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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Do You Keep a COTS Helo FAA-Approved?

That's the question facing the U.S. Army National Guard as it prepares to field the UH-72A Lakota. The Army is acquiring that light utility helicopter, based on Eurocopter's FAA-certificated EC145, from a contractor team led by EADS North America (a branch of Eurocopter's parent company). The acquisition includes "contractor logisitics support" from Sikorsky. Basically, Army flight crews take the keys and logbook before a mission, fly it, then return the keys and logbook with any "gripes" to Sikorsky personnel. They are to have the aircraft ready to fly the next day. That doesn't work entirely for Guard units, which will be expected to deploy the aircraft where Sikorsky contractors may not go. Furthermore, FAA-certificated aircraft have to be maintained by FAA-approved mechanics, which Army and Guard maintainer training doesn't produce. Some Guard mechanics hold FAA tickets, since their "day" jobs are as mechanics. For those who don't, according to one top EADS North America officials, they are receiving training to get their FAA mechanic's licenses. The Mississippi National Guard is the first Guard unit slated to get the Lakotas. That is scheduled to occur within a few months. For related news
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