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Saturday, May 1, 2004

PT6 Certified for UH-1H

Global Helicopter Technology and DynCorp International have received their long awaited STC for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67D engine to upgrade the UH-1H. The STC was issued in March, allowing the PT6 to be the first non-Honeywell T53 engine upgrade to go on the aircraft. Additional certification work is being done to clear the engine for the Bell 205-A1, the civilian version of the UH-1H. Certification for the 205-A1 is expected this month, according to Jimmie Ellis, vice president, worldwide technical services for DynCorp.

The engine is rated at 1,692 shp., although Global is working to boost that to 1,800 shp. That work is expected to be completed later this year or early 2005.

DynCorp is responsible for the marketing and sales of the upgraded UH-1H/205-A1, while Global is responsible for engineering support.

FAA certification of the aircraft essentially means that it is commercialized, so that para-public organizations such as forestry services, state and local police departments or the U.S. Border Patrol can operate the aircraft using off-the-shelf maintenance, just as a civilian operator would, Ellis said. While a major advantage of the upgraded engine (combined with a tail-rotor enhancement developed by Global) is improved hot-and-high operations, the improved engine performance can cut maintenance and fuel costs by as much as 50 percent, he said. Marketing of the aircraft has already begun, with the Border Patrol considered a prime prospective customer.

The program to provide an upgraded engine for the UH-1H was started in the late 1990s by Pratt & Whitney Canada. However, a change in corporate priorities caused PWC to turn the program over to Global and DynCorp for completion of the project.


VXX Selection Delayed

The decision on the manufacturer of the next presidential helicopter has been pushed back for an unspecified period of time. The Department of the Navy had initially planned to select either Sikorsky and its S-92 or the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland/Bell US101 this month, awarding one of those entries a system development and demonstration contract.

The time extension followed a determination by the Navy's acquisition office that the current schedule did not allow "adequate dialogue to transpire between government and industry."

John Young, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said that the additional time is necessary to achieve a program "that has identified all programmatic risks and a valid, achievable cost target." The time will also be used "for more government-industry dialogue on design, performance, cost and trade opportunities." He noted that "comparably challenging platform development programs" have allowed 12 months from the issuance of the request for proposals to contract award, and that additional time beyond the four months initially allowed for the program could be used very productively. The RFP for the VXX program was issued last December.

Both Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin issued statements following the announcement saying that they understood the concept of the delay. Sikorsky said that while it "will continue to be responsive to the wishes of our customer," it was disappointed in the delay "because we had anticipated redeploying employees affected by the U.S. Army's Comanche cancellation to the VXX program."


Lord to Retrofit Army TH-67s

Lord Corp. will supply the U.S. Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Alabama with 117 tail-rotor trunnion kits to retrofit its TH-67 trainers. The Army had been experiencing unscheduled maintenance requirements on its TH-67 fleet every 400-500 hr., although scheduled overhaul for the tail-rotor hub configuration is 2,500-hr. intervals. The cost of each tail-rotor removal for loss of trunnion pre-load is about $1,020.

In 2001, Lord conducted a test on two TH-67s using its elastomeric trunnion bearing kits. The tests showed that the on-condition tail-rotor trunnion lowered direct operating costs by reducing scheduled maintenance, extending the service life of the tail-rotor blade feathering bearings, minimizing vibration and eliminating the need for grease lubricants.

According to Mike Matheny, product support consultant for Lord , the Army will be paid back for the cost of the retrofit within about 13 months or 580 flight hours for each aircraft. Once the breakeven point is reached, the Army will save about $940 per year per aircraft, Matheny said. He added that if the Lord trunnion is not installed, four removal events occurring within the standard 2,500-hr. overhaul interval will cost the Army $5,500 over the period of the cycle. He also noted that Bell 407s with the trunnion tail rotors have operated for 5,000 hr., and since it is "on condition," the Army could possibly be getting that period of time between overhauls. With the current rate of flight hour usage, the 5,000-hr. period equals 9.3 years of an individual aircraft's operations. At the end of that 9.3 years, total savings to the Army would be $1.3 million.

Retrofitting of the Army aviation training fleet will be done as the aircraft are brought in for scheduled maintenance, with the work being completed by the Army's contract maintenance company, Matheny said.


Italian Forestry Services Buys Helitankers

The State Forestry Corps of Italy (Corpo Forestale Dello Stato) has placed a $95 million order with Erickson Air-Crane for four S-64 Aircrane Helitankers, with options on an additional two. The Forestry Service has been leasing Erickson Aircranes since 1999 for firefighting throughout Italy and on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

Erickson will build the four aircraft with first delivery scheduled for this spring. Erickson obtained the license to build the S-64 Skycrane from Sikorsky in 1992. The aircraft will be equipped with Erickson's 2,650-gal. tank system and "Foam Cannon."

Gian Franco Blower, Erickson's vice president, Europe, said that the aircraft will be used for fires and other natural disasters. Two S-64s were used to support disaster relief operations during the recent eruption of Mount Etna on Sicily. One was used to drop water on fires started by the lava flow, while the other lifted large cement blocks to divert the lava away from nearby villages and pristine forestland. They were also used two years ago to drain a glacial lake that had threatened to flood the valley and mountain resort town of Macugnaga below. Italy is now "positioning itself as a front runner in its strategy to combat the increasing threat of wild land and urban interface fires," Blower said.


L MH-60R Contracts Awarded

Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky Aircraft have received contracts worth $152.2 million to complete production of four MH-60R maritime helicopters for the U.S. Navy. The four aircraft, ordered under the low-rate initial production contract, are scheduled for delivery in 2006. The Sikorsky part of the contracts is valued at $84.4 million while Lockheed Martin will be getting $67.8 million. This is the latest step in the MH-60R production program. The first contract for low-rate initial production led to delivery of five MH-60Rs. Full-rate production is scheduled to begin in 2005, leading up to manufacture of 30 helicopters per year. The MH-60R is designed for anti-surface warfare, undersea warfare and local area peacekeeping operations (see related feature, page 30). Lockheed Martin is systems integrator and provides the cockpit that is common to both the MH-60R and MH-60S.


NBAA Power Shift

Two top officials are out at the National Business Aviation Assn. President and CEO Shelley A. Longmuir and Robert P. Warren, its executive vice president, COO and corporate secretary left in late March. The departure of the two executives, who served less than a year, came after "several days of intense deliberations" by the NBAA's board of directors, said NBAA Chairman Donald E. Baldwin. The board concluded that the two were taking the group in the wrong direction, officials of the association said. Baldwin, who will assume the interim position of president and CEO, said of Longmuir: "Under Shelly's leadership, NBAA has been a dynamic force advocating for the business aviation community in Washington…but we must remain as focused as ever on the increasingly complex business aviation issues faced by our members." Both Longmuir and Warren came to the NBAA from the air transport industry. Longmuir had served as a top executive with United Airlines, while Warren had been with the Air Transport Assn.

Their air transport background had been a cause of friction within the NBAA, with some staffers starting to refer to the organization as the "NBATA." The internal strife had caused two top, and long-time, executives to quit. Senior Vice President, Operations Robert Blouin and Director of Public Relations Cassandra Bosco both submitted their resignation to the board. Immediately following the board's acceptance of Longmuir's resignation, both Blouin and Bosco were reinstated in their positions.

There was also concern within the industry about having an air transport specialist as the spokesperson for the business aircraft industry. One corporate executive said it was illogical to have someone lobby Congress for an industry who was not a specialist in that industry. Longmuir was named in June 2003 to succeed John Olcott, who had served as NBAA president since May 1992.

A search committee headed by NBAA Vice Chairman Ken Emerick will be responsible for finding a new President and CEO, although no specific timetable has been announced.


R44 Fractional Ownership

Heli Access Corp. is offering the Robinson R44 under a fractional ownership program that Heli Access President and CEO Jeff Hyman calls "a new period of personal air travel, a true movement in hopelessly congested urban areas from automobiles to 'Personal Air Vehicles'." Heli Access will offer the fractional ownership shares in 1/8th increments for $49,500, a monthly management fee of $2,150 and an hourly usage fee of $150.


HAP Tiger Gains Certification

Eurocopter received a military certification from Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (DGA), the French armament agency, for the HAP version of the Tiger light attack helicopter on March 29. The next day it was awarded qualification by the European Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) Certification. Qualification by the two agencies clears the way for delivery of the HAP Tiger to the French armed forces. Extension of the certification and qualification to the German UHT version of Tiger is planned for this summer.

The qualification entails the entire weapon system and general avionics package of the HAP Tiger. A complementary certification and qualification for integrated electronic countermeasures is scheduled to be received by June 30.

France and Germany have ordered 80 Tigers each, with 70 of the French Tigers being HAP and 10 anti-tank HAC, and all 80 German Tigers being UHT (Unterstützungshubschrauber), or multi-role fire support, Tiger. Australia has ordered 22 Armed Reconnaissance Tiger helicopters, the first of which made its maiden flight at Eurocopter's Marignane, France plant February 20. Delivery of the first two Australian Tigers and an entry-into-service demonstration are scheduled for December. Spain has stated it will procure 24 Tigers. Spain is also expected to become a third member of the Tiger consortium along with France and Germany.


Helicopter/FMS and Mapping System

Thales Avionics has merged a new digital mapping system into its helicopter flight management system to provide pilots with "an innovative and user-friendly man/machine interface." The FMS/Mapping system has been integrated into Thales "TopDeck" family of avionics suites that are certified on the AgustaWestland A109. The mapping system is a computer-generated, terrain-following map based on waypoints programmed in by the pilot as part of his flight plan, according to Gil Michielin, vice president/general manager, Thales helicopter avionics. "This allows the pilot to fly his route over the map, reducing his workload." The map shows zones along the route out to 5 nm. on each side, with hazardous terrain or obstacles color-coded to show danger areas. The route can be instantaneously updated by the pilot should he decide to change his course of flight. It also shows the pilot specific points with altitudes along that route. Michielin said that the real-time positioning provides the pilot with easy-to-use navigation management through the man/machine interface.

The data for the mapping system can be updated on a monthly basis, depending on customer requirements, he said, adding that Thales has databases for all areas of the globe. The mapping system can be a stand-alone item or integrated into the FMS. Cost of the mapping system alone runs about 30,000-35,000 euros ($36,000-42,000), he said.


St. Louis County and City Police Planning Helicopter Merger

The police departments in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis are working out details aimed at merging their two helicopter divisions in an effort to increase helicopter surveillance while reducing the cost of operations, according to Lt. Kurt Frisz, St. Louis County Police aviation unit commander. Frisz said that the plan is to go to 10-hr. schedules, allowing the departments to have helicopters in the air over the entire region an estimated 64 percent of the time. Currently, the two departments separately can have aircraft in the air about 11 percent of the time over the City of St. Louis and 23 percent of the time over St. Louis County.

The plan calls for the joint operation to have six pilots, two of whom will be city pilots and four will be county pilots. St. Louis city will provide two dedicated observers, giving the joint unit a total of eight personnel. The St. Louis city aviation unit only has a single pilot. However, it will provide to the county police an officer who will be trained to fly by the county's in-house flight instructors, Frisz said. All six pilots will be trained in all the helicopter types.

The St. Louis county police operates two MD Helicopters MD500Es and two ex-military OH-6As, while the St. Louis city police operate an ex-U.S. Army OH-53C. The three ex-military helicopters eventually will be replaced, possibly by MD530Fs, Frisz said. He noted that they are also considering getting Schweizer 300 piston helicopters so that they will have a mixed turbine/piston fleet. This will allow the lower-cost piston helicopter to operate on missions that do not require the more powerful turbine helicopters, as well as allowing the unit to have two helicopters in the air simultaneously, he said.

The county and city councils are now working out details regarding such matters as legal requirements and funding, Frisz said. Once the plan is approved, the city will move its aircraft from the ARCH Air Medical Services hangar near downtown to Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri where the county police keep their four helicopters and a Cessna 172 airplane (an ex-military T-41B) used primarily for drug surveillance.

The joint operation will also hire an in-house mechanic rather than use outside contracting to reduce maintenance costs. Maintenance costs separately are about $100,000 per year for the county and $50,000 for the city.


Bells Names Brazilian Sales Rep

TAM Taxi Aereo Marilia S.A. has been named the sole sales representative for Bell Helicopter in Brazil. Bell CEO Mike Redenbaugh announced the selection at the HAI Heli-Expo 2004 conference in Las Vegas, stating that, "TAM has had an over-two-decade-long relationship with Textron. They have proven they are professional and dedicated to their customers time and time again over the years. They are the perfect fit for us at Bell." Rui Thomaz de Aquino, president of TAM, added, "We are most pleased to be the sole sales representative for Bell in Brazil. I estimate with Bell we can obtain 50 percent of what the market in Brazil may absorb in 2004." He also noted that the Brazilian helicopter market is the seventh largest in the world and has a total fleet size of 1,083 helicopters. TAM-Aereo Marilia is a part of the TAM Group, which also includes TAM airlines SA and TAM Transportes Aereos del Mercosur, with total annual revenues of about US$1.35 billion.

TAM subsequently ordered a new Bell 427 IFR helicopter.


Keystone Gets America Rising Contract

America Rising, a helicopter charter airline service based at Tipton Airport (formerly Tipton Army Airfield), Fort Meade, Maryland, has signed a contract with Keystone Helicopter Corp. for overhaul and repair services for its fleet of airline helicopters.

In signing the contract, Steve Walker, chairman of America Rising, said the company had looked at a lot of different vendors before deciding to work exclusively with Keystone Helicopter. It was "very impressed by the quality and safety of their maintenance operation. We are excited about beginning our new helicopter airline services with the strong maintenance support we know we'll receive from Keystone Helicopter."

The company will initially be using Sikorsky S-76s for its airline fleet, although it is considering a larger type such as the S-92, Bell Agusta AB139 or Eurocopter AS225 Super Puma. Once acquired, that helicopter fleet will also be contracted to Keystone for maintenance support, according to Barry Lutin, American Rising CEO.

America Rising was founded in 1999 to provide helicopter charter and maintenance services from its Tipton Airport facilities. The company is developing a scheduled downtown-to-downtown helicopter airline service, with the first route to be between South Capitol Street Heliport-a mile south of the Capitol in Washington, DC-and one of the three Manhattan public heliports.


Turbomeca to Re-Engine U.S. Coast Guard HH-65s

Turbomeca has been picked to start negotiations with the U.S. Coast Guard on a contract to re-engine up to 96 U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 Dauphins. Eurocopter, which has a sustaining engineering contract to support the Aerospatiale-built aircraft, will perform engineering work on the re-engining at its new U.S. facility in Columbus, Mississippi. Completion of a contract could involved sales of nearly 200 Arriel 2C2 engines.

The moved stunned Honeywell, whose LTS101 powers the Coast Guard HH-65 fleet. Honeywell and Coast Guard officials have been squabbling for months over reliability problems with that fleet and whether they are related to the engine alone or to its interface with airframe systems.

Honeywell had laid out a program to rectify the reliability problems, and had made some progress on that plan. That progress included investment of more than $30 million in a full-authority digital engine controller and other engine upgrades. But top Coast Guard officials dismissed that progress and declared publicly that the engines were to blame for the problems, which they said were jeopardizing the safety of Coast Guard crews.

Honeywell may appeal the re-engining decision, company officials said.


Innovation Center Sought

With backing from its chief congressional supporter, Rep. Curt Weldon, the helicopter industry is pushing for establishment of a Center for Rotorcraft Innovation in or near Philadelphia.

An agreement was signed in March by most major helicopter companies, academic institutions, and industry groups. Signers included Bell Helicopter Textron, Boeing, Sikorsky, Kaman, AgustaWestland, Piasecki Helicopters and Keystone Helicopters, as well as the Rotorcraft Industry Technology Assn., Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The center is intended to "make rotorcraft research more of a national priority," said a group spokesman. The idea is to fold all of the industry's various research efforts into one place, with the aim of generating greater visibility, better and more synergistic research and new funding.

"With the cooperation of industry as well as our academic and government partners, [the center] will be the catalyst for a rebirth of the rotorcraft industry in America," said William Retz, an executive with the American Competitiveness Institute.

A Pennsylvania Republican, Weldon doesn't hide the fact that the new center promises to bring jobs and business to his constituents, especially now that Comanche has been scrapped. The aircraft was manufactured in part by Boeing in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. A long-time champion of the industry, the congressman is an active, senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"The war in Iraq clearly demonstrates how precious helicopter assets are to American men and women," he noted. "Unfortunately, the U.S. rotorcraft industry has been handicapped through significant reductions in federal assistance within NASA and the loss of the Comanche."


Lycoming Sees Strong Piston Engine Growth

The demand for helicopter piston engines will grow by about 20 percent during the coming year, accounting for one-third of Lycoming engine sales, according to Lycoming President Michael Wolf. The company, which provides the engines for all three piston-powered helicopter companies-Robinson, Schweizer and Enstrom-produced a bit more than 2,000 piston engines in 2003, of which about 500 were for helicopters, Wolf said. For 2004, they expect to produce about the same number of engines, although about 600 should be for helicopters.

Wolf told Rotor & Wing at the recent HAI Heli-Expo that as a result of a recent customer survey, Lycoming is introducing programs aimed at value pricing and incentives for the customer. These include holding the price line on many parts and dropping prices on high-value items by 10-15 percent, strengthening the distribution channels, listening to mechanics and developing better communications with "the people who make order decisions," he said.

The company has been working to improve engine availability and increase support for delivery quality. It is shortening the period for exchanging engines "to provide for more effective and timely credits issued to customers and reduce the lag in availability of engine cores for aftermarket engines."

Lycoming has also targeted improvements to its existing engines and their power-to-weight ratios. Improved technology includes developing a fuel injection servo and reducing the number of moving parts in the engine. Current improvements have taken the TBOs from 600 hr. up to as much as 2,400 hr. in some instances, Wolf said. "We need to improve the components to improve fuel economy for best cost figures and performance."

Wolf noted that Lycoming is looking to China as a new market for piston-engine helicopters. "We see growth as the government loosens up its rules on aircraft ownership. People there need to get around, but there are infrastructure problems, so it is a huge opportunity. As capital increases, the number of personal helicopters will grow." He said there is already a distribution system in place for piston-powered fixed-wing aircraft, "and there are more and more helicopters going in."


Helicopter Evaluator Book Out

Conklin & de Decker has released the latest issue of its Aircraft Cost Evaluator handbook/CD-ROM software package. The package contains direct costs, fixed costs and annual budgets for both turboshaft and piston helicopters, as well as fixed-wing airplanes, for total listings of 380 aircraft. It has also updated fixed-cost items such as salaries, insurance and hangar rates. The new, 41st edition, has added the Eurcopter EC135P2 and T2 to its helicopter list.

Available with the Aircraft Cost Evaluator is ACEWin+ software containing pilot reports, aircraft interior and exterior diagrams drawn to scale, photos and histories. The software package allows users to compare up to three aircraft side-by-side, edit nearly two-dozen variables and change currencies and measurement units. There is also a query function that allows the user to narrow the selection to those aircraft that meet specific performance needs. Additional information can be found at www.conklindd.com.

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