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Thursday, June 1, 2006


R&W's Question of the Month:

Is customer service important or not to manufacturers and suppliers in the helicopter industry?

Let us know, and look for your and others' responses in a future issue. Tell us what you think at rotorandwing@accessintel.com.


Through an editing error, Barney O'Shea's PacRim Notebook mentioned the Royal Australian Navy's grounded Sea Kings ("Times Are Changing," April 2006, page 57). Those aircraft are, in fact, again flying, with operational restrictions. We apologize to him and our readers for the error.

The Last H-3?

The U.S. Navy has not retired its last H-3 ("U.S. Navy Retires Sea Kings," March 2006, page 16). It is still flying H-3s as station search-and-rescue at a few naval air stations. I know for a fact that NAS Patuxent River is still flying H-3s in that role.

Mike Capasso
L-3 Titan
Leonardtown, Md.

You are correct. We worked off a press release that was unclear that the aircraft was Helicopter Sea Combat Sqdn. 2's last, not the Navy's. It was our responsibility to know the difference, which we obviously failed to do.--The Editor

Oh, That Cover!

I just wanted to ask if the Anheuser-Busch company sponsored the picture on the cover of your March 2006 "Helicopters & Heroes" issue. If not, perhaps they should add to your corporate account for the advertisement. Sorry, I couldn't help myself on that one.

Please keep up the great work on your wonderful publication. We all appreciate the info, articles and the sense of humor. Take care and God bless.

Keith Genter
North Pole, Alaska

Lean Manufacturing

I would like to respond to the May 2006 Rotor & Wing Question of the Month, "Is Lean Manufacturing something that can benefit smaller helicopter manufacturing and supply shops or strictly the domain of big corporations?"

Simply, Lean is the domain of large corporations that use production-line processes in which workers do the same job then pass the work to the next employee. Employees in smaller companies that do a variety of tasks would do better to use a common-sense approach to analyze each unique situation. The issue I would really like to address is: "Lean in the repair shop."

I work for a company that provides helicopter maintenance and support to the

U.S. Army for various helicopter models, as well as flight training for Army helicopter pilots.

Last year, the company began implementing Lean in our shops. For some months prior to this, it had been in the planning mode and hired an outside consulting firm to do the project. These people, while having impressive resumes, have little or no aviation background and we all know that aviation works differently than other industries.

I tried to be open-minded and look for the positive benefits for myself, my team, and the company as we started into this. However, it became clear the entire Lean concept is geared toward assembly-line production and that it will not work in the repair shop environment where each job is different and one individual or team starts a project then works it through to completion.

Lean is now six months overdue, after a tremendous amount of time and money having been spent. On the plus side, we were able to do a much needed "spring cleaning" and acquire new equipment that might not have been approved otherwise.

As for increased production in a shorter time frame, it is not there. If anything, we are now spending so much time housekeeping and doing paperwork that we are beginning to wonder when we will have time to repair aircraft. We could be looking at longer turnaround times and more employees.

Name Withheld By Request

One Picture . . .

I was just flipping through the current edition of Rotor & Wing. I wanted to complement you on the excellent job that your staff does in the reporting of what's happening in the helicopter industry. There are other publications out there that also do a great job, but I read R&W cover to cover every month.

The other reason I am writing is to ask about the picture that appears in the inside cover. The attached picture is the original of the one on the inside cover, but this one is hanging on my office wall. It is of aircraft Serial No. 53603 and was the first Bell 407 to have the Chelton 3D synthetic-vision electronic flight instrumentation system installed. It was completed at Edwards & Associates, Inc. and was delivered in early December 2004. I believe the picture was taken by Mike Milhorn, but I am not 100-percent sure.

Anyway, none of that information appears near the picture or in the associated article. We certainly don't mind use of the picture, but would like some credit thrown our way by including our name with it.

Thanks a ton and keep up the good work.

Jim Fogle
Sales / Project Manager
Edwards & Associates, Inc.
Piney Flats, Tenn.

MD and R&W

Several readers commented on the April 2006 Editor's Notebook on MD Helicopters and the U.S. Army's Light Utility Helicopter competition and Ms. Lynn Tilton's response to it , which we e-mailed to readers (and which has been posted on MD Helicopters' Web site).

I believe in MD Helicopters myself. My first ride in a MD500 set the tone for my love and desire of the company. Good for Lynn Tilton! She believes in her product and has not given up the hope of re-establishing a great name in the helicopter industry. She has stood up to the plate and taken the challenge while others have decided to leave the company.

Even with the past problems, I believe that MD Helicopters will make and is making a tremendous stride. I believe in its products and what Lynn Tilton is doing in standing up to Rotor & Wing. I myself read the article and cannot agree with the editor. A loyal MD helicopter pilot.

Chris Kane
Platinum Helicopters, Inc.
Palm Springs, Calif.

One would have to give credit where credit is due. Being a total supporter of MD Helicopters and of their new knight in shining armor, Lynn Tilton, I believe we should all stand behind her and her company's efforts if we are truly great Americans.

Having come from an aerospace background, I fully understand the desperate need not to lose this great national treasure she is committed to saving through the slanderous mudslinging by some pencil-pushing, editor-type geek. R&W would do good to back this angel up with whatever resources they can muster. A commercial MD500D pilot.

Michael J. Malpezzi
Bonsall, Calif.

I agree with Lynn Tilton. She and I spoke about this at the Army Aviation Assn. of America convention in Nashville. We need MD in the mix.

Col. Tom Reeves, U.S. Army (ret.)
Master Army Aviator
Unicoi, Tenn.

All sounds great, but a guy I met at Heli-Expo who owns an MD500 said that he could not buy rotor blades.

Why don't you try to buy a rotor blade or a strap pack and see how effective the supply chain really is?

Frank Van Rees

Fantastic response. We have at times been "paraphrased" as well on a much smaller scale and appreciate Lynn Tilton's response and R&W allowing her to get this out to us. It's great to see R&W extend the professional courtesy for a reply to be made. Well done.

Capt. Jan Becker
Managing Director
Becker Helicopters Pty Ltd.
Sunshine Coast Airport
Mudjimba, Queensland, Australia

Time will tell whether James T. McKenna will have to swallow his editorial. In the meantime, I wish to comment on his comparison between Boeing losing the C-5 competition and becoming a winner with the 747 and MD HeIicopters eventually becoming the winner if it loses the LUH competition. Closer to home, Bell became such a winner when it lost the U.S. Army's Light Observation Helicopter competition in the mid-1960s to MD's predecessor, Hughes, which won with its OH-6 over the Bell OH-4 and Hiller OH-5.

Rather than "crying over spilled milk," Bell invited a design firm to transform the ugly looks of the OH-4 into the sexy look of what became the successful 206-series Jet Ranger. Bell had the prototype up and flying (if I remember well) within the space of nine months.

However, as in the fashion and car industry, sexy looks change with the times. While Bell was in its extended "hibernation," Eurocopter and Agusta produced a number of sexy looking (and technically more advanced) helicopters, which might explain why there are so many of these hovering over North America--and the rest of the world--these days.

It is therefore not surprising that both these manufacturers also happen to be in the running for the LUH requirement.

Jan Alblas
JANCO Aviation

Why VH-71?

I work in the U.S. Army brigade that runs the Army's flight school here at Fort Rucker. I am one of the people working to integrate the new aircraft, and new models of current aircraft, into flight training. We are about to get the new UH-60M, CH-47F, and the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, the ARH-70.

Regarding Scott Walworth's letter, the way the military names aircraft is simply numerical in order of acquisition ("Why VH-71?," March 2006, page 8). The last aircraft the Army received was the TH-67. Now it will be the ARH-70, and soon it will be whichever number is next for the new Light Utility Helicopter. So, using this logic, the US101 must have been acquired for VIP use right after the Bell 407 was acquired. I hope this clears things up a little! (Just don't ask me what happened to the H-68 or H-69 series, LOL)

Capt. Chad Rooney, Aviation
Brigade S2/ S3 Training
110th Aviation Brigade
Fort Rucker, Ala.

Taking Issue

As the pilot with responsibility for flight data monitoring in CHC Europe, I would like to raise a number of issues with John Croft's piece on flight operations quality assurance programs ("FOQA Is Not A Four-Letter Word," September 2005, page 34).

At the time of the trial sponsored by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority and Shell Aircraft, CHC Scotia did not have a contract with Shell, and Shell was not operating S-92 helicopters on the North Sea. Shell did not and has not at any time instructed CHC Scotia or any other of the European-based CHC companies to implement a helicopter operations monitoring (HOMP), flight data monitoring or flight operations quality assurance program or any other safety program at all.

At the end of the U.K. CAA- and Shell-sponsored HOMP trial, CHC decided that the benefits evidenced from the trial were of sufficient magnitude to merit introduction of flight data monitoring across its entire European fleet of helicopters, some 66 aircraft of nine different types at that time. The article inferred quite wrongly and damagingly that CHC would only be interested in implementing a safety program if the Oil Giant Shell "told" it to.

CHC places safety at the very top of its priorities, investing considerable amounts of time and money every year in safety improvements.

Capt. Mike Pilgrim
AS332L Super Puma Pilot
CHC Scotia
Aberdeen, Scotland

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