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Saturday, April 1, 2006

Rotorcraft Report

Calling MD Supply Chain a Shambles, New Owner Vows to Rebuild

Whatever Lynn Tilton invested to get control of MD Helicopters--and the sum could be growing by the month--she certainly got more than she bargained for.

After she bought MD in July 2005, the head of the New York distressed-debt investment firm Patriarch Partners said she figured the Mesa, Ariz. helicopter maker would start showing signs of a turnaround in six months at the outside. By December, she had taken back day-to-day control of MD, having concluded that her top managers were "paralyzed by the prospect" of fixing the company's problems.

Tilton readily acknowledges that, given a portfolio of 67 owned companies around the world whose financial health hinges in large part on her reputation for success, her only way out of the quagmire that is MD is to turn it around.

"I thought it would be an easy journey," the MD chairman said at her first Heli-Expo in late February in Dallas. "I thought it was a matter of capital and building efficiency. Boy, was I wrong."

One of her biggest surprises, she said, was that MD suppliers gave her no credit for paying off the company's past debt. The previous management had strung out customers on parts deliveries and done the same to suppliers on payments, to the point that Kaman Aerospace wrote off $20 million MD owed it. When she took over, Tilton paid Kaman and other suppliers. She said she expected to be embraced for doing so. "Not only wasn't I embraced, I was held accountable for the sins of the past," she said, with some suppliers asking price increases of 40 percent to continue working with the company. That helped lead her to the conclusion that the helicopter industry's entire supply chain is "indelibly flawed."

"Right now I'm telling someone--which is more embarrassing than anything--that I don't have a flex beam to deliver to get their aircraft in the air. And you know what? My supplier is not going to do anything about it. They say they cannot. But I don't ever want to be in that position again."

Tilton argued that much of the supply chain flaws stem from the extensive outsourcing of recent years. While outsourcing works in many industries, including those in which she owns other companies, in aviation "it breeds mediocrity," she said. "And truthfully, late deliveries and mediocrity have become something that is accepted by the operators." Customer service "is just a matter of who does it better than the other, instead of truly understanding that each one of our customers makes his or her living in that helicopter."

To fix the situation, Tilton said she is identifying suppliers she can count on--she signed deals at the show with Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce, Kamatics Corp. and Triumph Gear for engines and drive-train components. In addition, she said, she is buying or building supply capability in areas where she can't find dependable partners.

She said MD's single-engine fuselages, starting in the fourth quarter, would be built at Patriarch-owned Global Automotive Systems in Monterrey, Mexico. She also had Patriarch buy the Grand Prairie, Texas completions shop Heritage Aviation and told its managers they could take over manufacture of any component on MD's production line that wasn't already spoken for.

"It is our vision to continue to bring the supply chain in house everywhere we can not find that supplier who will work shoulder to shoulder with us to meet our needs.

Tilton remains confident MD can win and fulfill the U.S. Army's contract to supply 322 Light Utility Helicopters. To convince Army officials, MD is forgoing commercial orders for 2006 to preserve delivery slots for LUH aircraft. "We have ensured that we will have parts for 2006 and 2007 deliveries, she said.

CIVIL

Robinson Breaks Sales Record in 2005, Pushes R44 Over R22 as Trainer

Robinson Helicopters set major records in 2005, selling 806 aircraft, delivering its 4000th helicopter and continuing an unbroken, 20-year string of selling more helicopters than any other manufacturer. At Heli-Expo 2006, the company's founder, CEO and president, Frank Robinson, reported the sale of three more helicopters--an R44 Raven 2, an R44 Raven I and an R22.

At the annual show, Robinson pitched his four-seat R44 Raven I as an ideal aircraft for the training market, saying its greater power would increase the safety of flight schools that rely on the two-seat R22. Robinson said insurance companies have indicated the R44's lower accident rate that stems in part from its greater power would warrant lower premiums.

He also said the company is working to narrow the cost between the R22 and Raven I to make the latter a more attractive to trainer. The R44 burns 3-4 gal. an hour more than in the R22, which at today's prices could be a significant cost increase, he said.

The R44 now is offered only as a VFR trainer. However, Chelton is marketing an autopilot/stability augmentation system called HeliSAS for the R44 and expects to gain an STC for retrofit in the first quarter of next year. Robinson said he intends to fly the system soon to determine whether or not it should go on new aircraft. He said he is still trying to revitalize rooftop helipads as a means of increasing the use of small helicopters. "One of the things holding back the use of the helicopter is a lack of places to land them," he said.

CIVIL

Piggybacking on ARH Win, Bell Launches The 417, Eyes a New Medium Twin

In a spectacular ceremony at a new and expanded exhibit stand, Bell Helicopter unveiled the 417 civil counterpart to the aircraft that last year won the U.S. Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter contract. Three Cirque du Soleil acrobats--a paired man and woman and a solo man--flew on silken strands near the shrouded display for several minutes as drums pounded and a crowd gathered. Then the acrobats vanished into the ceiling and Bell CEO Mike Redenbaugh took the stage.

"What do acrobats have to do with helicopters?" he asked. "Cirque's aerial display is symbolic of what this business is all about: strength, power and agility," unveiling the mockup of the long-awaited follow-on to the Bell 407 that is the basis of the ARH aircraft. By early March, Bell said, it had booked orders for 117 of the aircraft.

The new aircraft will use versions of the Honeywell turboshaft HTS900--the 925-shp HTS900-1 developed for ARH and the 970-shp HTS900-2 that Honeywell is targeting for both aircraft. The engines are designed to be interchangeable in the airframe and will have a full-authority digital electronic controller with dual electronic control units.

Bell's executive director of commercial programs, John Ricciardelli, said the 417 is designed for a gross weight of 5,500 lb. and a useful load of 2,500 lb., with provisions for a 6,000-lb. gross weight with an external load. Ricciardelli said it would be capable of lifting to a 6,000-ft. hover out of ground effect. The five-seat aircraft will have a "bubble cockpit" with greater headroom and an integrated Chelton avionics package. He said Bell plans to fly a 417 prototype this month and achieve certification and first deliveries in early 2008.

At Heli-Expo, Redenbaugh also said Bell is beginning the study phase of an effort to determine what a 21st-century new medium twin would look like. The company plans to start holding focus groups and gathering input to see "what the critical-to-quality characteristics for that type of an aircraft look like and how our portfolio of technologies can bring those ideas forward," Redenbaugh said.

CIVIL

Heli-Expo Shows Strength in Numbers

While it may not be astrologically correct, 2006 may become known as "The Year of the Tiger" for the helicopter industry. Between orders announced at Asian Aerospace in Singapore and Heli-Expo in Dallas, both held in February, airframe and engine manufacturers are holding some of the strongest order books in their histories.

Heli-Expo also broke all attendance records, with 520 exhibitors and more than 16,630 visitors, plus 48 helicopters on display. Other records included 617 attendees registering for the professional education series held during the show and 853 job seekers talking to 30 potential employers during the Helicopter Assn. International Job Fair. HAI President Matt Zuccaro said the educational courses will be expanded next year, as well as being taken on the road during the year to get them out to the industry. A prime goal of the show was to "push the initiative relating to safety, the economic viability and the networking capability within the industry," he said. "From all views, everything was achieved and we're going to be expanding that in Orlando" at Heli-Expo 2007.

Of particular interest were the educational courses on safety and economics, he said. "We had some workshops that went very well, dealing with the economics of operating helicopters to try to assist some of the operators in trying to better identify their operating costs and the advantageous decisions that could assist them. The interesting part is that the safety aspect is a tie-in to economic viability. People are finally grasping the concept that even though it costs you in outlay putting the safety initiatives in place, in the long term it is going to produce economic advantages to you."

Zuccaro also said HAI will be expanding the relationship with its international affiliates under the affiliate membership initiative, as well as with the International Federation of Helicopters Assns. "We are definitely making a concerted effort to become more responsive to our international membership," he said.

CIVIL

International Team Sets Ambitious Goals for Safety

The international effort to slash the helicopter accident rate by 80 percent in 10 years is taking on an even more ambitious challenge: developing separate sets of safety initiatives that apply specifically to all the individual ways that helicopters are used.

Leaders of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST), which is orchestrating those efforts, met several times during Heli-Expo, first to further organize their efforts and then to brief attendees of the annual event and enlist their support in the effort.

Based on analyses by Bell Helicopter, Shell Aircraft and others that showed several improvements in aircraft equipment and design and flight crew training could produce dramatic reductions in helicopter accidents, a gathering of international industry leaders agreed in Montreal last September that an 80-percent reduction was achievable. They formed the IHST to achieve it. The team is co-chaired by HAI President Matt Zuccaro and Dave Downey, manager of the FAA's Rotorcraft Directorate. Its organization is based on the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, a highly successful effort in the late 1990s to reduce airline accidents. But the challenges faced by it were simple in comparison to those facing the IHST. Most significant, it dealt with a homogenous group--airlines--whose organizations and operations were largely similar regardless of where they flew.

By contrast, the IHST must figure out how to improve the safety of operations that range from law enforcement and long-line work to firefighting, agricultural, corporate, offshore and sightseeing, to name just a few. To meet that challenge, team members have decided to conduct their accident analyses and make recommendations based on the specific types of operations in lieu of generic studies and fixes.

BUSINESS

Forecasts See Helicopter Markets Remaining Strong for Decade

Worldwide helicopter markets should grow steadily for at least a decade, analyses by Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and Forecast International agree.

Rolls-Royce, working with the Teal Group, forecasts 10,915 turbine rotorcraft valued at $95 billion will be delivered worldwide through 2015. Of those aircraft, which would have an installed engine value of $8.9 billion, slightly more units will be military than civil (5,724 vs. 5,191 helicopters, or 52.4 vs. 47.6 percent), Rolls said. But the military units will make up 85 percent of the dollar value of delivered aircraft, indicative of the larger size of the military helicopters.

Honeywell's civil forecast, based on a survey of pilots and operators, indicated deliveries in excess of 2,600 helicopters over the next five years. The 10-year value of civil helicopters is placed at $13.9 billion in airframes and $1.9 billion in engines.

Forecast International projects 6,253 military helicopters worth $96 billion will be produced over the next decade, with Sikorsky leading in both unit production and dollar value. The total production figure includes "significant or extensive modifications of existing rotorcraft," accounting for some 1,370 units worth about $18 billion.

CIVIL

Big Manufacturers Log Healthy Orders at Show

Bell officials thought the biggest splash of Heli-Expo was going to be the 417's introduction. But the bigger splash came when they reported 202 sales in February. Heli-Expo alone accounted for 100, triple the number sold at the last Heli-Expo.

Eurocopter reported strong sales at the show, adding to a banner year in 2005. American Eurocopter reported 32 sales worth $207 million at the show. Era Helicopter ordered two EC225s and took options for two, becoming the first North American offshore operator to pick the aircraft, the latest version of the Super Puma family. Other orders included 15 EC135s from Air Methods, 10 EC135s from CJ Systems, three AS350B2s from Omniflight, one AS350B2 from Air Kauai and an AS350B2 from Temple Aviation in Las Vegas. American Eurocopter CEO Marc Paganini noted the increasing activity within American Eurocopter's new Columbus, Miss. facility, which will soon take responsibility for assembling the entire AS350 AStar line plus building tailbooms for the EC145. Paganini said if Eurocopter wins the LUH award with its UH145, the first six aircraft can be delivered by the end of this year, followed by up to 26 a year thereafter.

AgustaWestland's team arrived at Heli-Expo having bagged an order for 12 of its rebranded AW139 (with Bell having withdrawn from the program) from Mitsui Bussan Aerospace of Japan. The company valued the contract at about $100 million. Deliveries are to begin next year.

AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi said the company's Italian and British branches are continuing to grew closer together and the company is consolidating its position in the United States.

CIVIL

Rolls-Royce, Lycoming Tout Technology

Engine manufacturers, both turbine and piston, are looking toward new technology to improve their fortunes. Rolls-Royce has certified an enhanced, dual-channel full-authority digital engine controller (FADEC) or its Model 250-C47B on the Bell 407, of which there are 650 in service, according to Scott Crislip, president of Rolls-Royce's helicopter and small gas turbine engines division. The Model 250 already has a FADEC system available, the EMC-35A, although it uses a single electronic channel, whereas the new dual-channel EMC-35R FADEC system adds a reversionary governor channel as a back-up control to allow continued flight in an automatic governed mode in the event of failure of the primary channel. The new FADEC is also being certified for the 250-C47M engine that powers the MD600N.

Rolls-Royce also expects to achieve FAA certification of new, improved compressor wheels for the Model 250-C20R. These compressor wheels, which can be retrofitted into current engines, will extend the life of the engine while reducing operating costs, he said.

The coming year is expected to be a good one, with sales growing from 321 in 2005 to a projected 360 this year, Crislip said. Part of that will come from helicopter manufacturers in the former Soviet Bloc looking for western engines to make their helicopters more acceptable to Western operators, he said.

Crislip also noted that the demise of the U.S. Army's Comanche program did not mean that the T-800 engine was going to go away. The T-800 would be an excellent candidate for Bell's proposed new medium twin developed under Bell's modular affordable product line (MAPL), he said.

Lycoming Engines has created a new Advanced Technology Center in Williamsport, Pa. to allow Lycoming engineers to focus on cutting edge technology, R&D and "advancements in engine designs, parts and materials" for its next-generation engine programs, according to Ian Walsh, Lycoming vice president and general manager.

CIVIL

Schweizer Enjoys Sikorsky Teaming; Enstrom Pushes Quick Deliveries

The manufacturers of smaller airframes reported increasing sales in 2005 and during Heli-Expo 2006.

Schweizer, now a subsidiary of Sikorsky, signed contracts for 37 helicopters, the most ever by the company at the trade show. They include both the 300 piston and 333 turbine, and represent sales in seven countries. President Paul Schweizer said much of the credit goes to more than 60 reps around the world who attended workshops on the company's plans for increasing output and product improvements.

Enstrom President Jerry Mullins said they had 29 deliveries last year--14 turbines and 15 pistons. For 2006, he expects that to increase to 18 turbines and 14 pistons. A new facility is being considered. The current capacity is 50-60 helicopters a year, although at 50 they would expand their facility, he said. Enstrom can produce a helicopter in 60-90 days and can capitalize on slow delivery rates of other manufacturers. "When customers order a helicopter, they tend to want it now," he said.

BUSINESS

Sikorsky Names Pino President; Finger Moves Up

Sikorsky Aircraft on March 8 named Jeff Pino to succeed Steve Finger as president of the Stratford, Conn. helicopter maker effective immediately.

Pino's promotion followed Finger's move to the post of president of Pratt & Whitney. Finger replaced Louis Chenevert, who had been promoted from the president's post at P&W to president and chief operating officer of United Technologies Corp., the parent of all those companies. Chenevert also was named to UTC's board of directors.

Pino joined Sikorsky in 2002, rising from his original position of senior vice president of marketing and commercial programs. He most recently has served as Sikorsky's senior vice president for corporate strategy, marketing, and commercial programs. In that post, he oversaw what Sikorsky called an unprecedented growth in its commercial aircraft unit, from six aircraft deliveries in 2002 to 49 in 2005.

Pino also led the company's strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, advanced program development, worldwide sales, and corporate communications and marketing departments. As such, he's played a key role in the acquisitions of Schweizer Aircraft in 2004 and Keystone Helicopter and Composite Technology, Inc. last year, as well as the launch of Sikorsky's X-2 technology development program.

Pino came to Sikorsky from Bell Helicopter Textron, where he had been senior vice president of commercial and international sales.

He takes the post at a challenging time. Sikorsky is spooling up for production of more than 1,200 new versions of its H-60 aircraft for the U.S. military, ramping up production of the S-92 and its military variants and just beginning development of the CH-53K follow-on to the U.S. Marine Corps' CH-53E. It also is competing for the U.S. Air Force's Combat Search and Rescue X contract.

Pino also took the presidency as 3,600 production workers at Sikorsky factories in Connecticut and Florida were striking over a company proposal to increase the contributions they must make to the company's health plans. At press time, the strike, which began Feb. 20, was entering its fourth week and workers had rejected a revised offer.

CIVIL

Carson Upgrades S-61 Cockpit

Carson Helicopters has signed a cooperative effort with Sagem Avionics, Inc. to put a glass cockpit into Carson's eight S-61s.

This is the second step in a general modernization of the helicopters that began with development of new composite rotor blades.

"We started trying to get certification of the rotor blade back in 1990," said Franklin Carson, founder and head of Carson Helicopters. "It used an airfoil developed by NASA and it took us 13 years to get the FAA to certify it."

The Sagem cockpit displays, PA155 automatic flight control system and F201 attitude heading reference systems going into the S-61s are similar to the glass cockpit developed for the Erickson Aircrane's S-64s purchased by the Italian forestry service, "so we don't see any problem getting an STC," said Jacques Paccard, president of Sagem Avionics, Inc. (pictured above, right) They are starting with the engineering program Sagem used to retrofit the Italian aircraft, he said. "We're using the same core of the system on the S-64, so there are no new developments on this program."

The new integrated glass cockpit includes five Sagem ICDS-10 active-matrix, liquid-crystal displays. Each will include two primary flight displays and three multi-function displays to provide the crews with flight, navigation and engine system information. The aircrafts' older spinning-mass vertical gyros and directional gyros, along with their sensors, will be replaced by the dual digital, solid-state F201 attitude/heading reference systems. The PA155 AFCS is a three-axis system with duplex architecture consisting of two AFCS computers and two attitude/heading reference systems. It is the same system certified for the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma, Paccard said.

Carson said that Vancouver Helicopters is also very interested in the program for its seven S-61s.

MILITARY

CH-53Es Lost in Mid-Air; U.S. Naval Aviation Stands Down

U.S. Navy aviation forces that were not deployed conducted a week-long standdown in early March follow a string of serious mishaps that included three involving rotorcraft.

The most serious of the rotorcraft incidents came Feb. 17, when two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53Es assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa were reported to have collided in midair during night-time training and crashed into the Gulf of Aden near the coastal town of Ras Siyyan, Djibouti. A total of 10 crewmembers were killed. The aircraft were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Sqdn. 464 (HMH-464) at MCAS New River, N.C.

The commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces, Adm. Jim Zortman, ordered the navy-wide aviation safety standdown March 3-10 for all non-deployed air squadrons to allow units to "thoroughly review our procedures and the risks of the environment in which we operate," he said. Zortman cited 14 Class A mishaps since the beginning of Fiscal 2006. A Class A mishap involves the loss of an aircraft, damage greater than $1 million or a loss of life. Since Oct. 1, 2005 there have been 14.

The other helicopter incidents involved an SH-60B that hit the water on takeoff, killing three people on board, and an air crewman who fell out of a CH-53.

CIVIL

Honeywell, Soloy team on AStar STC

Honeywell Aerospace and Soloy LLC have partnered to obtained a supplemental type certificate to install Honeywell's latest version of the LTS101 turboshaft engine on the Eurocopter AS350B2 AStar, and have delivered the first two converted helicopters.

The STC followed an 18-month development program. The partners said the LTS101-700D2 engine upgrade will give the modified AStar, designated the AS350SD2, a 14-percent increase in sea-level standard-day takeoff power (with an 18 percent gain in hot-and-high conditions) compared with Soloy's previous conversion, which installed a LTS101-600A-3A in the AS350B2.

Honeywell officials said the LTS101-700D2 is designed to the same power level as the AStar's original Turbomeca Arriel 1D1, but with improved specific fuel consumption and reliability. In the AS350SD2 application, the -700D is derated to the AStar's maximum transmission power limit of 641 shp. Honeywell officials said the engine's gains come from the use of a new, cooled gas producer turbine that ups gas producer disk life from 6,500 to 15,000 cycles, and an updated reduction gear that has proved its performance in other LTS101 models. The engine changes collectively pare power turbine cycles by 35 percent and increase torque limits by 6 percent, Honeywell said.

Soloy has completed the installation of the new engine at its Olympia, Wash. facility and had accepted 18 orders before Heli-Expo 2006. Soloy said it booked six more orders on the show's first day. "We anticipate producing more than 30 conversion kits this year," predicted Soloy CEO Dave Stauffer.

Before Heli-Expo, Grand Canyon Helicopters Chairman Elling Halvorson had taken delivery of the first AStar converted under the STC. On Feb. 26, Ross Scott, of Sunshine Helicopters on Maui, Hawaii, took delivery of the second.

Soloy is working with Aerospace Filtration Systems to develop an inlet barrier filter available specifically designed for the re-engined helicopter.

CIVIL

Bell Putting BLR Strakes on 412

Bell Helicopter has signed an agreement with BLR Aerospace of Everett, Wash. to develop tailboom strakes and the "Fast Fin" vertical stabilizer for the Bell 412. BLR will conduct structural and flight testing for the two devices to show fatigue loading. "If the flight tests show the performance we expect, we will start flight analysis to validate the performance," said David Marone, BLR director of sales and marketing. "Then we'll solve any engineering challenges to ensure it's configured properly for the 412." BLR has already put strakes on the UH-1 Huey, "and the 412 is not significantly different from the Huey, but the Huey is a restricted-category aircraft versus the 412 being a commercial aircraft, so we have to prove it to different standards," Marone said. The company has already received STCs for tail boom strakes on the 412, 212, 204, 205 and the UH-1. What needs to be STC'd is the Fast Fin, a newly designed vertical stabilizer. The Fast Fin replaces a major section of the aft section of the stabilizer with a smaller, carbon-fiber composite fairing. "This removes about a third of the surface area, removing the restriction of the air flow in and out of the tail rotor, increasing efficiency," Marone said. It also has a rounded edge compared to the sharp edge of the standard tail fin. This pulls the air around it, preventing turbulent air from entering the tail rotor when the tail is into the wind. The combination of the strakes and Fast Fin provide a significant increase in yaw stability, "allowing greater stability with up to 40 kt. tailwinds, Marone said.

The combination of the strakes and Fast Fin currently is only on the UH-1. Completion of the testing on the 412 is expected around the middle of the year, with FAA certification anticipated by September, he said.

PROGRAM UPDATES

Military

ARH--The U.S. Army's armed reconnaissance helicopter has officially been designated the YRH-70A. The developmental "Y" designator should be dropped once the aircraft enters service.

AW139--AgustaWestland has rebranded the aircraft the AW139 following its buyout of Bell Helicopter's 25 percent in the AB139 program. AgustaWestland has also announced the launch of a military version, designated the AW149.

CH-53K--A systems development and demonstration contract is expected to be signed with Sikorsky by May. This will formalize the agreement with the U.S. Marine Corps for development and production of the Marine Corps' next generation medium lift helicopter.

H-1--As one AH-1Z and three UH-1Ys begin operational evaluation, technicians are working to resolve the problem of hyperstereopsis with the Thales TopOwl helmet mounted display, which is causing blurriness for pilots at night during low-level, or nap-of-the-earth, flight. Until the problem is resolved, pilots are using ITT Industries AN/AVS-9 night-vision goggles.

Poland--The Polish government expects to put out a working document this month specifying the number and technical parameter guidelines for a future military helicopter procurement. The document is planned as the starting point for the review and decision process for the procurement. Poland indicated last year the need for up to 50 attack helicopters, with the contenders being the AH-1Z, AH-64, Tiger and A129.

V-22--The first operational U.S. Marine Corps Osprey squadron, Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Sqdn. 263 (VMM-263) stood up at MCAS New River, N.C. on March 3. Lt. Gen John Castellaw, deputy Marine commandant for aviation, said the unit will make its first combat deployment within a year. The U.S. Air Force took delivery March 2 of its first combat-configured CV-22 at Bell's Amarillo, Texas plant.

Civil

Bell 429--The new light twin's high-performance Aflex main rotor system first flew on Feb. 28 on a 427 airframe at Bell Canada's Mirabel facility. Flight testing was to continue through the end of this month in various Canadian locations to demonstrate stable operation at altitudes to 20,000 ft and temperatures down to -40C. Bell and Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd signed an MoA under which KAI will produce what is projected to be all 429 airframes for the next 10 years.

EC135--Eurocopter expects to deliver the first upgraded EC135 in third quarter 2006. The new EC135 T2i or P2i (depending on whether the aircraft has twin Turbomeca or Pratt & Whitney engines) has a new takeoff weight of 6,415 lb., increased from 6,250 lb. A reduction in empty weight to 3,207 lb. will increase useful load by 176 lb.

LUH CONTENDERS

US139 Newest Kid On The Block

AgustaWestland claims its US139 entry has a significant advantage in the U.S. Army's Light Utility Helicopter competition in that it is starting out at the point that its competitors have had to grow to. AgustaWestland North America's CEO, Stephen C. Moss, said the AB139 (redesignated the AW139 after the withdrawal of Bell Helicopter from the program late last year) was designed from the start to replace the UH-1 Huey--the very requirement driving the Light Utility Helicopter acquisition. AgustaWestland unit Agusta SpA. in Italy built Hueys for the U.S. Army in the 1960s when Bell wasn't able to do so fast enough to meet the requirements for Vietnam. Agusta has had a relationship with Bell for more than 50 years. Having entered service in 2004, the aircraft on which the US139 would be based "is right at the beginning of its life with new technology, not old technology," and can grow to meet the demands of the future, Moss said.

While AgustaWestland has sold its A109 to the military in Malaysia, South Africa and Sweden as a light utility helicopter, Moss said, that aircraft did not have the size to meet the U.S. Army's requirements. A major role of the U.S. LUH will be medevac, with the requirement for a cabin that permits easy loading and unloading of two NATO standard litters and carriage of them, patients, a medical attendant with equipment and an additional passenger. "You need to be able to work on the patient in flight," Moss said. "So we determined it would be in the best interest of the patient to have space for full body access." Hence, the 139 entrant.

Ease of maintenance was also a critical factor for the AW139. "It was all well thought out, with everything easy to get to," Moss said. "It's easy to maintain with very little learning curve required." Maintenance man-hours to flight-hours is less than one-to-one, he claimed.

CONTRACTS

DRS Technologies has received a $33-million contract to support the mast mounted sights on the U.S. Army's OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. DRS will provide depot repair, spares and field service support.

Helicopter Support Inc. (HSI) in New Haven, Conn. has contracted with American Eurocopter to become a service center for Eurocopter models, including the BO105, EC120, AS350 and the AS355. HSI is a subsidiary of Sikorsky.

M. A. Mortenson Company, Minneapolis, Minn., is being awarded a $11-million multiple award construction contract for the design and construction of a Helicopter Trainer Facility at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. The contract provides for the design and construction of a two-story building that requires both secured and unsecured areas for operational requirements to include training simulators.

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, Owego, N.Y., is being awarded a $10.8-million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for technical and engineering services in support of missionization efforts for the VH-71 Presidential helicopter.

McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co., Mesa, Ariz., was awarded a $25.3-million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for contractor logistics support for the Apache AH-64D Attack Helicopter.

The Boeing Co., Ridley Park, Pa., was awarded a $24.4-million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F new build aircraft. The company was also awarded a delivery order amount of $14.5 million as part of a $43.9-million firm-fixed-price contract for overhaul of the CH-47 forward and aft rotor heads. Boeing is also being awarded a $14.3-million firm-fixed-price requirements performance based logistics contract for support of 13 dynamic components for the H-46 aircraft. This contract contains one 24-month option period, which, if exercised, brings the total estimated amount of the contract to $21.2 million.

CIVIL

Thommen Expands in North America

Revue Thommen, a Waldenburg, Switzerland-based manufacturer of aircraft instruments and air data systems, has opened a sales and marketing office in Addison, Texas, to promote increased operations in North America. It also contracted with Instrument Technology in Addison to serve as its sole authorized U.S. service center. The strategic decision to develop an increased presence in North America includes a major emphasis on the rotary-wing market, according to Rudolf Iten, director of marketing.

The U.S. and Canadian market operations will be headed by Kenneth Paul, business development manager, based in Addison. Thommen's primary competence is pressure measurement aircraft instrumentation, with its products making up a complete line of electromechanical altimeters, airspeed indicators and vertical speed indicators. Many of these products have been discontinued by American manufacturers, but they serve as the primary and/or standby instruments in a variety of turbine aircraft, including helicopters. Thommen also builds a complete line of electronic instruments and air data computers for today's digital and NVIS cockpits. Iten said that Thommen will bring to the North American market a uniquely "Swiss" commitment to quality and reliability, with the term `Swiss made' embodying a "concept of quality that has been forged over centuries." To this day Thommen electromechanical instruments are hand crafted by graduate Swiss watchmakers, he said.

MILITARY

U.S. Coast Guard to Get Five New HH-65s for National Capital Region

The U.S. Coast Guard should receive funds next year to purchase five new Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin helicopters to increase security around the Washington, D.C. national capital region. The decision to provide the Coast Guard with the aircraft followed the proposed transfer of the air defense mission from Customs and Border Protection to the Coast Guard. Once approved, the Coast Guard will officially take over the new duties as soon as it has HH-65s available from the current re-engining process. The Coast Guard's HH-65s are having their original Honeywell LTS101-850 engines replaced with more powerful Turbomeca Arriel 2C2 engines. Capt. Jim Watson, chief of the Coast Guard budget office, said that the new air defense mission requires airspeed requirements that the aircraft can only get from the new Turbomeca engines. These re-engined aircraft will be used for defense of the national capital region until new HH-65s are purchased and outfitted, he said. (From Helicopter News)

PEOPLE

The Helicopter Assn. International's members elected new officers and members to its board of directors during Heli-Expo 2006 in Dallas. Ed Newton of Honeywell Aviation was elected chairman. Michael Suldo of Air Logistics was elected vice chairman, Patrick Corr of Helicopter Adventures, Inc. was elected treasurer and Mark Gibson of Timberland Logging was elected assistant treasurer. David Chevalier of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and Mark Gibson were elected to represent the regular commercial category of membership and George Pisa of American International Group to represent the corporate-private regular membership.

Helinet has appointed Aled Miles as president and COO.

Dallas Airmotive has promoted Mike Clarke (left) to the new position of territorial sales director for Scandinavia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Keystone Helicopter has named Patty Ryan chief financial officer. Ryan previously worked at Sikorsky, parent of Keystone, as manager of the integration team for Sikorsky at Keystone.

Jon Kettles (right in photo below) has become the third, and newest, member of the Kettles family to be inducted into the Twirly Birds, an international organization of pioneering helicopter pilots. Jon is the son of Joe Kettles (center in photo), who became a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in 1958, and the brother of Jim Kettles, (left in photo) ho was an Army helicopter pilot and is the Gulf Coast regional marketing manager for American Eurocopter. Jon is also a former Army helicopter pilot who flew in Desert Storm. He heads the Kettles law firm in Dallas. Joe Kettles' father flew a Sopwith Camel in World War I for the Royal Canadian Air Force and was a pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Joe Kettles is the first Twirly Bird to have two sons inducted into the organization.

FlightSafety International has promoted Gary Porterfield to assistant manager of the company's West Palm Beach, Fla. Learning Center. It also appointed John Marino (right) as vice president, defense training system. Marino most recently served as vice president, government relations.

Col. Thomas E. Schuurmans is the new Nebraska Army National Guard chief of staff, replacing retiring Col. William Rein. Schuurmans joined the South Dakota National Guard as a private in 1979, earned his commission in July 1981 at the South Dakota Military Academy, and transferred to the Nebraska National Guard in 1983. A master aviator, he served with the Nebraska National Guard's 24th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) in Operation Desert Storm and commanded the 1st Infantry Brigade and the Regional Corps Advisory Group of the 203rd Corps in Afghanistan.

EVENTS

April 4-10--32nd Annual Sun `n Fun Fly-In, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL), Lakeland, Fla. Contact: Camille Branch, (863) 644-2431; E-mail: cbranch@sun-n-fun.org; Web: www.sun-n-fun.org.

April 9-12--AAAA Annual Convention, Gaylord Opryland Convention & Resort Center, Nashville, Tenn. Contact: (203) 268-2450; E-mail: aaaa@quad-a.org; Web: www.quad-a.org.

April 25-27--11th Annual MRO Conference, Phoenix Civic Plaza, Phoenix, Ariz. Contact: Beth Eddy, (800) 240-7645 or (561) 862-0005, Fax: (561) 862-0006; E-mail: beth_eddy@aviationnow.com; Web: www.aviationnow.com/conferences

May 3-5-- European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (EBACE 2006). Palexpo Conference Center, Geneva, Switzerland. Contact: Kathleen Blouin (NBAA) (202) 783-9364; E-mail: kblouin@nbaa.com; Web: www.ebace.aero.

May 9-11--AHS 62nd Annual Forum and Technology Display, Phoenix Civic Plaza, Phoenix, Ariz. Contact: AHS (703) 684-6777; E-mail: staff@vtol.org; Web: www.vtol.org.

May 9-11, Phoenix, AZ, Flight Safety Foundation/NBAA 51st Annual Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar. Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, Phoenix, Ariz. Contact: NBAA (202) 783-9283; Web: www.nbaa.org/events.

May 16-21--ILA 2006/Berlin Air Show, BDLI/Messe Berlin, Schoenefeld Airport, Berlin, Germany. Contact: 49-30-3038-2014; E-mail: grave@messe-berlin.de; Web: www.ila-berlin.com.

May 21--Imperial War Museum May Air Show, Duxford War Museum, Duxford, England. Contact: 44-1223-835-000; E-mail: duxford@iwm.org.uk; Web: iwm.org.uk.

May 31-June 1--Heli-Pacific. Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, Queensland. Contact: Herve Bavazzano, 44-1628-606980; E-mail: hb@shephard.co.uk; Web: www.shephard.co.uk.

July 8-9--Imperial War Museum Flying Legends Air Show, Duxford War Museum, Duxford, England. Contact: 44-1223-835-000; E-mail: duxford@iwm.org.uk; Web: iwm.org.uk.

July 15-16--Royal International Air Tattoo 2006, Fairford, UK. Contact: www.airtattoo.com.

July 18-23--Farnborough International Airshow, Farnborough, England. Contact: 44-20-7227-1043; E-mail: enquires@farnborough.com; Web-site: www.farnborough.com.

July 24-30--EAA Airventure 2006, Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, Wisc. Contact: (920) 426-6523; E-mail: conventional@eaa.org; Web: www.airventure.org.

July 26-30--International HeliDays Plus, Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, England. Contact: Elfan Ap Rees, 011-44-(0)1934-822-524; E-mail: westonsuper@helidays.freeserve.co.uk. Web: www.helidays.freeserve.co.uk.

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