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Friday, June 1, 2007

Air Shows: Paris in the Summer

James Careless

At the world’s premier air show, helicopters are taking their place this year.

Although the Paris Air Show’s main focus is on fixed-wing aircraft, this year things may be different. Organizers of the biennial event, members of the French aerospace industries association GIFAS, are using the opportunity of the show to celebrate the centennial of the first powered, free (or untethered) flight of a helicopter.

The air show comes a bit early to mark the centennial. It was not until Nov. 13, 1907 that a French bicycle maker named Paul Cornu took to the air in a rotary-wing aircraft at Coquainvilliers, near Lisieux, about 110 mi (180 km) west-northwest of Paris.

It was a short flight. His tandem, counter-rotating rotor craft rose about a foot and hovered about 20 sec. The controls of his aircraft were inadequate and it never developed into a practical helicopter. Nonetheless, he claimed a first and made the French proud. Given the dominance Eurocopter has achieved in the world’s rotorcraft markets, one might reasonably assume Cornu would be proud of his countrymen as well. His achievement puts the helicopter at center stage of this year’s show, a welcome development for the many rotorcraft-related companies exhibiting at Le Bourget this year.

Bell Helicopter (www.bellhelicopter.textron.com) brings a great many questions in the wake of its arrival at the air show. What will become of its U.S. Army ARH-70A armed reconnaissance helicopter, threatened with cancellation barely three months earlier? What of its civil programs, given the cancellation of the 417 launched little more than a year ago? What changes has its new chief, Richard Millman, wrought, and what more changes are to come?

Bell officials will be answering those and other questions at Chalet A 390.

Of its aircraft programs, Bell reports that test flights of its new 429 are proceeding well. Flight test pilots say the light twin IFR helicopter has been "very stable and predictable," according to the company. Production rotor blades have replaced the prototype blades used on the first flight. New software has also been loaded into the 429, for ongoing testing and refinement. Bell also is looking for more work from the U.S. Marine Corps, which wants to buy new AH-1Z Cobras instead of re-manufactured ones under its H-1 upgrade program. The Corps already plans to buy new UH-1Ys under that program. Furthermore, Bell and Boeing are preparing to send their baby off to war when the Marines deploy their MV-22Bs to combat in Iraq come September.

Pratt & Whitney Canada (www.pwc.ca) may — or may not — be talking about its partnership with Honeywell to propose development of a new, 3,000-shp-class engine, the HPW3000, under the U.S. Army’s Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine research and development program. The partners have been strangely reticent about their joint bid. The objective of the program is to develop a replacement for the General Electric T700s that power the Sikorsky H-60s and other aircraft. Specifically, the Army is looking for an engine that reduces specific fuel consumption by 25 percent, boosts power-to-weight ratio by 65 percent, increases design life by 20 percent, cuts production and maintenance costs 35 percent, and trims development costs 15 percent.

The Army is expected to indicate this month which team it wants to pursue those goals. GE is competing for the work as well.

Pratt Canada’s engines can be seen at the United Technologies stand at Hall 5, B19-20. Taking pride of place is its new PW210 engine family for single- and intermediate to medium twin-engine helicopters. It is on Sikorsky’s latest commercial helicopter, the S-76D. Eurocopter has selected the PT6C-67E for the EC175 it is developing in China with AVIC 2.

The PT6C-67E also powers the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. (www.bellagusta.com) BA609, which is scheduled to fly at this year’s show. A second prototype of the civil tilt-rotor, No. 60002, entered flight tests last November at AgustaWestland’s facility on the Italian air force base at Cameri, Italy. The first prototype is flying at Bell’s facilities in Texas. Both aircraft have transitioned to airplane flight. Two more prototypes are to join them in flights, one each in the United States and Italy.

Many other rotorcraft-related companies are exhibiting at Paris this year. Here is a sampling of them.

Avionics specialist Barco (www.barcoaerospace.com) is based in Hall 2B/Stand J5 this year. The company is demonstrating its complete family of cockpit display products ranging from mission displays up to safety-critical primary flight displays. Barco also is showcasing its control display units and electronic flight bag displays.

An eye catcher this year is the CHDD-268 primary flight and mission display, featuring a user-friendly touch screen option. Billed as an industry first, the CHDD-268 combines the functionality of an advanced touch-screen device with first-class optical performance in high brightness environments as well as night vision applications.

CMC Electronics (www.cmcelectronics.ca) is showcasing its cockpit systems integration capability and avionics in booth D7 in Hall 3. Key products on display include flight management systems, GPS receivers, satcom antennas, electronic flight bags, enhanced vision system sensors, head-up displays, multi-function displays, and mission computers.

AgustaWestland, (www.agustawestland.com), will exhibit its variety of commercial and military helicopters, at Finmeccanica’s Red Chalet B 133.

Eurocopter (www.eurocopter.com) is in Static Display Area G, next to the joint EADS/Eurocopter booth in Hall 2A, No. 18. Last year was a record one for the company, which booked 615 helicopter orders — an increase of about 40 percent over 2005. "That means we are consistently ramping up our production facilities," said Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter’s new president and CEO. "Our worldwide deliveries have gone up to 381, as compared to 334 in 2005. We also started deliveries of the UH-72A Lakota to the U.S. Army and of the NH90 to international customers last December. Tiger deliveries are well under way." Eurocopter won additional NH90 orders from Australia, New Zealand and Spain in 2006.

Sagem Avionics (www.sagemavionics.com) at Chalet B 78, Exterior Spot 5, and the Static Display is exhibiting its cockpit display systems, helicopter autopilots, flight data management systems, flight control, gyro sensors, navigators, and fuel computers.

Recently, Sagem teamed with AcroHeliPro Global Services to provide installation of its Integrated Cockpit Display System into the Bell 206 Jet Ranger. "We believe customers to be in a win-win situation," said Jean Baudin, Sagem Avionic president and CEO.

Sikorsky Aircraft (www.sikorsky.com) is in Hall 5 at Booths B19 and B20. The company is displaying a broad range of products, from helicopters and UAVs to its newly acquired fixed-wing manufacturing subsidiary, PZL Mielec. Items to see include the S-92 search-and-rescue helicopter. Also worth seeing is the International Black Hawk; the S-76D with new Pratt & Whitney engines, rotor blades with de-ice and new Thales cockpit; and the U.S. Navy’s MH-60S. It is in full-rate production, with a Navy requirement of up to 271 aircraft.

In addition, Sikorsky’s exhibit is home to the CH-53K, in development to serve as the U.S. Marine Corps’ heavy-lift aircraft; the antisubmarine warfare S-92 under development for the Canadian government; and the Schweizer RU-38B covert surveillance aircraft. "The products and services we are showcasing reflect both Sikorsky’s industry-leading technology and rapid market growth," said Sikorsky President Jeff Pino. "Our booth provides a glimpse into a very bright future not only for Sikorsky but also for our sister United Technologies’ companies."

You’ll find Thales Avionics (www.thalesgroup.com) at Chalet B 119 and Exterior Spots 12-61. Thales has been receiving a lot of attention for TopDeck, its integrated avionics suite for civil and military helicopters. TopDeck is derived from the new Integrated Modular Avionics concept that the company developed for the Airbus A380.

At Booth B17 in Hall 2, Turbomeca (www.turbomeca.com) is showing its latest engine, the Ardiden 1H. With its very simple architecture, the Ardiden 1H/Shakti is made up of three modules for easy maintenance: a reduction gearbox/accessory gearbox, a gas generator and a power turbine. It has a time between overhauls ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 hr. After its first flight in May, certification and the first deliveries of Ardiden 1H production engines are to take place later this year. The first application is the Dhruv helicopter of Hindustan Aeronautics, Ltd. It will be operated by the Indian Army and the Air Force.

Aviall (www.aviall.com) is highlighting its services at Stand B17 in Hall 5. Once again, a key part of the company’s exhibition will be Aviall’s LIFT helicopter support program — a family of services specifically tailored to each helicopter operator’s needs. LIFT provides users with access to more than 225 product lines, local stocking, central inventory, inventory management, electronic ordering via www.aviall.com website, EDI (electronic data interface), and the support of local Aviall sales personnel.

Elbit Systems Ltd. (www.elbitsystems.com) is at the Israel National Pavilion, showing their line of unmanned aerial systems. According to the company, its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are taking on many of the complex challenges previously performed solely by manned aircraft. In cooperation with Thales, Elbit Systems is providing Hermes UAV systems for the U.K. Watchkeeper tactical UAV program. Visitors to the Elbit Systems stand can also enjoy a close-to-reality flight experience on multiple platforms, view high fidelity scenarios and perform a variety of missions in both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, using a single Elbit virtual cockpit.

For information on helicopter-related exhibits at the Paris Air Show, check www.paris-air-show.com

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