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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Composite Helicopter Aims for Type Certification

By Emma Kelly

New Zealand helicopter manufacturer Composite Helicopters International (CHI) has filed a type certificate application with the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority for three helicopter models featuring its EvoStrength composite technology.

The helicopters are the entry level, Rolls-Royce RR300-powered KC630; the high-powered, high-altitude, Honeywell LTS101-powered utility version, the KC650; and the medium RR250 C20B-powered KC640. The KC630 and KC650 will be on display at Heli-Expo 2015, with the KC630 in an executive five-seat configuration and the KC650 in a utility six-seat configuration, says Lara Jane Maloney, head of marketing.

 

Composite Helicopters KC630 and KC650. Photo courtesy of Composite Helicopters

The Auckland-based company is anticipating type certification for the KC630 in late 2017, followed by the KC650 and KC640 in 2018.

Maloney says the manufacturer is seeking expressions of interest for early production number helicopters. “As the type certification progresses, we will establish our international distribution and service networks,” Maloney adds.

The helicopters feature CHI’s patented EvoStrength rigid composite material, which it says provides unparalleled impact, corrosion and fatigue resistance.

The strength of the material was highlighted in a crash of its KC518 Adventurer all-composite prototype late last year during flight testing. The RR250-powered, single-piece carbon-fiber helicopter was preparing to land when the pilots detected a severe low-frequency vibration. They were forced to conduct an emergency landing during which the helicopter pitched up and rolled on its side. Both pilots walked away with minor injuries, while the main helicopter structure remained intact. “The carbon structure has without doubt proven itself,” says Peter Maloney, CHI president and test pilot.

The accident was attributed to a failure of a third party-supplied rod end component in the single scissor link assembly of the upper swash plate due to high cycle fatigue which resulted in a loss of phase control to the main rotor. The investigation found the swashplate loads were minimal and well below the endurance limits of the part, but CHI has introduced a double scissor link assembly on both the upper and lower rotating swashplates to increase the level of safety and redundancy.

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