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Sunday, October 1, 2006

Rotorcraft Report

Deep and Distant Gulf of Mexico Well Holds Promise

HelicopterMedium- and heavy-helicopter manufacturers may get a boost if reports of a new, successful, deep and distant test oil well in the Gulf of Mexico bear out.

Newer aircraft programs like AgustaWestland’s AW139 (shown right) and Sikorsky’s S-92 were launched based in part on the prospect of oil and gas companies pushing exploration and production further offshore. While those companies have been expanding deep-water operations steadily in the Gulf, Chevron’s announcement last month that its Jack No. 2 well had completed a successful production test run in the second quarter, producing 6,000 barrels of crude oil a day, was a shot in the arm.

Chevron developed the Jack No. 2 well, drilled to a depth of 28, 175 ft in the Gulf’s Walker Ridge Block 758, in partnership with Oklahoma City, Okla.-based Devon Energy and Norway’s Statoil. The well is about 270 mi southwest of New Orleans. Reported to be the deepest ever successfully tested in the Gulf, it could spur other energy companies to tap their leased fields at that range. Chevron and its co-owners plan to drill an additional appraisal well next year.

The test well has been called the most eagerly watched oil prospect in the deepwater U.S. Gulf. Chevron projects the find could yield 3-15 billion barrels of oil, which would boost U.S. reserves by up to half. Mexico’s energy secretary told reporters Jack No. 2’s success increases the likelihood of such resources in the Mexican Gulf as well. Mexico’s state-owned energy company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, is pursuing its own deepwater exploration program.

The Jack well is in 7,000 ft of water, and more than 20,000 ft under the sea floor, breaking Chevron’s 2004 Tahiti well test record in the Gulf. Chevron said it set more than a half a dozen world records for test equipment pressure, depth, and duration in deepwater were set during the Jack well test. That explains some of the skepticism with which Chevron’s news was met.

Jack No. 2’s oil is in the geologic region known as the Lower Tertiary Trend. It was reported to have been found under a salt basin that runs up to several miles thick and had obscured the 300X100-mi oil field until recent advanced-computing capabilities were applied to the search. Generally, oil is considered retrievable at sub-surface depths of 7-15 mi; deeper than that temperatures are considered so high as to cook off the oil into less useful substances. Jack No. 2’s oil is at depths of 20,000 ft, which prompted some energy industry specialists to say they’d like to see steady production from the well for a year before proclaiming its success as a large field.

Other skeptics questioned the timing of the announcement, coming as it did as efforts got under way in the U.S. Congress to revive legislation to ease restrictions on offshore drilling.

CIVIL: Contract Talks by PHI, Union Stall; Company Seeks Strike Injunction

HelicopterAt press time, PHI and the union representing its roughly 500 offshore and EMS pilots were at an impasse over terms of a new contract. They were released from federal mediation of the 2.5-year dispute Aug. 28, which freed the company to impose pay and benefit terms (it did) and the union to strike (it had not as of Sept. 15). PHI sought an injunction against a strike in the U.S. District Court in Lafayette, La. The main sticking point is pilot salaries. Local 108 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union contends its members have been the lowest paid in the industry for two years; it wants a substantial raise with back pay. PHI maintains the size of the increase sought is unreasonable.”—By Ernie Stephens

MILITARY: Ahead for V-22s: Ramp Gun, Anti-Ice

MV-22

An MV-22 from Marine Tilt-Rotor Operational Test and Evaluation Sqdn. 22 (VMX-22) prepares to takeoff from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp at Norfolk, Va. on Nov. 2, 2005.

U.S. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Navy Airman Zachary L. Borden.

In addition to upgraded software for its full-authority digital electronic controllers (FADECs), the U.S. Marine Corps has other short-order refinements in mind for its Bell/Boeing MV-22s. As part of a scheduled FADEC upgrade this month, the Marines told Rolls-Royce they wanted the software changed to prevent the V-22’s AE1107C Liberty engines from spooling up under certain conditions and causing an unintended liftoff. That desire stems from a March 27 incident in which one FADEC detected a fault in another and powered one Liberty up, then powered it down. The power changes caused the aircraft to lift off then fall back to the ground, snapping its right wing. The mishap was due to maintenance error. Another upgrade is an aft-pointing ramp gun. The Marines have been studying options for mounting a gun on the Osprey’s rear ramp for years. The Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, has said the guns will be installed before Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Sqdn. 263 (VMM-263) deploys its MV-22Bs to combat in Iraq next year. That deployment is now slated for late 2007, which takes some pressure off V-22 program officials who are working toward an initial operational capability goal of September 2007. Castellaw had previously said the aircraft would be deployed in early 2007. The Marines are also considering better engine-inlet ice protection for Block A MV-22s. The selfdeployment of V-22As to the Farnborough Air Show was marred slightly when one ingested ice and diverted to Iceland.

MILITARY: USMC Reject Call To Buy Sikorskys

The U.S. Marine Corps claims little interest in a thinktank call for it to buy Sikorsky aircraft to bolster vertical-lift capability drained by combat operations and hedge against problems with the V-22 tilt-rotor. The study by the Center for American Progress and the Lexington Institute, “Marine Corps Equipment After Iraq,” made some appealing recommendations. It said Congress should fully fund Marine efforts to “reset” equipment returning from combat to pre-deployment condition as long as the Corps stays in Iraq and at least two years after that. It also urged Congress to boost the Marines’ share of defense spending.

But it urged the Marines to consider buying MH-60Ss and H-92s to fill in for worn-out CH-46Es and CH-53Es until the MV-22s reach full operational status and hedge against the chance that the planned 360-Ospreys buy “will become unaffordable.” While the Center for American Progress favors trade globalization, the study mentions no comparable aircraft, such as AgustaWestland’s EH101 (a variant of which Bell is building for the Marines’ VH-71 presidential helicopter) or AW139/149, the NH90 that company builds with Eurocopter or any Eurocopter aircraft. For their part, the Marines said they are “fully committed” to the MV-22.

MILITARY: Bell Tests Tilt-Rotor for Joint Heavy Lift Effort

Tilt RotorBell Helicopter has completed wind tunnel testing of a 1/5-scale model of the Bell/Boeing Quad Tilt-Rotor at the NASA Langley Research Center’s Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.

The Quad Tilt-Rotor is a four-engine, C-130- sized aircraft designed to take off, hover and land like a helicopter and fly with the speed and range of a fixed-wing turboprop. The test model used powered forward and aft rotors, pylons, nacelles and dynamically representative wings, representing a configuration that would support a flying demonstrator. The 213-in-long fuselage, with 91-in rotors, was a “semi-span” model, with only half the aircraft represented. The model was designed to replicate the aerodynamics and structural responses of a full-scale aircraft.

The tests conducted by Bell, NASA and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory were intended to investigate the interference effects of the forward wing and rotor on the rear wing and rotor and substantiate the aeroelastic stability of a rear wing 63 percent greater in span than the V-22 wing. Bell funded the tests, which were conducted in parallel with Bell/Boeing efforts under the U.S. Army-led Joint Heavy Lift concept design and analysis program.

MILITARY: U.S. VH-71A Program Slips; Integration Problems Cited

The U.S. Navy is confirming development of the new VH-71A presidential helicopter, based on the Lockheed Martin/ AgustaWestland/Bell Helicopter US101, is behind schedule. Delivery of the first aircraft was to take place by October 2009. It now appears that delivery may not come until February 2010. The Team US101 partners won the $6-billion, 23-aircraft contract in January 2005.

The Navy cited systems integration difficulties as the cause of the delay. “It’s just a very tough thing to integrate all those systems and get them all talking to each other,” one Navy official said. Defense analysts speculate the integration problems involve the myriad of sophisticated and classified cryptographic, medical, communications and defensive equipment required for a presidential aircraft.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 prompted the White House to accelerate replacement of the aging Sikorsky VH-3D Sea Kings that the U.S. Marine Corps uses to transport the president and other executive-branch government officials with a helicopter better suited for as a command platform.

Program officials are working on a recovery plan to get the first VH-71 flying by October 2009. “This is a team effort to get the schedule back,” the Navy official said.—By Ernie Stephens

MILITARY: Georgian Separatists Fire At Escort for U.S. Senators

How comforting is it to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, U.S. Sen. John McCain and other U.S. senators to know their helicopter was not the target of an Aug. 28 missile attack as they flew over the northwestern part of that former Soviet republic? The U.S. embassy in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi has said the Strela 2 anti-aircraft missile that exploded in midair was aimed at another helicopter escorting the U.S. delegation led by McCain. That conclusion is based on “a thorough investigation” by Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and the U.S. FBI. Georgian officials blame separatists in the Russian-backed South Ossetia region for the attack.

BUSINESS: Rolls-Royce and HAL Plan Engine Agreement

Rolls-Royce and Bangalore-based aerospace manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) plan to form a long-term strategic agreement to pursue a military helicopter program in India. Rolls-Royce, with its longstanding relationship with the Indian military as a supplier of aircraft engines, and HAL, which has been building an assortment of helicopters, military jets and aerospace components, for the government of India, intend to sign an memorandum of understanding (MOU) in pursuit of a 197-unit helicopter order from India’s army. Rolls-Royce’s director of OEM sales and international business development, Jim Payton, said the bid for those helicopters should be open by November. Bell Helicopter and Eurocopter are vying to supply the aircraft, , which HAL would assemble in country under license. If Bell wins,, Rolls would power its 407with the250-C47S turbine. The first phase of the MOU calls for Rolls to deliver 60 commercial off-the-shelf engines, with subsequent phases requiring the assembly of an additional 137 engines with HAL.—By Ernie Stephens

BUSINESS: EADS Rejects Russia Bid for Seat on Board

Eurocopter parent EADS has refused to grant Russia a seat on its board of directors following a Russian state-owned bank’s purchase of a 5-percent stake in the Franco-German aerospace conglomerate. Russia expressed interest in acquiring an influential position within EADS management. “It would not be in the interest of the company to change corporate governance or enlarge the group of industrial shareholders,” EADS co-chairmen, Arnaud Lagardere and Manfred Bischoff, said in a joint statement. They said they welcomed cooperation with Russia “on this basis.” Lagardere and Bischoff represent EADS’s main industry shareholders, the French media firm Lagardere and German carmaker DaimlerChrysler. EADS’s governance rules give those firms special control over the aerospace giant that “may not be circumvented by individual ownership positions,” the pair said.

A Russian stake in EADS stock likely would complicate EADS’s efforts to win more U.S. military contracts. The company has won a $3-billion U.S. Army contract to provide 322 Light Utility Helicopters. That award is being protested by losing bidders.

BUSINESS: EADS, HAL Set to Explore New Horizons

Aerospace manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) and Eurocopter parent EADS have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to further develop longterm cooperation and define joint strategies on different market segments. The MoU was signed on Sept. 1,, by HAL Chairman Ashok K. Baweja and EADS CEO Tom Enders.

Under the MOU, the groups will expand their cooperation into new market segments. A joint analysis of midterm and long-term strategies on the key segments of aerospace business will be conducted in the coming months to determine how both groups could team up and benefit from each other’s expertise to develop their activities.

“HAL and EADS are already long-term partners, working together to manufacture helicopters and passenger jets,” said Enders. “We appreciate the excellent level of skills in design and manufacturing, which make HAL a valuable partner for global cooperation.

CIVIL: Ontario’s Air Med Transports Go “Ornge”

Ontario's Air MedCanada’s Ontario air medical transport system has been named “Ornge,” a play on “orange” chosen to honor their new aircraft livery. Ontario’s minister of health, George Smitherman, and Ornge’s CEO, Dr. Chris Mazza, unveiled a King Air 200 and a Sikorsky S-76 in the bright orange livery during a ceremony at Toronto City Centre Airport on Aug. 29. Ornge’s fleet consists of 12 helicopters and four fixed-wing airplanes, plus 19 aircraft supplied by contractors. Teams of pilots and paramedics are stationed at 26 bases around the province, and provide hospital-quality air transport services to 12.5 million people over a 386,000-sqmi (1 million-sq-km) area.—By Ernie Stephens

CIVIL: AgustaWestland Picks Goodrich For AW139 Ice Protection

AgustaWestland has tapped Goodrich Corp. to supply its Rotorblade Ice Protection System (RIPS) for the AW139 medium, twin-engine helicopter. The system is designed to assist in keeping the aircraft’s main- and tail-rotor blades ice-free during extreme operating conditions. It uses Goodrich’s Dura- Therm electro-thermal deicing mat technology, “which is one more example of Goodrich innovation,” said Don Reynolds, vice president, Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems. “It increases overall system reliability and improves flight crew safety by tolerating damage while continuing to operate.”

The system is intended to safely shed accreted ice and assist in maintaining ice-free conditions. The DuraTherm technology uses heater mats that Goodrich said consume less power, have higher fatigue strength, can tolerate considerable damage—including punctures, and continue to provide ice protection. The heater controllers and power distributors monitor heater mat power consumption and operation, distribute power throughout the system’s components, and provide flight crews with visual operational status.

CIVIL: U.S. Warns Flight Schools, Instructors to be on Watch for Terrorists

Following a recent unspecified “aviation- related incident” of suspicious activities at flight schools,” the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is reminding flight schools and flight instructors to be watchful around airports and aircraft.

In a Sept. 1 advisory, the TSA said “we remain concerned about Al-Qaeda’s continued efforts to plan multiple attacks against the United States” that may involve aviation. While there is no indication that the suspicious activity it cited was terroristrelated, the agency urged airport managers, flight schools, flight training providers, and aircraft operators to “remain vigilant for suspicious behavior and activities.”

It referred them to the security measures contained in the TSA Information Publication, “Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports,” which is available at www.tsa.gov/public/.

CIVIL: Spain’s INAER Orders Nine Eurocopters

The INAER group has ordered nine helicopters from Eurocopter España, with the aircraft to be integrated into the group’s fleet between June 2007 and January 2009. An investment of €33 million ($42 million) for INAER, the helicopters will be used for firefighting, civil protection and emergency medical services. INAER ordered three different models. Four EC135 and two EC145 to be used for EMS operations and will be the first used for this mission in Spain. Two AS350B3s and a AS355NP also were ordered. “This new acquisition is part of the group’s policy to constantly renew our fleet in Spain, Portugal and Italy,” said an INAER official, Luis Miñano. “Given the excellent results of the Eurocopter fleet to date, we have decided to continue relations with this manufacturer” at a time of extensive investment, growth and expansion in South Europe. Eurcopter’s products meet the requirements of national and international customers, “and satisfies the quality and safety criteria demanded by our company.”

HelocopterCIVIL: Company Launches Helicopter Operation in Belize

Astrum Helicopters has introduced commercial helicopter services in the Central American nation of Belize. The company claims it is the first to offer commercial helicopter services in that nation.

Astrum offers helicopter tours and chartered flights tailored meet client’s specific needs. The company said the custom helicopter tours can take clients to popular sites such as the Great Blue Hole in Belize’s Barrier Reef, the Glovers Reef atoll, the Turneffe Islands offshore, Victoria Peak, 1000 ft Falls, the Maya archaeological sites of Altun Ha, Caracol, and Lamania and many other destinations.

Astrum specializes in helicopter transfers to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Placencia or any other destination in Belize.

The helicopter transfers can operate between the international airport, local airports and private heliports throughout Belize. The current heliports in operation include: Cisco Base, Old Belize and Turneffe Island Lodge. By the end of the year, additional heliports will be operational at Azul Resort, Cayo Espanto, Maruba Resort and Isla Marisol Resort.

MILITARY: Nixon Library Gets Presidential Helicopter

Presidential HelicopterThe helicopter used by U.S. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford (shown below at the White House) has arrived at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace after the million-dollar Sea King was restored with the assistance of Sikorsky Aircraft and one of the aircraft’s former pilots.

Retired Army Lt. Colonel Gene Boyer is a longtime champion of permanently exhibiting the helicopter at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. He was on hand with U.S. Marine Corps counterpart, Dave Pirnie, when the aircraft arrived at March Field in California late last year for restoration. Boyer spent about 750 hr piloting the aircraft from 1964 through 1975. Nixon was a passenger on more than 180 trips, including historic visits overseas with heads of state such as President Anwar Sadat during the 1974 trip to Egypt.

MILITARY: U.K. to Privatize Battlefield Support Helos

The United Kingdom is intent on continuing its leading role in the use of commercial helicopters for military support operations.

That nation’s Ministry of Defence for years has used leased commercial helicopters to non-combat and some search-and-rescue operations in the Middle East, Central America and elsewhere. Now the nation’s Defence Procurement Agency has posted a notice on the European Defence Agency’s Electronic Bulletin Board declaring its intent to take the next step and acquire medium utility helicopters for battlefield missions (and maintenance support for them) under a lease with private contractors.

The aircraft would be flown by military crews and used battlefield transport. The Defence Procurement Agency is considering a turnkey lease of civil-owned, military-registered helicopters to replace the current fleet of Sea King and Puma HC1 helicopters, which entered service with the Royal Air Force in the 1960s and 70s. The acquisition of the new helicopters would include associated training and support services under a 10-year contract that would start in 2010 or 2011.

MILITARY: Bulgaria Takes Delivery of First Cougar

AS532AL CougarBulgaria’s air force took delivery Aug. 28 of its first Eurocopter AS532AL Cougar in a ceremony at the 24th Air Force Base in Krumovo, Bulgaria. The aircraft were delivered to the base commander, Gen. Stefan Petrov.

That nation in January 2005 ordered 12 Cougars for its air force and six AS565MB Panthers for its navy in a deal valued at €360 million ($460 million). Eurocopter is to deliver two more Cougars this year and the rest through 2009. The Panthers are due in 2010 and 2011.

Bulgaria, which in March 2004 became a member of NATO, until now has operated only Russian-built military helicopters. Eight Cougars will be used for tactical transport and four for combat search-and-rescue missions. The aircraft also will be used for firefighting, evacuation and mountain rescue. The Panthers will be used for maritime surveillance, SAR, anti-submarine and anti-surface missions. The nation’s defense minister, Vesselin Bliznakov said, the military would send abroad 24 pilots and a 36-member engineering and technical crew to France where they will undergo training on the new aircraft said.

CIVIL: Topeka Police Get OK For New R44 and Flir

The Topeka, Kan. city council in August authorized more than $675,000 for the acquisition of a new Robinson R44 police helicopter to replace one destroyed in a crash near Manhattan, Kan. last November.

More than half of the money is to come from insurance payments the city received after the crash. Another $220,000 already had been set aside for the FLIR Systems Ultra 8500 sensor package for the helicopter.

The Topeka, Kan. Police Dept. now flies a Bell OH-58C, which is within 175 hr. of an engine overhaul, and a Hughes/Schweizer 300C. It was a Schweizer 269C was lost in the November 2005 forced landing.

Plans are to acquire a second, similarly equipped R44 next year, according Helicopter Sgt. Mike Boucher of the aviation unit.

“I think this is in the best interest of the city and the citizens in Topeka,” said Topeka Police Lt. Dean McWilliams.

R&D: Sikorsky Progresses Toward X-2 Demonstrator First Flight; Ground Run Eyed for This Month

Look for Sikorsky Aircraft’s coaxial X-2 Technology Demonstrator to make its first ground run this month.

The company and its Schweizer Aircraft subsidiary, formally known as the Hawk Works @ Schweizer Aircraft, are developing the fly-by-wire aircraft to prove that a rotorcraft can fly at 250 kt. or more and still retain all the vertical flight and hover capabilities of a traditional rotorcraft. Their goal is to fly the aircraft by year’s end.

The first ground run will look to verify the integration of the aircraft’s drive train, which will distribute power between the main rotors and an aft propulsor at different levels during different flight phases. It also would seek to verify that the connectivity of the fly-by-wire software.

In addition to the coaxial main rotors, the demonstrator will feature an aft propulsor and an integrated propulsion system designed to distribute power quickly and efficiently between that propulsor and the main rotors depending on the demands of the particular regime of flight. Sikorsky officials are confident they can overcome the design and vibration problems that plagued the predecessor XH-59A program of the 1970s.

CIVIL: City of San Bernardino Evaluates Air Support Program

The California city of San Bernardino has begun a 90-day evaluation of helicopters for use as an airborne law enforcement patrol platform. A Robinson R44 equipped with forward-looking infrared, video camera, mobile data computer and searchlight is on loan to the police department from July to October. It is staffed by one officer and a contracted civilian pilot.

If the program proves effective, the city will consider starting its first air unit using a leased R44 from the contractor supplying the evaluation aircraft.

HelicopterCIVIL: Minnesota DNR Selects Enstrom 480B

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has ordered an Enstrom Helicopter 480B for law enforcement operations. The single-engine, light turbine aircraft will be used for a variety of public safety and regulatory missions, including fish and game law compliance, wildlife census collection, and recreational vehicle enforcement.

The 480B is designed to carry one pilot and up to four passengers, and will come equipped with a PA/siren system, Spectrolab SX-5 searchlight, and video camera system. Delivery was expected in September.

CIVIL: Fatal New Zealand R22 Crash Blamed on Maintenance

A New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority safety investigation has concluded that the failure of the tail-rotor drive shaft that had been incorrectly assembled caused an August 2005 Robinson R22 crash that killed the pilot and seriously injured the passenger.

The helicopter had been stored at the premises of a maintenance organization since April 2005 to undergo a main-rotor blade replacement, a 100-hr and annual inspection and repairs.

On the day of the accident, the pilot departed from maintenance base for the flight to his home base. He flew for about 120 min, arriving at his home base at 1515 hr. Later that afternoon, he opted to fly again, this time with a family friend on board. They flew for 45 min without incident. During the approach to land, the helicopter yawed rapidly to the right and rotate uncontrollably before crashing.

Examination of the aft coupling of the tail-rotor drive shaft revealed it was assembled incorrectly. One or more of the unsupervised and unlicensed maintenance personnel had incorrectly bolted the aft flange of the tail-rotor drive shaft directly to the input yoke of the tail-rotor gearbox which resulted in the tail-rotor drive shaft’s failure.

A licensed mechanic who signed off the work did so without observing or inspecting it. Another licensed mechanic assisting him raised no concern about the work or its approval, the CAA said.

CIVIL: Jackson, Miss. Council Approves R44 Police Helicopter Program

The Jackson, Miss. City Council has placed its support behind leasing a law enforcement-equipped Robinson R44 for airborne patrols in the area. City officials hope the surrounding county of Hinds and nearby towns of Madison and Ridgeland will join the program. The aircraft will be provided by Mercury Aviation of Flowood, Miss.

“We like the R44,” said Mercury owner Coyt Bailey. “We already use them for newsgathering and other missions.”

Mercury Aviation will own the aircraft, and lease it and a pilot to the city for a reported $25,000 a year. Hinds County and the towns of Madison and Ridgeland will share the cost if they join in the project.

CIVIL: Houston Pursuit Policy Change Prompts Call For New Police Helo

HelicopterThe Houston Police Dept. is seeking U.S. Homeland Security Dept. grant money to add a helicopter to its existing fleet of nine. The request comes on the heels of a revision to the department’s pursuit policy that prohibits officers on the ground from engaging in certain vehicle pursuits.

The new policy, handed down by Chief Harold Hurtt, removes an officer’s authority to chase a vehicle for minor crimes and traffic violations in an effort to reduce the number of pursuit-related deaths and injuries, especially to innocent motorists and bystanders. Department aircraft, however, may still be used to follow fleeing vehicles from the air and guide ground units to their location at safer speeds.

“We are in the process now of applying for a new helicopter from Homeland Security,” said Hurtt. “That helicopter would be available to assist in pursuits.”

The department took delivery of a new MD Helicopters MD500E in July, increasing its fleet to four MD500Es, three Hughes 300s, two Schweizer 333s and a Cessna 182. The unit flies about 6,000 hr a year.—Story and Photo by Ernie Stephens

MILITARY: Falcon Aviation, Evergreen Sign SAR Contract with UAE

Falcon Aviation Services of Abu Dhabi has signed a two year search-and-rescue (SAR) contract with the United Arab Emirates armed forces. Falcon has selected Evergreen Helicopters as its subcontractor to support the SAR requirements. Evergreen will provide the aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance to the program.

The program was to begin Aug. 31, using two Bell 412EPs and two AgustaWestland AW139s. The four Evergreen helicopters will be based in three strategic locations, each maintaining 24-hr standby alert. Under the contract, Falcon and Evergreen will provide both military and civilian SAR services. The aircraft are specially equipped to meet the SAR requirements, with rescue hoists, forward-looking infrared sensors, and NightSun searchlights. Crews are specially trained for the strenuous land and water conditions that may occur in an SAR mission.

To secure the contract, Falcon sought out a reliable operator who had SAR and international experience.

“We were drawn to Evergreen’s reputation for safety and extensive experience in search and rescue. They were a great fit. They have the agility and resources to respond within the tight timeframe of the contract,” Capt. Salem Al Kayoumi, chairman of the board of Falcon Aviation Services.

Evergreen offers 45 years of operating experience. They have a history of successful search-and-rescue programs including those on Mount McKinley in Alaska for the U.S. military and for hospital programs.

BUSINESS: Honeywell to Reorganize Helicopter Businesses

Look for Honeywell to announce a reorganization of its helicopter businesses this month. The avionics and engine maker last year split the businesses into commercial and military lines but heard from aircraft manufacturers that the arrangement wasn’t working well. Now it will reunite the business lines as Commercial and Military Helicopters, with their work divided by major customer. The new organization will have one director, for instance, to handle all Honeywell transactions—avionics, powerplants, etc.—with Sikorsky and one each for AgustaWestland, Bell and Eurocopter. A separate director will oversee business with the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Command and another will deal directly with operators. A vice president for commercial and military helicopters will head the new organization; Vicki Panhuise, a 26-year veteran of the company, has been named to that post.

MILITARY: Cormorant crash probe focuses on human error

Canadian military investigators are focusing on human error as a possible cause of the crash of a CH-149 Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter that killed three airmen off eastern Nova Scotia in July.

An interim flight safety report, which formally ruled out mechanical trouble, said several human factors will need further investigation. These include the fact that one of the pilots at the controls was being trained when the EH101 variant plunged into the ocean off Canso, N.S. during a night exercise.

The crash claimed the lives of Sgt. Duane Brazil, Master Cpl. Kirk Noel, and Cpl. Trevor McDavid. Four other crew members, including the pilot and copilot, were treated in hospital for serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

At the time, the co-pilot was in the pilot’s seat.

“The whole purpose of (the flight) was to conduct training for this individual in order to upgrade him to full aircraft commander status,” Maj. Michel Pilon, the lead investigator, said following the release of the interim report. “You had a co-pilot on the left seat and you had an acting aircraft commander on the right seat (and) the aircraft commander seated in the jump seat.”

“This is an aspect we need to further examine in order to determine whether it’s really a good way to pair a crew together.”

The investigation is far from complete, Pilon said. No conclusions have been drawn.

No mechanical troubles were noted with the aircraft; the Cormorant fleet has a history of cracked tail rotors.

Weather conditions were also good at the time.

Experts in flight crew training are examining the piloting issue, as well as the proficiency of the aircrew. They are expected to report to the accident investigation team shortly.

Another aspect under review is the fact that some of the flight crew were wearing night-vision goggles at the time of the accident.

MILITARY: EADS Delivers NH90 Mission Planning System to Finland

EADS has delivered the first prototype of the mission planning ground station for the new NH90 helicopters to the Finnish air force. The company said the newly developed planning system combines for the first time operational command and control with technical logistic support of a weapon system. In addition to the national version deployed by the German armed forces, it is now also used by the first export customer. The Operations Support System developed by EADS Defence Electronics is an integral part of network-centric operations. The system guarantees more safety for both man and machine, thanks to real-time data communication via a data link, the company said.

In network-centric operations, the system makes it possible to link up with command, control and information systems offering the pilots additional valuable, up-to-date information such as weather information, navigation maps and aeronautical information. Moreover, the Operations Support System allows connecting the helicopter with the operations center via voice radio and data links. The local Finnish company Patria is responsible for integrating the Finnish mission planning station and coordinating the interfaces to the existing Finnish command, control and logistics systems.

MILITARY: Groen Brothers Clears Hurdle On High-Speed Program

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has passed Groen Brothers Aviation’s submission for the third milestone of its contract to design a proof-of-concept, high-speed, long-range, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.

Phase One is a 15-month, $6.4 million award to perform trade studies, develop appropriate risk mitigation, perform extensive advanced computer modeling of the entire vehicle, develop the preliminary design for the Heliplane and complete the rotor system design.

The rotorcraft, named by DARPA the Heliplane, is designed to exploit Groen Brothers’ gyrodyne technology. A gyrodyne can be considered as an airplane that does not need a runway. It offers the VTOL capability of a helicopter, the fast forward flight of an airplane, and the safety, simplicity and reliability of a gyroplane.

The goal of this proof-of-concept demonstrator is a greater than two-fold improvement in speed and range performance over a conventional helicopter.

The Heliplane is intended to have a cruise speed of about 350 kt and an unrefueled range of 1,000 nm. The proof-of-concept aircraft will also carry a 1,000-lb payload. DARPA’s objective is to obtain performance out of a rotary-wing aircraft comparable to fixed-wing airplanes in speed and efficiency.

MILITARY: Vietnam Vet Receives Silver Star

Vietnam Vet Receives Silver Star In a ceremony held Aug. 28 at Fort Bragg, N.C., retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard L. Smith was awarded the Silver Star for heroic actions 40 years ago in the Vietnam War. At the time, Smith was the crew chief aboard a UH-1D attached to B Co., 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Div.

The Silver Star citation reads, “For gallantry in action on Nov. 17, 1965, in the Ia Drang Valley when he voluntarily departed from his position in his helicopter twice to run onto an open field under fire, risking his own life to drag wounded soldiers onboard for evacuation.”

Smith, who is also a Bronze Star recipient, served a total of three tours in Vietnam. He retired from the Army in 1977.

The Army did not give a reason for the delay in awarding Smith with the Silver Star.—Ernie Stephens

CIVIL: Chinook Aids Human Spaceflight Tests

ChinookA CH-47 Chinook (right) lifts a parachute drop-test vehicle to an elevation of 10,000 ft above a Yuma, Ariz., test range as part of a series of NASA tests to aid in development of the booster recovery system for the Ares I rocket planned to launch astronauts on journeys to the Moon and Mars. The tests collected performance data on a pilot parachute, the first to be unfurled in a three-stage recovery system for the Ares I’s first-stage booster. The system includes a pilot, drogue and three main parachutes. The pilot parachute was packed and mounted inside the drop-test vehicle, which also provided the weight and velocity required to simulate the desired test load experienced during deployment and descent. In addition, instruments and a recorder were mounted inside the test vehicle to record performance data during descent. In the bottom photo, the pilot parachute and its payload (the 1,500-lb. drop-test vehicle) descend from about 10,000 ft during the tests. The pilot parachute measures about 11.5 ft in diameter. During the drop tests, the array of instruments and a recorder mounted inside the test vehicle recorded speed, weight on the parachute lines and pressure during descent. The Ares I first-stage booster Recovery System Development Test Program is a two-year effort. Six additional pilot parachute tests will be conducted through 2008.

CIVIL: Penn State, Israeli Student Team Wins Design Competition

Thirteen engineering and aeronautics students at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, in cooperation with students at the Pennsylvania State University, have won first prize in an international competition for helicopter design run by Bell Helicopters and the American Helicopter Society.

Dubbed “GrassChopper,” the judges panel found the winning model much superior to the other designs in altitude and speed. It met the demands of the competition in having space for two pilots and cargo, and being able to remain static in the air for two hours.

For the first time, students from two different universities in two countries collaborated on the final project for their Bachelor’s degree.

Prof. Omri Rand, dean of the aeronautics and space faulty at the Technion in Haifa, took the initiative along with Prof. Ed Smith, head of the Center for Excellence in Helicopters at Penn State. They decided that just as in the world of industry, student groups could cooperate on a project long distance.

“The challenge that stood before the students was to design a two-seater helicopter powered by a turbine engine, rather than the piston engine conventionally used in light helicopters. Turbine engines are known for their good performance and for being very quiet,” said Rand, who was one of the team’s advisers.

“Planning a new turbine engine rather than an off-the-shelf one was a challenge on its own. The helicopter had to be very low in price to compete with existing models of piston engines,” he said.

MILITARY: Piasecki Flies Autonomous Autogyro

Piasecki Aircraft Corp. has completed Phase One of its Air Guard Technology Demonstrator flight test program. The company claims the Air Guard Technology Demonstrator is the world’s first autonomous autogyro and incorporates a six-degree-of-freedom model provided by Georgia Tech with an autonomy system supplied by Geneva Aerospace. They are integrated by Piasecki onto a commercial kit autogyro platform. The demonstration included the integration of the KineCommand C2 advanced unmanned aerial system control system and KineMap Mapping Toolkit supplied by team partner Lockheed Martin Systems Integration of Owego, N.Y. The unmanned aerial system control system is designed to allow for a natural-language, voice-command-and-response operator interface, as well as handheld “tablet” control to allow a single-operator to control multiple autonomous vehicles. Using this integrated system, Piasecki said, Team Air Guard was able to show the following advanced features during the Sept. 6-8 demonstration: multiple autonomous flights with automatic mission planning and mission management, negotiated interaction, management by exception, and high-level mission plan inputs; multiple waypoint navigation with dynamic in-flight mission re-planning, consisting of both altitude and airspeed changes; racetrack and “Figure-8” loiter patterns; flight controls slaved to sensor; remote sensor control from ground station/tablet, and persistent stare loitering.

MILITARY: Lockheed Martin Demonstrates Manned/Unmanned Airborne Control System

Lockheed Martin has completed flight demonstrations of a new system to enable U.S. Army command-and-control helicopters to form and manage teams of unmanned aerial vehicles and manned strike aircraft.

Called the Mobile Commander’s Associate (MCA), the system integrates key functionality required for manned / unmanned teaming: connectivity to multiple digital radio links to provide simultaneous command and control of UAVs and communicate with ground and manned aerial forces; decision-aiding technology to monitor the UAV team’s flight activity with minimal human input, and fusion of ground and airborne sensor data so as to build a situational picture of the evolving battlefield.

CIVIL: Australia’s Jayrow Switches To EC120B for Marine Pilot Transfers

Jayrow Helicopters Pty Ltd. will begin replacing Bell JetRangers with the Eurocopter EC120B for maritime pilot transfer operations around Port Hedland, West Australia. The EC120B will be set up for single-pilot VFR operations and equipped with an autopilot and flight director. “The EC120B, with its fenestron tail rotor system, dramatically reduces the risk of accidental contact by ship’s crew during transfer operations,” the company said, adding other benefits are increased speed and cabin space and improved visibility.

CIVIL: Canadian Firm Launches Russian Survey Operations

Aeroquest International Ltd. has established international survey operations in Russia and commenced its first Russian survey, a 10,000-line km AeroTEM IV survey for a major mining company.

Aeroquest, together with its Russian partners, has formed a Russian joint-venture company called AeroRUS. Aeroquest has positioned an AeroTEM IV system in Russia for use by AeroRUS and obtained the necessary permits for installation into a Russian MI-8 helicopter. AeroRUS has negotiated its first major contract. Aeroquest and AeroRUS expect to be surveying continually in Russia until the onset of winter and will look to add additional systems as demand dictates.

“Aeroquest is very excited about the opportunities in Russia, and to begin with such a significant survey is a great start” said Aeroquest President Steve Balch. “Russia is a country rich in mineral resources and where modern airborne techniques have not been widely applied. The major mining companies and some junior exploration companies from Canada are giving Russia a serious look, and Aeroquest now has advanced technology within that country to help serve their exploration requirements.”

CIVIL: British Firm Offers Helo Tours of Castles

Helo Tours of CastlesPremiAir Aviation has launched a new luxury historical tour that enables individuals to visit some of the United Kingdom’s finest castles without having to worry about time constraints or the hours of queuing traffic on the motorway.

The company said it has created the ultimate day out—visiting Kenilworth, Thornbury, and Berkeley castles in a single day, ending with dinner, bed and breakfast in a top suite at Thornbury Castle (shown above). Up to nine passengers can travel together, according to the company.

PremiAir can also design other helicopter tours to castles such as Hever, Blenheim Palace and Sudeley Castle.

Passengers will be collected from a departure point most convenient to them, it said, and are then flown by helicopter to the historical destinations of their choice, or a suitable landing position nearby the castles.

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