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Friday, December 1, 2006

Rotorcraft Report

Chinook Tops EH101, S-92 in CSAR-X Race

In the end, it may have been a matter of who could field the aircraft fastest.

In a move that generally shocked the rotorcraft world, at least in North America, U.S. Air Force officials on Nov. 9 chose Boeing’s CH-47 as the basis for their next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopter.

The service awarded Boeing a $712-million Combat Search-and-Rescue-X (CSAR-X) contract covering the system development and demonstration of the new aircraft.

The contract calls for Boeing to build four test aircraft and the first batches of operational HH-47 variants of the Chinook, as well as related training and support systems, to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of about 100 Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk CSAR helicopters.

The program calls for production of 141 CSAR-X through 2019. Program officials are seeking an initial operational capability by the first quarter of Fiscal 2012. That is defined as five aircraft delivered to USAF’s formal training site and five to the first operational site, each set with the related training and support systems.

A major departure for an institution that generally leans toward the latest and greatest capabilities, the Air Force in picking a winner of its $10-billion-minimum CSAR-X competition passed over the EH101 variant proposed by Team US101 partners Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland, and Bell Helicopter and the Sikorsky teams S-92 version.

Both losing aircraft are more advanced but less mature than the HH-47 Boeing proposed. Much less mature. While the EH101 is a 1980s design and the S-92 has only been flying a couple of years (and not yet in combat), the basic Chinook has been flying since the early 1960s. The contract is a big step toward Boeing’s half-joking aim of building the first helicopter to be in service for a century.

The Chinook’s maturity is not just a function of age. Boeing already is delivering new-build CH-47Fs to the U.S. Army; the first flew Oct. 23 (shown right). In addition, the MH-47G variant of the Chinook already is flying with Army special forces equipped with terrain-following/terrain-avoidance radar, a capability not called for by the Air Force until the second CSAR-X block configuration. The MH-47G also is equipped with a refueling boom, which the CSAR-X aircraft will need.

"We are not trying to go put the most elegant grand solution" together, Sue C. Payton, the assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition, said after the award. "We are going out with what we can do that will vastly improve what we have today in HH-60 helicopters."

It remains to be seen what the CSAR community thinks of the old bird.

MILITARY

U.S. Deny Protests of Army LUH Award

The U.S. General Accountability Office has denied all protests by MD Helicopters and AgustaWestland of the U.S. Army’s June 30 award for an EADS North America-led team to build 322 Light Utility Helicopters based on the EC145.

The move allows the Army and the contractor team to resume work on the contract, which originally called for delivery of one each UH-72A in November and this month.

The Army did just that, issuing on Oct. 31 to EADS North American a $170.5-million modification to the original firm, fixed-price, and cost-reimbursable contract for medevac B Kits, Hoist B kits, student pilot and maintainer training, and a procedural training device for the LUH. On Nov. 9, it placed a $170-million order with the company for 34 more UH-72As, bringing the total purchased by the Army to 42. EADS is slated to deliver the first on Dec. 11.

Lawyers for the protesters are reviewing the GAO decision, which was issued Oct. 23 under a protective order that prevents it from being made public until competitive- or security-sensitive information is redacted.

That redaction process, which normally takes a week, could take several in this case since it is "a very large decision," said Sharon Larkin, the senior attorney in the GAO general counsel’s Procurement Law Div., who handled the five protests lodged by MD and AgustaWestland. The companies can ask GAO to reconsider its ruling or pursue the matter in federal court.

For its part, MD Helicopters appears ready to move beyond the LUH competition and focus on rebuilding its civil and commercial helicopter business.

The company is focusing on speeding the supply of spare parts to commercial customers, bolstering its training programs, and cranking up fuselage production in Mexico.

CIVIL

NTSB Looks at Weather, Crew in PHI S-76 Crash

One of two occupants inside a PHI helicopter that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Oct. 22 appeared to be "fumbling with switches" during the crash, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation and Safety Board.

According to the report, the Sikorsky S-76 A++ twin-engine helicopter was destroyed when it hit the water while landing near the Eugene Island offshore platform.

The pilot was not injured and the first officer sustained minor injuries after both escaped from the sinking helicopter and swam to a nearby platform. There were no other passengers on board.

According to the report, the crew ran into rain with poor visibility during their flight from PHI’s base at Amelia en route to the platform. The pilot turned the helicopter to the west in an effort to circle the rain shower after the crew was unable to spot the platform.

Shortly afterward, the first officer spotted the platform and the pilot in command asked him to arm the floatation devices and turn on the windshield wipers.

While turning, the pilot recalled his altimeter and airspeed and seeing the platform but did not see a visible horizon, the report said. The pilot also noticed that the floats were not armed and that rain on the windshield was obscuring his vision. He again repeated the request to the first officer.

Shortly afterward, the first officer spotted the platform and the pilot in command asked him to arm the floatation devices and turn on the windshield wipers.

While turning, the pilot recalled his altimeter and airspeed and seeing the platform but did not see a visible horizon, the report said. The pilot also noticed that the floats were not armed and that rain on the windshield was obscuring his vision. He again repeated the request to the first officer.

CIVIL

Pilots End Strike That Cost PHI $4 Million Plus

The union leading pilots striking against PHI called an end to the walkout after 51 days in the hope that U.S. labor law would prod PHI to immediately hire back the strikers. The Office and Professional Employees Union International sent PHI an "unconditional offer to return to work" on Nov. 10, and verified it in writing at the company’s request later. Theoretically, labor law requires a company to stop employing temporary workers immediately and hire back strikers on a seniority basis. But PHI did not oblige the union.

The company said management "is in the process of reviewing the details and implications of the union’s offer, and will formally respond to the union in due course."

Separately, in n a Nov. 9 filing of its quarterly finances, PHI said the strike had cost it more than $4 million and was curtailing 15 percent of domestic U.S. offshore support flight hours and 10 percent of EMS ones. While revenue was up for the quarter, which ended Sept. 30, PHI estimated the strike had cost it $2.2. million in domestic offshore revenue and $800,000 in EMS revenue. PHI said it also had to spend $900,000 in the strike’s first 10 days alone on such costs as "pilot overtime, last paychecks for striking pilots, and additional security at our Lafayette corporate headquarters and at all bases."

CIVIL

Era Helicopters Acquires Keystone’s EMS Unit

Keystone Helicopter Corp. in November reached an agreement with Seacor Holdings LLC for the purchase of Keystone’s Flight Services Div., which oversees its various emergency medical services operations..

The Flight Services Div. operates 35 aircraft for air medical operations at various remote base sites throughout the Eastern United States and Puerto Rico. The division employs more than 200 pilots and technicians that keep these operations running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Seacor’s Era Helicopters will take over those operations.

"Seacor is a multi-billion-dollar company with diversified businesses, including helicopter operations," said David Ford, president of Keystone Helicopter, in a letter to the employees and customers of the company. "They have indicated that they have a strategic goal of growing their presence in that market, and see Keystone’s Flight Services Division as an excellent fit with their existing operations. This bodes well for the division, as Seacor has the resources and the incentive to invest in growing them into an even stronger competitor in the Air Medical industry."

Keystone Helicopter is a full-service maintenance and completion center anchored by the Heliplex, a new, state-of-the-art technical services depot in Coatesville, Pa. It is a factory-authorized service center for Bell, Eurocopter, MD Helicopter, Rolls-Royce, Turbomeca, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky products. It was acquired by Sikorsky Aircraft in 2005. Keystone is positioned to play a major role in Sikorsky’s operations, as key completions center for S-76s and S-92s and even as a potential manufacturing site for those aircraft. Sikorsky is pursuing FAA production certificates for those types at Keystone..

BUSINESS

Eurocopter’s Bregier Moves to Airbus, Succeeded by German

The board of directors of European aerospace conglomerate EADS has appointed Fabrice Brégier as chief operating officer of its troubled Airbus unit, effective immediate effect. Airbus has encountered significant delays for its A380 superjumo airliner and faces the prospects of major customers canceling orders, as U.S. parcel carrier FedEx already has done.

Brégier remains a member of the EADS executive committee.

Lutz Bertling has been appointed to succeed Brégier as president and CEO of Eurocopter and to join the EADS executive committee with immediate effect. He will report to EADS CEO Tom Enders. Bertling had served as executive vice president governmental helicopters from 2003 and was appointed CEO of Eurocopter Deutschland in April.

To further improve transparency within the Group, the EADS Board has appointed EADS CFO Hans Peter Ring as Airbus CFO effective January 1, 2007. Hans Peter Ring will remain CFO of EADS. Andreas Sperl, CFO of Airbus, will move to another operational function within the EADS Group.

The EADS Board has decided that the EADS CEOs Tom Enders and Louis Gallois will regularly report on all major projects, programmes, and matters of importance — including Airbus — to the two EADS Chairmen Manfred Bischoff and Arnaud Lagardère to better prepare board discussions and decisions.

MILITARY

Frost & Sullivan Study Sees Continued Growth in European Military Helos

While the European military helicopter market is coming to the end an extensive run of helicopter procurement, several factors should boost demand there through 2015, according to the international market-research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Its latest study finds that improvements in unmanned aerial vehicle technology will reduce the number of aircraft required to perform tasks now done by a much larger number of helicopters. But the need to move troops and supplies quickly over great distances in hostile terrain to support "operations other than war" means helicopters are likely "to play an increasingly crucial role in the kind of warfare that coalition forces are expected to wage in the near future," the study finds. At the same time, the increasing importance of naval forces to coalition troops is prompting a number of European militaries to participate in naval procurement program. Some of these are very large and will require a relatively large number of rotorcraft to operate from them. In fact, most new naval platforms are expected to carry some type of rotorcraft.

MILITARY

Canadian Cormorant Rescues Downed Helo Crew

A harrowing rescue operation saved three helicopter crash victims stranded on a cliff in bad weather Oct. 25.

The pilot and two passengers of a Vancouver Island Helicopter aircraft were conducting an assessment in Knight Inlet their helicopter apparently rolled when one of the passengers was trying to exit. The accident took place in the late afternoon.

Two crews from 19 Wing Comox were launched into low cloud, snow, sleet and wind. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach the men, the Cormorant landed to reassess the situation. As the fog lifted, the crew spotted a flashlight at a waterfall up the cliff. They followed the flashlight.

"We had to go up vertically, through cloud, making our way tree by tree through the snow and wind," said the aircraft commander," said the aircraft commander, Capt. Sean Morris.

Once in position, they was hoisted a rescue technician down to the crash site. He retrieved the victims.

MILITARY

Team US101 Tests Advanced Blades for VH-71

AgustaWestland recently began flight testing a high-performance variant of the EH101 fitted with new-technology British Experimental Rotor Program (BERP) 4 main rotor blades, more powerful CT7-8E engines and a new integrated cockpit display system. "This event brings together the technology that will give the next variants of the EH101 even greater mission performance," said Alan Johnston, AgustaWestland’s managing director of military programs. "The additional capability these improvements will bring, especially increased payload in demanding hot and high environments, will be of great benefit to our customers who are experiencing ever increasing operational demands."

A key application of the added performance will be on the VH-71A U.S. presidential transport helicopter.

The BERP 4 Technology Demonstration Program, which is jointly funded by the U.K. Ministry of Defence and AgustaWestland, was launched with seven key objectives — reduced first cost, reduced life cycle costs, reduced rotor vibration at high and low speeds, improved hover and forward flight performance, improved damage tolerance, increased erosion resistance, and reduced signatures. Its next-generation advanced composite rotor blades are expected to deliver significant improvements in whole life costs and operational capability.

MILITARY

Analysis Finds Little Hope Of Pick-Up in Europe’s Defense Spending

Defense spending on the European Continent is stuck in slow motion as many nations scramble to pay for operational costs and maintain professional armies, according to a report by Forecast International.

The "Europe Market Overview" notes that the newer Eastern European nations are undertaking the reformation of their forces to a professional NATO Alliance standard. Simultaneously, many European nations are participating in multiple overseas peacekeeping missions, ranging from Afghanistan and Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The principal instrument of collective European defense and national security is NATO, where each member state is asked to contribute 2 percent of GDP toward its defense budget. Currently, very few European NATO members choose to do so, with the United Kingdom, France, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey being the only members meeting the expected standard, the firm says.

That leaves 19 European NATO members falling short of the requirement, with Greece and Turkey achieving the standard largely in anticipation of war with each other.

According to the study, the trend in European defense spending is unlikely to change, as sizable growth will be substituted with small, measured, and generally consistent increases. Overall defense spending on the continent increased 5 percent — from $237 billion in 2005 to $249 billion — in 2006, but if Russian spending totals are removed, the increase declines to only 3 percent.

MILITARY

Texas A&M Lab to Study Better Blade Coatings

Researchers in Texas have been awarded a $1-million U.S. Defense Dept. grant to study how to better protect helicopter rotor blades from the effects of sand and moisture.

Researchers at the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, a member of the Texas A&M University system that operates a lab at Brooks City-Base, will work on improving protective coatings for main and tail rotor blades.

Congress has funded the project for Fiscal 2007 because of the research’s importance to the Pentagon. "The current war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are in sandy, desert terrain," said Dr. John Ayala, who will direct the research. "The sand is eroding the paint of the main and tail rotor blades of the helicopters, which has a big impact on the readiness of the helicopters. We can extend the useful life of rotor blades by having coatings that are not easily eroded."

CIVIL

China Sees Need For More Than 2,700 Civil Helos in 20 years

China’s aviation sector is expected to require more than 2,700 civil helicopters of all types in the next 20 years, according to officials there.

The general manger of China’s Aviation Industrial Corp. No. 2 (AVIC 2), Zhang Hongbiao, said his company would take about 15 years to command the technologies that are central to helicopter design and production. AVIC 2’s goal, he said, is to try to make China one of the world’s top helicopter producers by 2020.

Zhang made his forecast Oct. 16 during ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of China’s helicopter industry. That industry began in 1956, and over the past 50 years it has produced more than 800 helicopters in 30 models. China has also participated in the design and production of international models, including the EC120, S-92 and CA109.

In 1999, AVIC was set up with the design and production of helicopters as its core business. Currently, China produces more than 20 helicopter models, ranging from the 1.5-ton HC120 to the 13-ton Z-8 series.

Zhang said that China lagged behind the international industry in terms of the number of helicopters and their usage, indicating a huge potential market for both overseas and domestic helicopter giants.

CIVIL

India Weighs Buying Dhruvs for Border

Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel posted at the higher reaches of India’s Himalayan borders with Tibet may soon have a reason to smile as the nation’s Home Ministry has approved a proposal for setting up a separate helicopter wing aimed at providing support for them in extreme weather and emergency conditions.

"The Home Ministry has approved the proposal. A Cabinet note is being prepared now for the final clearance," ITBP Director General VK Joshi said on the eve of 45th Raising Day celebrations of the para-military force.

The proposal calls for acquisition of seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) to help enable the border force to airdrop personnel and emergency supplies to its posts in the upper reaches of the Himalayas.

Most of its forward posts in Ladakh, Kumaon and eastern sector remain cut off during winter months and the border police was dependent on the Air Force for evacuation and other emergencies. "Having your own air wing is a far better option," Joshi said, adding the proposal was comprehensive, addressing issues like hiring of pilots and maintenance of the aircraft. The helicopters will also be used by Central Reserve Police Force and Special Security Bureau.

The ITBP chief also raised the issue of the inability of rotating its troops due to non-availability of reserve batallions for rotations. However, he said, the ITBP had approached the Government with a demand for raising 22 new battalions to help rotation of its personnel. "Out of the 35 years of tenure of our personnel, they spent an average 28 years in high-altitude locations... We need 22 more battalions for effectively rotating them," Joshi said.

CIVIL

India Hospitals Seek to Launch Helicopter EMS

Major hospitals in India have sought the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s permission for launching helicopter emergency medical services, according to the Press Trust of India. "We have received applications from some big hospitals seeking approval for construction of rooftop helipad and other infrastructure", DGCA chief Kanu Gohain said at a seminar on HEMS in New Delhi, adding that a final decision was yet to be taken. Maintaining that DGCA has already issued guidelines for developing HEMS facilities as well as those for constructing make-shift helipads, he said choppers should also conform to the standards, especially relating to noise pollution when are operating near hospitals and installation of life-saving equipment.

Earlier this year, the BM Birla Heart Research Center launched an air ambulance service for eastern India, the first time this type of service has been available in the area. The service is being provided with a single Bell 206 to the 4.6 million people of Kolkata in West Bengal, with the facility available for patients of BM Birla and the Calcutta Medical Research Institute.

CIVIL

Czech Republic Sells Sikorsky Supplier

The government of the Czech Republic was reported last month to have sold private investors controlling interest in the aerospace manufacturer Aero Vodochody, a key supplier of S-76 airframes for Sikorsky Aircraft.

Aero has been struggling since the fall of Eastern European communist regimes. In an effort to save the company by tapping new markets, the government in 1998 sold a 35.9 percent stake to Boeing in 1998. But Boeing returned its stake last year.

A Czech-Slovak investment group, Penta, was named as the winning bidding. A Penta subsidiary, Oakfield AS, reportedly offered 2.9 billion koruna ($128 million) for a 99.97-percent stake in Aero in a package that included $443 million in company debt. A Penta co-owner, Marek Dospiva, was quoted in Prague as saying "We shall do our best to maintain the Sikorsky project and to raise production." Production for Sikorsky is said to account for 87 percent of Aero’s output, but only requires 300 of its 1,700 employees.

CIVIL

London Assembly Wants Faster Write-Downs For Older, Noisier Helicopters

The London Assembly, a watchdog on local government, wants the United Kingdom to grant helicopter operators faster depreciation of their aircraft to motivate them to replace older equipment with quieter models.

The assembly has been looking into helicopter operations in and around London and complaints about noise from them.

"Anecdotal evidence points to an increase in helicopter usage by commercial companies, emergency services, the military, advertisers and the media," writes the chair of the Assembly’s environmental committee, Darren Johnson, in his forward to a report on the issues, entitled "London in a Spin: A Review of Helicopter Noise. "However, it has been very difficult to obtain accurate data to establish the extent of the problem."

NBAA

Association Head Vows to Fight User Fees

The National Business Aviation Assn. reported record-breaking participation at its 59th Annual Meeting and Convention, which was held Oct. 17-19 in Orlando, Fla. Organizers counted 33,088 attendees, smashing the 31,665 count in Las Vegas in 1998. Last year’s attendance came to 28,000.

Exhibitor participation was also robust, with booth space selling out one month in advance — another NBAA record. About 1,150 vendors displayed aircraft and other wares throughout 760,000 sq ft of floor space, which accounted for virtually all exhibition space at the Orange County Convention Center. Attendees could take a short shuttle bus ride to nearby Orlando Executive Airport (ORL), where 115 aircraft were on static display and open for inspection.

Although fixed-wing executive aircraft and related services and equipment accounted for the majority of interest at the NBAA convention, the corporate helicopter community was well-represented. Expo goers could climb aboard a twin-engine AgustaWestland Grand, a mock-up of a Sikorsky S-76D executive cabin, and the Bell/Agusta BA609 tilt-rotor simulator. Support companies, such as FlightSafety International, Garmin and Honeywell, were also on hand to share information on their products and services.

In his opening remarks to the attendees, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen vowed to keep the association’s fight to reduce user fees at airports in front of Congress. "We recognize that Congress wants to help," said Bolen. "They are the ‘board of directors’ for the FAA."

The Air Transport Assn., which represents major airlines, has also been lobbying Congress to reduce airport user fees, but favor doing so by forcing general aviation to pay more of them. The NBAA — a general aviation-based organization — has been locked in a high-profile battle with the airline group to keep that from happening.

NBAA

HeliFlite Adds New Bell 430 to Fleet

Newark, NJ-based HeliFlite, a fractional ownership and charter company that specializes in helicopter transport, is adding a fourth Bell 430 aircraft to its fleet of three 430s and one Sikorsky S-76. The aircraft is being added in response to the company’s growing popularity among executives in the greater New York City area, which the company says accounts for about 90 percent of its flights.

HeliFlite’s President and CEO Cory Brown described the Bell 430 as "the perfect helicopter," reporting that the average mission for the 430 consists of one or two passengers flying to destinations in Manhattan, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Brown also cited excellent factory support, cost efficiency and superior ride quality as other reasons for selecting the aircraft.

HeliFlite, which was founded in 1998, receives $360,000 per share for one of its Bell 430 aircraft, plus $9,000 to cover management costs. Trips are generally billed at about $1,100 an hour thereafter.

The company also offers its 25-hr HeliCard, which entitles the holder to 25 hr of flight time aboard a HeliFlite Bell 430 within one year. It guarantees 48-hr call-out availability without actually entering into a standard fractional ownership contract. — By Ernie Stephens

NBAA

S-76D Powerplant Completes Successful Test Run

Pratt & Whitney Canada had aa successful test run of its PW210S turboshaft engine, which is slated to power the D-model of the Sikorsky S-76. Listed as a 1,000-shp-class powerplant, the PW210S was launched in early 2005 to compete in the intermediate-to-medium helicopter category. The successful test run of the engine at Pratt’s Montreal facility in mid-October pleased its designers, who were quoted as saying "the engine ran exceptionally well."

The PW210S incorporates a dual-channel FADEC and advanced compressor and material technology. It will drive the S-76D’s composite main rotor blades and new, environmentally-friendly Quiet Tail Rotor system. Sikorsky believes the installation of two PW210S in the S-76D will increase the helicopter’s Category-A hot takeoff capability by nearly 1,000 lb over the S-76C+, the latter of which is powered by a pair of Tubomeca Arriel 2S1 engines.

Several companies, including Xavier Enterprises in Palm Springs, Calif and Premier Aviation Services Ltd in Ireland have placed orders for the S-76D. They hope to put them in service in 2009. — By Ernie Stephens

NBAA

FAA Grants Ticket for New Bell 210/Huey Engine

Honeywell has received FAA type and production certification for the T5317BCV engine for the Bell 210 and UH-1. Under this program, Honeywell will induct T53-L-703 and T53-L-13B engines that meet certain standards and rework them and their components to manufacturer’s specifications that will permit an FAA type certificate to be issued for the zero-time engine, the T5317BCV. One advantage of the engine is that it would free Huey operators to fly under rules other than restricted-category ones. Honeywell said the 1,800-takeoff-shp T5317BCVs will be backed by a full four-year/2,000-hr factory warranty.

Honeywell has received FAA type and production certification for the T5317BCV engine for the Bell 210 and UH-1. Under this program, Honeywell will induct T53-L-703 and T53-L-13B engines that meet certain standards and rework them and their components to manufacturer’s specifications that will permit an FAA type certificate to be issued for the zero-time engine, the T5317BCV. One advantage of the engine is that it would free Huey operators to fly under rules other than restricted-category ones. Honeywell said the 1,800-takeoff-shp T5317BCVs will be backed by a full four-year/2,000-hr factory warranty.

NBAA

L3 Introduces $15,000 Thermal Imager

Michigan-based L3 Communications introduced its small enhanced vision system called "IRIS" at the National Business Aviation Assn.’s 59th Annual Meeting and Convention in Orlando, Fla. IRIS is a small, non-cooled, thermal imager that detects subtle variances in heat, and converts that information into a real-time graphic display of the environment. That image can then be viewed on a small monitor inside of the cockpit.

The unit comes in two parts — a 1.7-lb camera and a small monitor — that can be installed in a variety of locations on virtually any aircraft. The system’s 320X240-pixel resolution allows it to detect animals on a runway, conflicting air traffic coming out of the sun, and obstructions obscured by fog and haze.

Unlike some thermal imagers sometimes call forward-looking infrared (flir) IRIS does not use cryogenic cooling or liquid nitrogen chambers, which add to the size and cost of those units, and reduces direct sunlight performance. Instead, IRIS uses barium strontium titanate, making it immune to the degrading effects of solar radiation. Video footage provided by L3 demonstrated the clarity of images, even when looking an otherwise undetectable aircraft approaching from the sun. — By Ernie Stephens

CIVIL

Second BA609 Civil Tilt-Rotor Prototype Flies at Italy Air Base

Bell/Agusta Aerospace’s second BA609 civil tilt-rotor prototype, Aircraft 60002, performed its first flight Nov. 9 at AgustaWestland’s facility located on the Italian air force airfield at Cameri, Italy. Pilot Pietro Venanzi and copilot Herb Moran completed the flight successfully at 1507 local time. During the 52-min flight, they performed left and right peddle turns, forward and aft flight maneuvers, several takeoffs and landings, nacelle position changes, and stability testing. Further flight test activities will take place in coming months in accordance with the program’s test plan.

BA609 No. 60003 is already at the AgustaWestland facility in Cameri and No. 60004 is on the assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas. The four prototype tilt-rotor aircraft will perform all the flight-testing required in the U.S. and Italy. Aircraft No. 60001 is continuing to undergo flight test activities at Bell’s Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas. To date, it has accumulated more than 100 hr of flight test time and has operated at 25,000 ft and speeds up to 304 kt (563 km/hr). Dual certification (European and FAA) is planned in 2010, with military qualification and deliveries following soon after.

CIVIL

NY’s West 30th St. Heliport Marks 50 Years

October marked the 50th anniversary of New York City’s West 30th St. Heliport, which in that time grew from a converted dock to one of the busiest helicopter facilities in the world.

Open around the clock seven days a week, the heliport is owned by the Trenk family. Father Al has run it for 26 years; daughter Abigail has been its president for 10 years. It is one of three public heliports in Manhattan.

The Trenks marked the anniversary with a party Oct. 4 at the heliport that was attended by neighbors from the blossoming Chelsea neighborhood around the heliport, regular clients and crews, and politicians.

The flights that used the landing pad 50 years ago mostly carried mail. Today, the heliport is used by businesses, the media, politicians, law enforcement officers, as well as movie and music stars. Tourists start and end their sightseeing jaunts there. Other than the tourists, passengers typically fly to the Hamptons beaches on Long Island, the casinos of Atlantic City and the three New York-area airports.

There are as many as 250 operations a day conducted at the heliport, and typically more than 45,000 a year.

NBAA

Tilt-Rotor Training Device Makes Appearance

Bell/Agusta Aerospace used the National Business Aviation Assn.’s 59th Annual Meeting and Convention to display its BA609 civil tilt-rotor flight training device. Built by Bell engineers on a stationary platform, the flight deck is a faithful representation of the revolutionary aircraft’s cockpit, and is partially surrounded by a 10-ft high projection screen that gives the pilots a 240-deg field of view of a computer-generated environment that can simulate pitch, roll and yaw.

The device is equipped with full-motion flight controls, glass instruments with basic navigation and engine performance information, and a few systems controls. Most other equipment, such as radios and subsystem switches, are graphic reproductions or non-functioning hardware.

Show attendees were treated to realistic forward and side views, especially in the nine and three o’clock positions, where computer-generated images of the engine nacelles could be seen tilting up and down through their ranges. A virtual airport was used as the default flight environment, where pilots could practice takeoffs, en route phases, and landings to a runway or helicopter pad.

BA609 test pilot Ray Hopkins was on hand to help convention attendees learn about tilt-rotor flight, but cautioned that the device was not intended as use a primary trainer. "This is a math model," said Hopkins. "It’s an engineering tool."

The BA609 are in flight test. The design is expected to be certified in 2008. — Story and Photo by Ernie Stephens

CIVIL

MD Offering Free Manual Updates

MD Helicopters, Inc. is providing commercial Rotorcraft Flight Manual revisions free of charge to registered owners for the life of their helicopter.

An electronic form on its Web site, www.mdhelicopters.com, allows owners to register for the service. If a helicopter is sold or transferred, the new owner need only register on line to continue receiving free revisions.

MD is also providing an FTP site for free downloading of the commercial technical manuals and revisions, in Adobe® Acrobat PDF format, allowing for local printing of these publication.

Free downloads will be provided by registering and accessing the Electronic Technical Manuals Web site. The free services affirm MD’s commitment "to enhance the level of customer service for the existing MD Helicopter fleet as well as new deliveries," said Jeff Snyder, MD’s general manager for customer support.

MILITARY

Swedish Armed Forces Return to SAS Flight Academy

Swedish military pilots are returning to the SAS Flight Academy in Stockholm under a two-year contract for recurrent training in the Bell/AB212/412 full-flight simulator. Recurrent training is divided into two different aims for pilots waiting for a type rating on future helicopter types in the Swedish Air Force. The first is recurrent instrument procedure training and the second is tactical instrument training.

The Swedish armed forces chose SAS Flight Academy as their supplier for generic training even though they no longer operate the Bell 412. This is thanks to the versatility of SAS Flight Academy’s Bell/AB 212/412 full-flight simulator.

In the past, the armed forces trained their helicopter pilots at SAS Flight Academy. Now, after a few years absence, they have decided to return. The academy has about 40 civilian and military customers training on the Bell/AB 212/412

MILITARY

Apache Lands On U.K. Carrier Ark Royal

A British Army Apache attack helicopter has landed on a Royal Navy Invincible-class aircraft carrier for the first time, marking another milestone in the return to service of the carrier HMS Ark Royal.

The aircraft, from 667 Sqdn., Army Air Corps, landed on Ark Royal as she lay alongside at Portsmouth Naval Base for ship-air integration trials. The Apache was moved around the flight deck and lowered on one of the aircraft lifts into the ship’s hangar, giving Ark Royal’s aircraft handlers experience in dealing with the type.

"Having the Apache on board was another milestone in Ark’s return to operational status," said Cdr. Keith Muir, head of Ark Royal’s air department. "It will contribute significantly to our ability to embark, sustain and operate the Apache and to deploy its potent capability from the sea as part of an agile mission group, wherever and whenever it is most needed."

CIVIL

Schweizer Ties Up With Chinese Firm to Build 300CBis

Schweizer Aircraft has selected Jiangxi Changhe Aircraft Company to supply airframe components and assemblies for the Schweizer 300CBi helicopter. This contract is the first project completed under the memorandum of understanding announced June 1 between Sikorsky and China’s Aviation Industry Corporation 2 (AVIC 2) for collaboration on the development and manufacture of civil helicopters. AVIC 2 is the parent company of Jiangxi Changhe. Schweizer is a Sikorsky subsidiary.

"Sikorsky is excited to see the execution of one of the key strategies outlined in the MOU," said Carey Bond, Sikorsky vice president for corporate strategy and advanced programs. "Sikorsky is committed to investing in China and developing additional strategic partnerships with AVIC 2."

Schweizer 300CBis are used worldwide for training, transportation, aerial photography, airborne patrol, and many other missions. Changhe will ship the airframe and detail parts that it manufactures to Schweizer’s Horseheads, N.Y., facility, where 300CBis will be assembled, test flown and delivered to customers.

"This agreement is part of Sikorsky’s on-going effort to develop strategic global partnerships and business arrangements that create new opportunities for both parties," Bond said. "Demand for the 300CBi remains strong. Adding Changhe to the supply chain will enable Schweizer to increase its production rate, better meet customer requirements and provide additional customer value for a world-class product."

Under the MOU, Sikorsky and AVIC 2 agreed to discuss helicopter manufacturing, assembly, flight test, engineering design and analysis, and new product development in the light, intermediate, and medium classes. "AVIC 2 and its subsidiaries have excellent design and manufacturing capabilities, and Sikorsky is proud of this partnership," Bond said.

CIVIL

Turbomeca, Chinese Firm Team Up

During Air Show China, Turbomeca signed a joint venture contract with Beijing Changkong Machinery, an AVIC 2 company, aimed at creating the first joint venture between Turbomeca and an AVIC 2 company, namely Beijing Turbomeca Changkong Aero-Engine Control Equipment Co. Ltd.

This joint venture will assemble and test hydro-mechanical units of turboshaft engines for both Turbomeca and Beijing Changkong, for their respective markets. It will be located 30 mi north of Beijing in the Chinese partner new plant, located in a high-tech park.

Fuel control units and hydro-mechanical Units will be assembled and tested in this new joint venture. The joint venture entry into operation with its relevant production agreement is targeted to be in October 2007. In China, one helicopter out of two is equipped with Turbomeca engines or licensed products. Today, about 500 Turbomeca engines are being operated there.

A cooperation framework agreement was signed in 2005 with AVIC 2, concerning the delivery of 200 Arriel 2C engines to China, along with a partial production license. Turbomeca and AVIC 2 started working together in the 1980s, with a license for the Arriel 1 engine, initiated by China National South Aero Engine Corp.

CIVIL

Dart Buys Era STCs

Dart Helicopter Services has acquired 42 supplemental type certificates from Era Helicopters. It plans to expand Era’s product line of auxiliary tanks, interior products, float systems, flight steps and avionics. The STCs acquired include auxiliary fuel tanks for the entire series of medium Bell products and the BK117, float systems for the Bell 212 and UH-1H, interior products for the B0105, flight steps for medium Bells and avionics components for several Bell and Eurocopter products. www.darthelicopterservices.com

Also, Canam Aerospace Inc. has chosen Dart for worldwide commercial distribution of its helicopter external load product lines, with the exception of Japan, Norway, the U.S. Military and OEM sales. Canam makes 14 products with a specialization in remote cargo hooks, electric swivels, long lines, carousels, grapples and cargo nets. With a history in AMO standards, Canam has maintained that philosophy with respect to its current manufacturing practices.

BUSINESS

Sikorsky Aircraft Set to Open New Engineering Center in Fort Worth

Sikorsky Aircraft plans to open a new engineering center in Fort Worth, Texas, next year to support its growing U.S. government, commercial, and aftermarket business.

Presumably, the company is proceeding with the plans despite the loss of its H-92-based bid in the U.S. Air Force Combat Search-and-Rescue-X competition last month. With UH-60 production lines spooling up for the U.S. Army and potentially international customers and a new CH-53 model in development, Sikorsky has plenty of work ahead of it.

The new 25,000-sq-ft facility will be staffed with 100 or more experienced aerospace professionals drawn mostly from the Fort Worth-Dallas area. Job fairs are set to begin in January.

Particular skill sets required that Sikorsky is seeking include dynamic system design and analysis, avionic systems integration, and aircraft handling qualities. The facility will duplicate the IT hardware found in Sikorsky’s main facilities in Connecticut and West Palm Beach, Fla. This will allow the Fort Worth Engineering Center to operate real-time and seamlessly with these and other Sikorsky facilities.

"Sikorsky is on pace to meet our plan of doubling revenues over the five-year period between 2003-2008," said Mark Miller, Sikorsky vice president, engineering.

The Fort Worth region is rich with experienced aerospace professionals who could make immediate and long-lasting contributions to some of the aerospace industry’s most exciting development programs.

Current production programs at Sikorsky include the Black Hawk and Naval Hawk helicopters for the U.S. government and international customers, and the S-76 and S-92 helicopters for civil customers. Development programs include the CH-53K for the U.S. Marine Corps, the CH-148 Cyclone for the Canadian Maritime Helicopter program, the new S-76D, Black Hawk and Naval Hawk upgrades, and the X2 Technology demonstrator.

Within the past year, Sikorsky has hired nearly 600 new engineers and has opened third-party engineering design centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Montana.

CIVIL

NAASCO Signs U.K.’s Ross Aviation As Distributor

NAASCO Northeast Corp., located on Long Island, N.Y. and internationally recognized for the "Mercury Mod" starter generator improvement programs, has appointed Ross Aviation of Drybrook, Gloucestershire, England as its sole stocking distributor in the United Kingdom, with territories extending from Continental Europe to the Middle East as well as Greenland and Iceland.

"NAASCO products are a perfect compliment to our existing distribution capabilities," said Mark Biggs, managing director of Ross Aviation, "covering both rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft for our customers in Law Enforcement, Offshore oil support, EMS, Government Agencies, Military, Airlines and Private and Corporate Operators". Ross Aviation has expanded its rotable inventory to accommodate the high demand for NAASCO’s 1000-hr Starter Generator brush life guarantee featured with the Mercury Mod and other ETR improved Starter Generators. Ross Aviation will also distribute NAASCO’s complete line of repair and overhaul capabilities including actuators, relays, generator control units, etc.

CIVIL

Papillon Breaks Ground for "Largest Heliport in West"

Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters is poised to break ground this month on what could be the largest heliport west of the Mississippi.

The Monarch Enterprises subsidiary and largest helicopter-tour company in the world is developing a two-story, high-tech, reservation call center, air-traffic-control tower, two airplane hangars and space for more than a half-dozen helicopters (as well as six fixed-wing aircraft) on about eight acres of Boulder City Municipal Airport property. The land is being leased at current rates, a city official said.

The helicopter company continues to maintain space at McCarran International Airport, supporting operations that include tours of the Las Vegas Strip and other sightseeing-related services. But Papillon has forgone expanding there for reasons that include fuel costs, noise pollution and air-traffic constraints. The bulk of the company’s operations will be Boulder City-based, including its maintenance and reservation facilities.

Papillon has had a presence in Boulder City since 2003, when parent company Monarch bought out Lake Mead Air, a fixed-wing service that provided tours of Southern Nevada’s water supply. Monarch representatives have since planned to bolster operations at Boulder City, fast becoming that area’s third-largest employer, according to Robert Graff, Papillon’s vice president of marketing.

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