flight information system (EFIS) from Chelton Flight Systems. The EFIS combines advanced heads-up-display type symbology with real-time forward-looking 3-D terrain imagery. The Explorer is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207E engines.

MD is preparing two Explorers for the fly-off aircraft demonstration phase of the competition, which was to begin late last month.

CONTRACTS

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration has received a second-phase, $76.6-million U.S. Navy contract to complete the integration and flight testing of five airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) systems with the MH-60S multi-mission helicopter. The contract establishes a new funding increment for an earlier award that focused on design engineering and partial AMCM systems integration. The contract will finish linking the Lockheed Martin-designed AMCM Common Console with the two mine-detection systems and the three mine-neutralization systems that comprise each AMCM suite. The Common Console is the on-board control system that will allow the AMCM operator inside the helicopter to deploy and control each asset while performing mine countermeasures. Work is scheduled for completion by 2010.

Ducommun AeroStructures, Inc. has been awarded follow-on contracts from Mesa, Ariz.-based Boeing valued at $49 million for AH-64 Apache helicopter main rotor blades. The contract is for both original equipment and replacement blades and additive to current production and extends deliveries into 2007.

Alion Science and Technology has received a $5-million contract for process technology of replacement parts production through the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. The contract will focus primarily on Army helicopter and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) weapon systems and is aimed at increasing Army aviation readiness by easing the production of hard-to-acquire parts through advanced designs and processing technologies. These technologies will result in lower costs, shorter lead time, and higher quality parts and assemblies. The contract will be completed in Grantsburg, Wisc. with McNally Industries as a subcontractor.

PEOPLE

Kevin Connell has been named vice president of Bell's XworX organization at Arlington Municipal Airport, Texas. He had been Bell's H-1 program director since May 2004. Previously, Connell, a 25-year aerospace industry veteran, was Bell's executive director, commercial programs. Bell XworX is responsible for technology and component development, advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping, campaign support and customer service technologies for Bell's commercial and government business units.

BBA Aviation Services Group has named Hugh McElroy president and CEO of its subsidiary Dallas Airmotive, Inc. As the new president and CEO, McElroy will be responsible for all areas of BBA Aviation's worldwide engine repair and overhaul operations, including the Dallas Airmotive's headquarters facilities in Texas, Premier Turbines in Missouri, H+S Aviation in England and nine regional turbine centers throughout the United States and Europe. Prior to joining Dallas Airmotive in 1999, McElroy was president of UNC Airwork Corp. He held a variety of senior quality and logistics leadership positions at Airwork, including vice president of engineering, quality and materials.

MD Helicopters, Inc. has named Jeffrey L. Snyder as general manager of spare parts and service. A 25-year aerospace industry veteran, Snyder comes to the company from Kelly Aerospace, where he was vice president of sales and marketing. He also held senior positions at B/E Aerospace, where he was group vice president, and at Raytheon Aircraft, where he had worldwide responsibility for spares support. In his new position, Snyder will be responsible for spares support for nearly 3,000 helicopters manufactured by MD and its predecessor companies

Max-Viz, Inc. has appointed Lou Churchville as vice president, sales. He will be based at Max-Viz headquarters in Portland, Ore. and report directly to President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Tuttle.

Offshore Logistics, Inc. said Brian C. Voegele, its senior vice president, chief financial officer, principal accounting officer, secretary and treasurer, has resigned his positions to pursue other opportunities. The company has commenced a search for a new chief financial officer and principal accounting officer.

SkyTrac Systems Ltd, has appointed Capt. David John Allen as its representative throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. A former U.K. military pilot, Allen flew fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft primarily in the oil and gas industry, with his last position as director of operations for the Oil & Gas Div. of the Schreiner Aviation Group before leaving this year to take up aviation consultancy work.

Stan Rose has joined CJ Systems Aviation Group as its senior director of business development. His duties will include attracting new clients, enhancing customer service and assisting with current programs.

Lisa J. Porter has been appointed as NASA's associate administrator for the Aeronautics Mission Directorate, leading the agency's aeronautics research efforts and development of national aeronautics policy in cooperation with other government agencies. Prior to joining NASA, Porter was a senior scientist with the Advanced Technology Office of DARPA, and headed several programs to include the Helicopter Quieting Program focused on developing the capability to design quiet rotor blades that would not negatively impact aircraft performance.

Helinet Aviation Services founder Alan Purwin has appointed David Calvert-Jones to be chief executive officer. He has previously served as senior vice president, corporate strategy. Purwin will remain at Helinet and be responsible for business development. As CEO, Calvert-Jones will be responsible for managing the company's growth in the media, defense, law enforcement, motion picture and medical industries.

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Bill Taylor has assumed command of the joint Marine/U.S. Air Force V-22 Osprey program office, PMA-275. He replaces USAF Col. Craig Olson.

Sloane Helicopters Ltd. has said its managing director, David Morley, will be taking early retirement at the end of this year. He has been with Sloane for more than eight years, during which time the company has substantially developed and expanded the sales, engineering and operational support business associated with their U.K. and Ireland distributorships for Robinson and Agusta helicopters. .

Dec. 13-14
AHS Vertical Lift Technology Workshop,
L3-Titan Facility, Lexington Park, Md.,
Contact: Daniel Dickey, Tel: 240-895-7538; E-mail: Daniel.dickey@titan.com;

Feb. 6-10
2006 Army Medical Evacuation Conference,
Holiday Inn Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas.
Contact: LeNore Wells, 334-255-1166; E-mail: lenore.wells@se.amedd.army.mil; Web: www.us.army.mil/suite/page/86394.

Feb. 26-28
HAI Heli-Expo 2006,
Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, Texas. Wyndham Anatole Hotel.
Contact: Marilyn McKinnis, the Helicopter Assn. International, 703-683-4646; fax 703-683-4745; E-mail: marilyn.mckinnis@rotor.com; Web: www.rotor.com;

Feb. 28-March 1
FAA Aviation Forecast Conference,
Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.
Contact: Linda Baranovics, FAA, 202-267-7924; E-mail: Linda.baranovics@faa.gov; Web: apo.faa.gov/conference/welcome.htm.

May 9-11
American Helicopter Society International Forum 62,
Phoenix Civic Plaza, Phoenix, Ariz.
Contact: 703-684-6777, Fax: 703-739-9279; E-mail: Staff@vtol.org; Web: www.vtol.org/ahsfrm.html

May 18-20
European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (EBACE 2006).
Geneva Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland.
Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-783-9360; E-mail: dhubbard@nbaa.org; Web: www.nbaa.org.

July 18-23
Farnborough International Airshow,
Farnborough, England.
Contact: 44-20 7227 1043; E-mail: enquires@farnborough.com; Web: www.farnborough.com

Aug. 10-12
Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (LABACE 2006).
Congonhas Airport in S㯠Paulo, Brazil.
Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-783-9360; E-mail: dhubbard@nbaa.org; Web:www.nbaa.org.

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