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Monday, October 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: New Schweizer Model? The Turbine 434

Schweizer Aircraft’s newest helicopter will be the turbine-powered Model 434, sources familiar with the program tell Rotor & Wing. The Sikorsky Aircraft subsidiary is pursuing accelerated development of the aircraft.

The Horseheads, N.Y.-based manufacturer has received a major order from a launch customer in the Middle East, according to these sources.

Based on Schweizer’s turbine Model 333, the new helicopter will draw on the four-bladed rotor and dynamics developed for the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (an earlier version, the RQ-8A, is shown at right). That UAV, being built for the U.S. Navy and Army, also is based on the Model 333.

Schweizer officials maintain their redesign of the Fire Scout, which led to the four-bladed main rotor and transmission improvements, overcame performance problems that threatened to have the Navy kill that UAV program.

The 434 is intended to compete with the Eurocopter EC120, Bell Helicopter 206, and, by extension, Robinson Helicopter’s first turbine-powered aircraft, the R66. Robinson is developing that five-seat aircraft in part to replace older-generation 206s.

Rolls-Royce is developing the 300-shp-class RR300 turboshaft engine to power Robinson’s R66. The Indianapolis-based unit of the engine maker has agreements to discuss the application of the powerplant to other products with Enstrom Helicopter, MD Helicopters, and Schweizer.

Robinson’s R66 is planned as a five-seater positioned between that company’s piston R44 and older versions of Bell Helicopter’s turbine 206 JetRanger. Rolls is shooting for FAA certification of the engine by 2008. The engine is to embody new technology and advanced design methodology.

A top Bell official told R&W the company considers the 434 more of a threat to its 206 JetRanger line than the R66, which he said is aimed just below the 206 market.

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