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Saturday, April 1, 2006

From The Factories

Compiled by R&W Staff

MD Adding Safety Features to Fleet, Training

As part of her plans to revitalize MD Helicopters, Inc., the new owner plans to make the company "the poster child" for a new international effort to slash helicopter accident rates. That includes fully embracing FAA and other recommendations for improvements to safety-related equipment on its aircraft and flight training.

"As part of the promise I have made to be the poster child for the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST)," said Lynn Tilton, MD's chairman, "we will include, as standard equipment" wire-strike kits, cockpit voice and video recorders, health and usage monitoring systems and terrain awareness warning system.

Starting with 2007 deliveries, according to MD, all new aircraft will be fitted with that gear, which it will make available as retrofits for existing aircraft. Those are all items identified by international safety advocates as essential to achieving the goal of cutting helicopter accident rates 80 percent in 10 years. That goal has been adopted by the IHST, which is being led by the Helicopter Assn. International and the FAA.

The company should have plenty of time to add that equipment, since it plans no civil deliveries before 2007. All its 2006 production slots are devoted to the U.S. Army's Light Utility Helicopter program, should it win that contract.

In addition to the product changes, MD plans to upgrade its training programs by, among other things, acquiring simulators or flight training devices for all its aircraft models. The use of simulators and FTDs for training all helicopter pilots is another element of international safety advocates' recommendations that led to the creation of the IHST.

FH1100 Aims to Open School in June

A new factory flight school is processing student applications, lining up financing and proceeding with plans to start all-turbine instruction by June. The Van Nevel Helicopters Academy is the training offshoot of FH1100 Manufacturing Corp., which produces the five-seat turbine rotorcraft based on the Fairchild Hiller 1100.

The factory and school are based in Century, Fla., about 30 mi. north of Pensacola on Florida's Panhandle.

School officials are working with the FAA to secure provisional FAR Part 141 certification and with the U.S. Education Dept. to gain its signoff as an accredited school under Title 4 of the 1965 federal Higher Education Act. That accreditation would clear the way for a student aid agreement with KeyBank, according to Cedric Van Nevel of the academy. The school is also working on lining up student financing options from Sallie Mae, the leading provider of student financing in the U.S., and the Pilot Career Foundation, a non-profit flight-school and pilot association that arranges financial aid for flight training (www.pilotcareer.org).

Van Nevel said the academy will start instruction with 2-3 FH1100s, with plans to bring 10 more on line. All instruction will be in the Rolls-Royce 250C-20B-powered FH1100 and the training rates will be "comparable to piston-engine trainers," said Georges Van Nevel, president of FH1100 Manufacturing Corp. "Since we build the FH1100, we are in a unique position to offer it at a rate much lower than that of any commercial operator."

The professional pilot training course will be priced at under $60,000, according to Cedric Van Nevel. Once completing that, students will have the option of cycling through factory instructor training to help them build time. The Commercial course is to include elevated-platform training for those seeking to work in the offshore oil industry.

Eurocopter Setting Up Asian Training School in Singapore

Eurocopter is setting up a regional center in Singapore to provide ab initio, refresher and recurrent training course to pilots in Asia.

The French-German consortium's Eurocopter South East Asia unit plans to open the new school, which will be called Eurocopter Training Services Asia, by the end of this year.

The school is to have a staff of instructors capable of providing training on the entire range of Eurocopter helicopters. In addition to training aircraft, Eurocopter officials said, the school is to be equipped with state-of-the-art flight training devices, procedures trainers and simulators.

The initial training aircraft for the school will be the EC120B Colibri, which Singapore selected in November 2005 as the new training platform for its Rotary-Wing Course program. Under that contract, Eurocopter South East Asia will supply EC120Bs to Singapore Technologies Aerospace for use in training Republic of Singapore Air Force pilots. Eurocopter builds the EC120 with ST Aerospace and China's CATIC.

Eurocopter South East Asia in late 2004 was designated regional headquarters of the Eurocopter Group by Singapore's economic development board as part of that nation's plan to build itself into the aeronautical hub of Asia.

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