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Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Review: Future Vertical Lift Forges Ahead

What are your favorite stories from 2012 and what is your helicopter industry outlook for 2013?

Andrew Parker, Editor-In-Chief

It’s that time of year again where Rotor & Wing looks back at the year’s events and tries to find some logic to apply to the future. As part of that effort, here is a summary of some of the most interesting stories that I came across during 2012, in no particular order.

The future took center stage during the AHS Forum in May, as CEOs from the major manufacturers led a lively discussion about what it will take for the U.S. military’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative to succeed and how new entrants to the commercial marketplace will change global dynamics moving forward (see “Innovation, Collaboration Essential to Future Success,” June issue, page 32). The CEO panel followed a presentation from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, who told a group of engineers that a “marriage” between S&T and program management is needed to advance FVL. An unexpected story developed during AHS—the retirement of Sikorsky President Jeff Pino (June issue, page 13).

Other articles that focused on Future Vertical Lift include “Investing in the Future,” May issue page 26, “FVL: Have Plan, Need Money,” in the July Military Insider on page M8, “Science & Technology Roadmap: Q&A with Bill Lewis,” on page M12, and “Q&A with Army Aviation PEO Tim Crosby,” on page 54 of the July issue.

While Rotor & Wing continues to expand its coverage of R&D topics with the 2012 launch of R&D Report, science and technology was just one of many areas that we focused on during 2012. In June we launched Helicopter Safety & Training, a monthly e-letter specifically focused on training and how operators are improving their SMS programs. This adds to the stable of Rotor & Wing newsletters, joining The Collective, our weekly offering, and the monthly Military Insider and Hot Products.

Of course a large share of highlights from the past year happened in February during Heli-Expo, which saw the debuts of the Bell 525 Relentless and Eurocopter EC130T2 (see March issue, page 12) as well as the finalization of AgustaWestland’s purchase of Bell Helicopter’s stake in the BA609 (now AW609) tiltrotor (see March, page 13). The industry’s largest tradeshow also saw Sikorsky and CTI open a new whirl tower (March, page 17); Honeywell forecast an increase in the Asian and Latin American markets (March, page 18); and Russian Helicopters teaming with IHST (March, page 26).

During Heli-Expo, Honeywell offered the chance to experience its Sentinel and Observer displays in the air aboard the company’s Eurocopter AS350BA. Senior test pilot Ronald Wayman took me up to display the functions of the system during a Feb. 11 test flight (see “Dallas from 500 Feet,” April issue, page 4).

Another event that stands out was Quad-A in April, where MD Helicopters CEO Lynn Tilton announced the MD540F for the U.S. Army’s AAS competition (see May issue, page 13), EADS enhanced its AAS-72X (May, page 13), and Army leaders focused on Aim Point 2030 (May, page 12).

The Armed Aerial Scout voluntary flight demonstrations (VFDs) grabbed the headlines during the late part of 2012 (see story on page 18), with a number of manufacturers taking part, including AgustaWestland, Bell, Boeing, EADS/Eurocopter and MD. Sikorsky didn’t have a flying prototype available, but is offering its S-97 Raider for the OH-58D replacement program (should the Army decide to move forward with a formal competition following the VFDs).

One of my favorite experiences from this year was getting a chance to see the Eurocopter X3 (X-cubed) first-hand at Manassas Regional Airport on July 24 during the experimental aircraft’s U.S. demo tour (see September issue, page 4). It gave me the opportunity to talk with the test pilots while walking around the aircraft that one of my non-aviation friends described as “the Nike of helicopters,” a month after Editor-at-Large Ernie Stephens became the second person in the U.S. outside company engineers to fly the X3 (see August issue cover story, “Pilot Report: Eurocopter X3” on page 26).

Another recent highlight was traveling in October to Sikorsky’s Coatesville plant, where the production of the S-92 and S-76D takes place. There I had a chance to tour the facility (see “FAA Certifies S-76D; Bond S-92 Completions Begin,” November issue, page 12) and meet with the new CEO of Bond Aviation Group, Richard Mintern, who was there to inspect the first two S-92s that are part of a 16-ship order.

These are just a few of the biggest stories of 2012, there are many more online that didn’t make it to print. Check out our Product Review starting on page 26 and Year in Review section on page 32 for more, and look for additional stories and in-depth analysis at www.rotorandwing.com.

 

What are your favorite stories from 2012? What is your organization’s outlook heading into 2013? Please send your comments to aparker@accessintel.com

 

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