Dutch National Police Cancellation Digs Deeper Hole for MD
Is the Dutch national police’s cancellation of a contract for seven MD902s the final nail in MD Helicopters’ coffin?
The Netherlands interior minister on March 1 canceled the National Police Services Agency’s contract for the helicopters after concluding that the contractor, Helifly N.V., was not in a position to deliver two of the aircraft to the Dutch National Police (KLPD) by that date, as required by an amended contract. Minister Johan Remkes, who oversees the agency, also said he had significant doubts that Helifly and MD Helicopters could support any helicopters that were delivered and put into service. The government said it reclaimed its advance payment on the contract and maintained that Helifly forfeited a 10-million-euro payment because of its failure to deliver per the contract. The Netherlands is soliciting proposals from other manufacturers for replacement aircraft. The agency carries out national and specialist police duties and protects the Dutch royal family and other VIPs.
MD invested heavily in developing the aircraft to the Dutch specifications. The cancellation likely will aggravate problems for the cash-strapped company.
The manufacturer’s prospects seemed to improve in early February, when Boeing provided it with a multimillion-dollar infusion of cash. Part of a teaming agreement for an entry in the U.S. Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) competition, the money was intended in part to ensure that MD was a viable participant in the bidding. (The other entrant is Bell Helicopter Textron with a heavily modified Bell 407.)
Winning that competition would have MD providing 368 airframes based on the AH-6 Little Bird. The Army has said it will pick a winner in June. The question is whether MD can last that long.
Under the teaming agreement, Boeing would act as prime contractor and integrator, while MD would provide a version of its MD530F/AH-6 Mission Enhanced Little Bird airframe. It is reasonable to assume Boeing provided for production of the airframe should it win the contract and MD folds.
According to MD’s CEO, Henk Schaeken, the agreement puts no restrictions on use of the cash Boeing put into the company. He said the money will help the Mesa, Ariz. company pay down a lot of debt and improve product support. The inability to get spare parts to customers has been a major problem for the company. "Product support has been the biggest problem we’ve had for a long time, but the cash we have now will allow us" to get spares to customers.
Several customers have gotten rid of their MD helicopters or plan to. These include the DeKalb County, Ga. Police Dept., the Phoenix Police Dept., the Suffolk County, N.Y. Police Dept. and, most notably, the U.S. Border Patrol, which is retiring its OH-6s and getting rid of its MD600s in favor of Eurocopter EC120s. In addition, operators that had been inclined to acquire MD helicopters are reconsidering.
Schaeken noted that the funding provided under the teaming pact is not contingent upon winning the ARH competition. If the team loses, "it will limit the number of improvements to the aircraft, unless Boeing continues to develop the aircraft for the purposes of maybe the UAV," he said. "Our arrangement covers UAVs as well." Boeing is testing an unmanned MD530F as a UAV platform (Rotorcraft Report, January 2005, page 11). He said Boeing has already suggested improvements, "some of which can be used in the commercial line."
While the cash will "give us a reasonable basis for going forward," he said, MD needs additional funding to be fully healthy and the company is in talks with other investors. There is still a lot of interest in Europe, he said, particularly for the MD900, although "sales have slowed down along with production as a result of the cash flow problem." Sales should pick up, Schaeken said, if the cash flow problem is reduced.
Right now, Schaeken said, it is not likely another company will buy MD, "although in this business, you never say `Never’."
Schaeken and MD CFO Rick Cobbold recently purchased Flight Trails Helicopters, a completion center across the runway at Falcon Field from MD. Larry Anderson, Flight Trails general manager, said the purchase was a personal investment by the two rather than by MD. The company has been a completion center for MD helicopters "since it was Hughes Helicopters," with more than 1,100 completions, Anderson said.
On the positive side for MD, Luxembourg Air Rescue put into service its fourth MD900 Explorer. The operator was a launch customer for the aircraft and its CEO, René ƒloster, said that risk had paid off. "The MD900 has proven to be the ideal helicopter for medical and rescue missions," he said. The air rescue service’s three other MD900s are stationed at its headquarters at the Luxembourg airport. The fourth is stationed in a new hangar at Ettelbruck in northern Luxembourg. The operator, which has been flying since 1988, employs 10 pilots, 11 flight attendants and three doctors. All its MD900s are used for intensive care transport helicopters as well as rescue.
Report Sees More Military Work, Higher Profits for Industry
More military helicopter maintenance work could migrate to industry in the next five years as the Pentagon adjusts to the challenges of refurbishing aircraft returning from combat and the closure of more bases in the United States. That in turn should help the helicopter industry boost profitability by more than 20 percent.
Those are among the forecasts of the latest Wall Street review of the international helicopter industry. The review by the investment firm JP Morgan, released in early February, projects that the world market for civil and military helicopters should grow nearly three times as fast as most national defense budgets through 2010. Nearly all of that growth will be driven by U.S. military rotorcraft acquisitions, according to the report by Joseph Nadol, the firm’s lead aerospace and defense analyst, and C. Stephen Tusa, Jr., its top analyst of “multi industry” and electrical equipment.
While defense spending by the United States is projected to grow at about 4 percent a year for the next several years, the review says helicopter spending should increase about 12 percent a year, driven by the need to replace aging fleets and refit helicopters returning from combat in Southwest Asia. Defense spending throughout the rest of the world is expected to be generally flat.
That growth will be fueled by several major acquisition programs that are to be decided this year or next. These programs include the U.S. military’s Armed Reconnaissance, Light Utility and Personnel Recovery Vehicle initiative, several United Kingdom programs and Turkey’s revived attack helicopter program (see item below). Collectively, Nadol and Tusa write, awards of those program contracts could affect as much as 20 percent of market share among major military helicopter suppliers.
Growth in the civil market should be stable at about 3 percent a year, the review says, with the parapublic sector, particularly the U.S. Coast Guard’s Deepwater program, offering the most potential for growth.
Improved profitability should be a result for the industry in the next several years, the analysts write. They expect the industry’s average operating margin to rise from 9 to 11 percent. That gain would stem from several factors. These include: greater emphasis on acquisition of derivative rather than newly designed aircraft (and the resulting need for less research and development spending by industry); more demand for aftermarket services, driven by the high tempo of combat operations in Southwest Asia, and higher volume procurements across the board.
The projected growth could be jeopardized, the analysts warn, if federal deficits force cuts of U.S. military budgets.
The review says demand for aftermarket services should grow for several quarters, and then plateau at a higher level late this year. It would then begin to trail off in the wake of a significant withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq. That trail-off is expected to lag the withdrawal by 12-18 months, since a withdrawal would return to depots large numbers of aircraft requiring refurbishment. The drop in aftermarket-services demand and revenue could be offset somewhat if the current round of U.S. base closures, which is just beginning, results in aftermarket facilities moving from military to industry hands. President Bush was to appoint by mid-March members of a new Base Realignment and Closure commission, which is to make recommendations to the president on military bases and facilities to close by mid-September.
Turkey Resurrects Attack Helo Program, Seeks Bids by June 10
Turkey has revived its program to acquire up to 90 attack helicopters for its defense forces, issuing a request for proposals by June 10 on an acquisition that could be worth up to $4 billion.
Turkey’s defense procurement office, the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry, issued the request on Feb. 10. It outlines an initial acquisition of 30 attack helicopters, valued at roughly $1.5 billion, with eventual plans to acquire up to 90. The first lot of the acquisition would be 10 helicopters bought “off the shelf.” The second lot of 20 would have critical avionics and weaponry built and integrated in Turkey.
Potential bidders include: Boeing with a version of its AH-64 Apache; Bell Helicopter with a version of the U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z upgrade of the Cobra; Sikorsky with an armed version of its S-70 Black Hawk; Eurocopter with a version of its Tiger; Agusta and its A129 Mangusta, and the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant in Russia with the Mi-28 Havoc. South Africa’s Denel also could offer its Rooivalk if Turkey lifts procurement restrictions against South Africa.
Turkey in 2002 selected Bell to negotiate a contract for co-production of 50 AH-1Zs. But those talks failed to resolve price and technology transfer issues, and Turkey canceled that procurement in May 2004. A major sticking point was U.S. Defense Dept. opposition to Turkey’s intentions to develop and integrate its own mission computer for the aircraft.
As part of the latest procurement initiative, Turkey’s government reportedly has ordered its Scientific and Technical Research Council to begin development of a mission computer for the new attack helicopter under a $30 million R&D allocation.
The Turkish Army currently operates fewer than 10 Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and 20 earlier models of the Cobra.
U.S. Air Force Buys Huey IIs; UAE Air Force Selects AB139s
The U.S. Air Force has ordered 24 Bell Huey IIs for flight training at Ft. Rucker, Ala., with first delivery scheduled for June and the remaining aircraft delivered over the next four years. Training Air Force pilots in the Huey II is based on the large number of UH-1Ns still remaining in the USAF fleet. The Huey II is an upgraded version of the UH-1H, with a fully integrated glass cockpit and an upgraded engine providing a 39 percent increase in power for in-ground-effect hover and a 275 percent increase in IGE hover ceiling on extremely hot days. Conversion of the UH-1H to Huey IIs will be done by US Helicopters in Ozark, Ala.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has awarded Bell/Agusta an $83 million contract for eight AB139 medium-twin helicopters. Of those, six will be configured for search and rescue, while the remaining two will be used for VIP transport. Bell/Agusta noted that over 100 AB139s have now been ordered, with the UAE being the third customer to order the SAR configuration, following orders by the governments of Oman and Ireland.
CJ Systems Orders New EC135s
CJ Systems Aviation Group continues to increase its fleet operations, both with a new order for 10 new EC135s and through operation of helicopters purchased by its hospital customers. Ed Marasco, senior vice president, air medical services, said that the 10 new aircraft would be acquired from American Eurocopter by the end of the year. The contract extends an existing contract dating back to February last year for six new EC135s.
Marasco noted that CJ Systems’ customers have ordered two Agusta Powers, four Agusta Grands and a Bell 407, which will be operated by the West Miffin, Pa.-based company. “We have made it perfectly clear that we are looking for good opportunities to grow in the marketplace and having the airframe available is integral to our business strategy.” He also said that by increasing the order for EC135s, “We are aggressively trying to create opportunities to retire older aircraft, modernize our fleet and improve the allocation of backup helicopters.”
Lawrence Pietropaulo, president and COO of CJ Systems, said that of the 10 aircraft ordered, three or four will be used to retire older aircraft while the remainder are part of the growth program. As part of that growth, CJ Systems took over McCook, Neb.-based MedStar in January. MedStar had been operated by Med-Trans Corp. Under terms of the agreement, CJ Systems will provide four pilots and a mechanic to operate MedStar’s AS355 TwinStar. MedStar is an independent carrier covering the southwest Nebraska, northwest Kansas and eastern Colorado areas. It is not tied to any particular hospital and transports patients to the appropriate hospitals and clinics within a 100-mi. radius, according to Shanan Pollman, MedStar’s program administrator.
Piasecki Receives Top Smithsonian Honor
Frank Piasecki was among a trio of aviation pioneers honored last month with the highest award bestowed by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The founder of Piasecki Aircraft Corp. was joined in Washington March 9 by Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites and high-tech magnate Paul G. Allen in receiving the National Air and Space Museum Trophy.
Rutan and Allen were honored in the category of Current Achievement, along with members of the SpaceShipOne Team, for their successful efforts to create and fly the first privately developed reusable spacecraft.
Piasecki’s trophy honors lifetime achievement, specifically his lifelong dedication “to innovation in vertical flight.” He is responsible for the development of more than 23 vertical-lift aircraft, including the first tandem helicopter. Piasecki also founded what is now the Helicopter Div. of Boeing.
Previous lifetime achievement trophy winners include Neil Armstrong, Sen. John Glenn, A. Scott Crossfield and Najeeb Halaby.
Piasecki began a career designing helicopters in 1940 with the U.S. Army Air Corp’s first contracted helicopter, the Platt-LePage XR-1. He then founded his own helicopter research firm, the P-V Engineering Forum. In 1943, it became the second U.S. company to fly a helicopter—the PV-2. Piasecki was chief designer and test pilot of the aircraft, despite having only 14 hr. flight time—all in a Piper Cub. Just prior to a PV-2 demonstration flight before a Pentagon audience, Piasecki received the first helicopter license awarded by the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Authority.
The U.S. Navy awarded the P-V Engineering Forum the first naval helicopter development contract. Drawing on lessons from the XR-1, including his observation that the side-by-side rotored aircraft flew better sideways than forward, he designed a tandem-rotor helicopter, the XHRP-X, which first flew in March 1945 and exceeded all expectations. It was the first helicopter to carry a significant payload safely and efficiently.
After World War II, the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. provided pioneering military helicopter designs to the United States and its allies, including the HRP, HUP and H-21 series, which pushed the limits for capacity and speed. In 1955, Piasecki started a new company to develop vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, including the VZ-8 flying jeep and the Pathfinder winged helicopter. He continues to develop the latter concept. Essington, Pa.-based Piasecki Aircraft today is engaged in the development and flight testing of the SpeedHawk Vectored Thrust Ducted Propeller compound helicopter to demonstrate this technology’s potential to significantly increase speed, range, and altitude of existing helicopters. The Speed Hawk demonstrator aircraft has completed its major airframe, propulsion, flight controls and other qualification tests, and is in the process of final assembly for flight test.
Piasecki has been awarded more than 25 patents in the aerospace field and many of the aircraft he designed are now part of the National Air and Space Museum helicopter exhibit. In fact, his first three helicopter efforts are now in the hands of the museum. The PV-2 is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center; the Platt LePage XR-1 and the XHRP-X await restoration.
UAV Supports Security Surveillance at Academy Awards Oscar Night
Joint security operations provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security were assisted by a Tactical Aerospace Group (TAG) UAV helicopter to provide an aerial downlink and the ability to facilitate immediate incident response to any security breach.
The new unmanned aerial surveillance capability allowed local command and control authorities to immediately create a stationary camera position over any location within seconds as well as provide a constant roving patrol over all exterior aspects of the event.
Using the onboard video link capabilities of the TAG UAV, the local command center could identify specific points or persons of interest, which were then merged into the wide area video distribution network to provide supervisory oversight to local, state and regional commanders as well as a real time feed directly to Washington and national Department of Homeland Security headquarters.
Onboard and ground control video downlinks for TAG were supplied by Avalon RF and featured its new TA08 Tracking Antenna system with a range of up to 25 mi. Also available was a PDA-style handheld unit (V38R) for displaying the live video feed from the UAV and placing it in the hands of any officer or security personnel on the ground.
TAG said that its new “C” series helicopter, which is directly derived from its advanced military VTOL UAVs, are specifically designed as a lower cost UAV helicopter solution for civil applications such as law enforcement, fire departments, electronic news gathering, traffic patrol and civil defense.
Offshore Logistics And Pilots Union Work Out Tentative Agreement
Offshore Logistics, Inc. has reached a tentative agreement with the OPEIU Local 107, the union representing its North American pilots, for a new contract. The contract will cover pilots for Air Logistics, LLC and Air Logistics of Alaska, Inc. The company said that the agreement addresses areas of compensation and benefits, and will not put it at a competitive disadvantage. The agreement is still subject to ratification by the pilots, but Air Logistics said that both it and the union are committed to endorsing the proposal and will work toward its ratification.
Air Logistics operates a fleet of more than 170 single and twin-turbine helicopters in the United States, providing transportation, maintenance and other support services for the oil and gas industry. It operates from 13 bases across the Gulf of Mexico stretching from Corpus Christi, Texas to Venice, La, serving an industry with over 4,000 offshore platforms and 15,000 individuals based on those platforms. The company said that each of its bases offers a mix of aircraft ranging from the medium-size 12 passengers crew change aircraft to the small single- and twin-engine aircraft used for intra-field and smaller volume personnel movements. All of these bases receive support, materials and operational assistance from the Air Logistics headquarters and primary maintenance facility in New Iberia, La.
South Korea to Restart Bidding, This Time Just for Utility Helos
South Korea plans to restart efforts to acquire new military helicopters, focusing on procuring utility helicopters before settling on a means of getting attack aircraft, according to published reports. The country dropped plans late last year for the multi-billion dollar Korea Multi-role Helicopter project, intended to develop an indigenous helicopter industry through a partnership with the program winner, after the national auditing agency said it wasn’t viable. The project proposed to produce 477 new helicopters by 2012, including several hundred for export. AgustaWestland, Eurocopter and Bell had been selected as final contenders for that project. Under the new plans, South Korea would launch a $4.5 billion project to build utility helicopters in December. That procurement also would involve development of indigenous production capability.
Sikorsky Names Chief Pilot
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has named Kevin Bredenbeck as director of flight operations and chief pilot. In those positions, he is responsible for Sikorsky’s flight office and oversight of all flight operations activities at its West Palm Beach Development Flight Test Center in Florida and the Stratford Production Flight Test Activity in Connecticut.
Bredenbeck worked as an engineer with Sikorsky in Stratford, Conn. and with United Space Boosters, Inc. at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before joining the U.S. Army. As an Army officer, his responsibilities ranged from aviation maintenance and contracts to aero-medical combat operations.
He rejoined Sikorsky in 1994 and was instrumental in developing new technologies for the company’s various production models and for flight testing of numerous growth and development programs. Most recently, he served as development project pilot for the Army’s new UH-60M. He also was program pilot for the Army’s UH-60Q advanced medical evacuation aircraft and was development test director and project pilot for the international D/DSAR Black Hawk, considered the most capable member to date of the Black Hawk family.
Bell to Revamp Mirabel
Bell Helicopter Textron will spend $581.5 million ($700 million Canadian) through 2017 to revamp its Mirabel, Quebec facility and ready it for production of helicopters based on its Modular Affordable Product Line. A third of the money will be loans from Canada and the province of Quebec. Those governments granted large subsidies to lure Bell to Mirabel in 1986. The renovations should help keep Mirabel’s 600 full-time workers employed.
Canadian Helicopters Ltd. has awarded a one-year contract to Atlanta-based Precision Heliparts, Inc. for overhaul services for CHL’s starter-generators. The contract also provides for a one-year option. PHP will provide CHL with replacement of older units with new APC starters on an attrition basis. PHP will also provide instrument overhaul services for CHL’s Bell 206s and 212s, about 60 percent of the CHL fleet of over 130 aircraft. CHL also signed a one-year contract plus a one-year option with PHP Canada, Inc. for Consignment Rotable Spares Packages to support CHL’s Sikorsky S-76 EMS contract and its Bell 212 operations. The consignment packages include accessories, hydraulics, instrumentation and electrical components.
The U.S. Army has awarded a $5.6 million contract to East Hills, N.Y.-based Pall Corp. to provide engine air particle separators for CH-47 Chinook helicopters to protect the aircraft’s engines from dust and sand. The initial contract calls for a minimum of 26 shipsets, one for each of the helicopter’s two engines.
Pall Aerospace President Jim Western said that the company expects this to be “the first in a series of orders,” and that “We are rapidly responding to help meet this critical need in outfitting the CH-47 helicopter with the most advanced air filtration technology available.”
Bell Helicopter has been awarded a $17.3 million U.S. Army modification to its firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Kiowa OH-58D Safety Enhancement Program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed by Feb. 28, 2007.
Northrop Grumman Corp. has received a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) contract to develop a low-flying unmanned aerial vehicle capable of being controlled by, and delivering information to, soldiers involved in urban battle zones. The contract is to develop autonomous systems that will coordinate the delivery of data from UAVs and other reconnaissance assets and intelligence sources, then feed real-time information to the soldiers on the ground. This requires the system to simultaneously accomplish tasks such as ordering the UAV to conduct a wide-area surveillance while dispatching an individual vehicle to a location requested by a soldier for a close-up look.
The program has been designated Heterogeneous Urban RSTA (reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition) Team, or HURT. “A HURT system would give the warfighter the ability to ask for reconnaissance imagery unobtainable by high-altitude or fixed sensors,” said H.R. Keshavan, Northrop Grumman’s HURT program manager. “Low-flying UAVs could see around or even inside buildings to provide more up-to-date information.” The system development is being done under an $11.6 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within DoD.
MedSTAR Transport will fit its fleet helicopters with Iridium Satellite’s Sky Connect TRACKER system for voice communications and automated tracking during flight operations, according to Dr. Christopher Wuerker, medical director of MedSTAR. The EMS helicopter provider currently flies three EC135 and one BK117 helicopters in emergency medical service. In making the announcement, Wuerker said that the tracking/communication system both simplifies operations and increases safety. “Sky Connect gives us both an automated tracking solution for our helicopters and economical satellite voice communications, reducing the workload on our communication specialists and flight crews.” The light weight of the airborne hardware “is especially important for installation in our EC135s,” he said.
Kortrijk, Belgium-based Barco has been awarded a contract by the Russian Institute of Aircraft Equiment (NIIAO) for the delivery of high-performance avionics display. The company said that its control display and management systems, and multifunction displays will be integrated into the cockpit of the new multipurpose Kamov Ka-226 AG helicopters. The systems will go into 18 Ka-226 AG helicopters of the Russian gas producing company Gazprom. Each Ka-226 AG cockpit will receive one CDMS unit and two multi-function display single box units.
New Combat Rescue Group Activated in Arizona
The U.S. Air Force activated the 943rd Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. on Feb. 12, with official activation and command change ceremonies on March 5. The new group is part of the Arizona U.S. Air Force Reserve and was activated “to allow for better management efficiency of Air Force resources,” according to Air Force Reserve Command officials. The 943rd Rescue Group will be commanded by Col. Michael Shook, who had been the commander of the group’s 305th Rescue Squadron, which flies HH-60 Black Hawks.
Whirly-Girls Mark Golden Anniversary This Month
Whirly-Girls, the association of international women helicopter pilots, celebrates its 50th anniversary this month with a three-day bash in Washington, D.C.
The event kicks off April 28 with a cocktail reception at the Mayflower Hotel, the site of the original gathering on April 28, 1955 of the group’s members, 12 female pilots from France, Germany and the United States who came at the behest, urging and prodding of founder Jean Ross Howard Phelan. Today, the group has 1,335 members from 44 countries. Opening ceremonies of the three-day event include the presentation of a plaque to the hotel commemorating the meeting.
Lisa Brand DiGiovanna, immediate past president, said that a "Grand Hovering" would be held April 29 at the St. Gregory Hotel, where most of the attendees will be staying. The event will also include a visit to the Smithsonian’s Steven Udvar-Hazy Center, which has a temporary Whirly-Girls exhibit in honor of the anniversary.
DeGiovanna said the group is trying to raise funds for a permanent Whirly-Girls exhibit.
An official affiliate member of the Helicopter Assn. International, Whirly-Girls is, as members put it, “a loose confederation, with no local chapters or regional organization.” For 50 years it has been advancing the role of women in the helicopter industry, promoting professionalism and providing women helicopter pilots a forum for exchanging information and opportunities. For additional information, go to www.whirlygirls.org., or contact Teen Corey at 281-356-2238 (hm) or 281-732-9389 (cell).
European UAV Group Formed
Nineteen aerospace companies and organizations have formed a trade group to promote routine use of unmanned aerial vehicles in European airspace. The European UAV industry Consultation Body aims to be the central industry body for discussing and resolving UAV matters with civil and military authorities in Europe and the main source for recommendations of development of requirements and procedures permitting routine UAV use there.
The group’s goal is to enable operators of qualified civil, commercial and military UAVs to fly their aircraft "routinely, safely and reliably in nonsegregated European airspace.” Its members include: ADSE of the Netherlands; Boeing R&T Europe of Spain; Dassault Aviation of France; Diehl BGT Defence of Germany; EADS of France; EADS Deutschland of Germany; Galileo Avionica of Italy; QinetiQ of the United Kingdom; Saab of Sweden; Sagem of France; Sinovia of France; S2-ATM Ltd. of the United Kingdom; Fokker Services of the Netherlands; Thales Airborne Systems and Thales Avionics of France; Thales Defence Ltd. of the United Kingdom; Ultra Electronics of the United Kingdom, and, as observers, UAV DACH and UVS International.
New Apache Transmission Tested
Boeing has completed 60 hr. of operational testing on new transmission technology that could be used on the the AH64-D Apache Longbow and other helicopters. The testing was conducted with its partner, Northstar Aerospace, under the program sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Applied Aviation Technology Directorate that is aimed at determining whether the technology can fully utilize available engine power and thus support more efficient and capable helicopters.
Testing has been successful at a variety of speeds and power levels, according to Boeing. The test program calls for a demonstration transmission to complete 400 hr. of operation in a test stand to validate the new concepts.
The new transmission uses smaller, lighter-weight face gears that split the torque sent to the drive shaft, thus transmitting more power without increasing the size of the transmission. Traditional transmissions use a single power path to the aircraft rotor system, which meant that increasing the power required increasing the transmission size.
Boeing engineers designed and developed the new technology. Northstar Aerospace provides manufacturing development, assembly and test facilities. The U.S. government-industry team is managed through the Integrated Defense Advanced Systems, Boeing’s Research and Development business unit.
V-22 Enters Second OpEval
The U.S. Marine Corps has been cleared to start the second operational evaluation of the V-22 Osprey, aimed at convincing top Pentagon officials and critics that the tilt-rotor aircraft has overcome past problems and is ready for combat.
The Navy Dept.’s program executive officer for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault, and Special Mission Programs, Tom Laux, on Feb. 24 certified that the V-22 was ready for OpEval. USMC Col. Glenn Walters, commanding officer of V-22 Test and Evaluation Sqdn 22 (VMX-22), will recommend to superiors when to initiate the evaluation. As of March 16, OpEval had not started. VMX-22, based at MCAS New River near Jacksonville, N.C., will conduct the OpEval using eight V-22s.
A month prior to Laux’s approval, Walters had halted V-22 flights after a series of incidents in which chrome coating on an “input quill” bearing in the aircraft’s gearbox flaked off. In six cases, this triggered a cockpit warning light about a possible gearbox problem. After a review by the program office, the Bell-Boeing V-22 manufacturing team and Timken Aerospace, which makes the coated bearing, a decision was made to replace all such items with input quills with no chrome coating.
The V-22 passed an operational evaluation in 2000 and was deemed ready to enter service. But two fatal crashes that year raised significant questions about the aircraft’s design, maintainability and utility and led to a broad reassessment of the program. The latest OpEval is the culmination of that reassessment. It should take about 4.5 months. If the V-22 passes, the program is to be reviewed by the Defense Acquisition Board in December. That board will decide whether to move into the next phase of production. V-22s currently are being built on final-assembly lines in Amarillo, Texas at a rate of 11 a year, which is intended to sustain the engineering, technical and production basis for the aircraft.
The Marine Corps has ordered 360 Ospreys, the Navy 48 and the Air Force 50 for special operations.
In other developments, a third CV-22 arrived at Edwards AFB, Calif. on Feb. 26 to join the U.S. Air Force’s elements of the Osprey Integrated Test Team. The new aircraft “is essential because it helps us to do the necessary testing before operational testing begins in the summer of 2006,” Col. Eric Garvin said. He is commander of CV-22 Systems Sqdn. The Osprey is to undergo modifications to install special instrumentation to support testing for the Air Force Special Operations Command in areas such as night flying, low-altitude, foul-weather operations and search and rescue.
Next month, the Air Force is to activate a new Air V-22 training squadron at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The 71st Special Operations Sqdn. will be assigned six Ospreys, the first of which is to arrive next March. An Osprey flight simulator was installed at Kirtland in 2003. The Air Force has ordered 50 Ospreys to replace MH-53 Pave Low helicopters for special operations.
Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps List Unfunded Priorities
The Air Force and Navy, to include the Marine Corps, have listed programs that are unfunded for FY ‘06 but have priorities in their annual wish lists. Among other programs currently not in the defense budget but submitted by the U.S. Navy as a priority is $417 million to accelerate delivery of the Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement Ship by six months and the purchase of 1,300 Hellfire missiles. The U.S. Marine Corps is looking for $74 million to increase its order for the UH-1Y by four aircraft, taking the total buy to 104. The U.S. Air Force is asking for money for the General Atomics Aeronautical System’s Predator A-model and B-model unmanned aerial vehicles. The request includes $360 million for an additional 29 MQ-1 Predator A UAVs and $77.5 million to accelerate the program for four additional larger and more powerful MQ-9A Predator B.
Royal Thai Navy Puts First Super Lynx 300 Into Service
The Royal Thai Navy has put into service its first AgustaWestland Super Lynx 300, becoming the third military force to make the advanced Super Lynx operational. The Malaysian Navy was the first to order the aircraft and has six Super Lynx 300 while the Royal Air Force of Oman has ordered 16 and received its first in June 2004. South Africa has ordered four. The RTN Super Lynx 300s will be operating as part of the 203 Sqdn. based at U-Tapao.
The Super Lynx 300 is the follow-on to the Super Lynx, now flown by nine military forces. Along with Thailand, Malaysia and Oman, the Super Lynx is in service with the armed forces of Denmark, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom.
This latest generation of the venerable Lynx first flew in June 2001, with the first production model flying in May 2002, for delivery to the Malaysian Navy. The Super Lynx 300 is powered by the joint Rolls-Royce/Honeywell LHTEC CTS800-4N engine with FADEC, designed to operate in hot and high conditions.
First Japanese EH101 Flies
The first AgustaWestland EH101 built for the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force has completed its maiden flight in preparation for delivery later this year. The aircraft was flown at the AgustaWestland Yeovil, U.K. facility on Feb. 15, and will be delivered to the Japanese mid-year following pilot training by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) pilots. The aircraft, the first of 14 ordered by the Japanese Defense Agency, will be flown “green” to the KHI Gifu facility where it will be completed with the installation of avionics, defensive aids suite “and other customer-specific equipment,” the company said.
While the first aircraft, KHI-01, will be built in Yeovil and completed in Japan, the remaining 13 will be sent to KHI as kits for final assembly. KHI has established manufacturing, test flight and support facilities at Gifu specifically for the EH101. KHI will receive the first two aircraft build kits during the last quarter of 2005, with first delivery to the Japanese Defense Agency in 2006.
The 14 aircraft are being equipped to meet Japan’s maritime transportation, airborne anti-mine counter measures and Antarctic survey requirements, and will replace the current fleet of Sikorsky MH-53Es and S-61s. The Japanese Defense Agency’s order for 14 EH101s brings the total order book to 146 aircraft bought by eight customers, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. That number does not include the US101 variant ordered by the U.S. Navy for a fleet of “Marine One” helicopters for use by the president of the United States.
Robinson/Eurocopter To Dominate In Commercial Airframe Market
While the commercial helicopter market has risen somewhat in 2003 and 2004, “this market will remain relatively flat during the next 10 years,” according to Bill Dane, senior aerospace analyst for Forecast International. The biggest increase has been in the piston-powered market, notably the Robinson R-22 and R-44, although an annual output of just under 1,250 units in 2004 will fall off gradually through 2011, then rise to about 1,000 deliveries in 2013, he said.
In the turboshaft market, Eurocopter “will continue its strong dominance…a trend expected to continue beyond the 10-year forecast period. The consortium is expected to account for about 30 percent of the revenues market, nearly twice the share of its closest competitor.”
Dane said that shipments of turbine-powered helicopters will rise from 567 shipped in 2004 to 615–620 per year in the 2008-2010 time frame “before falling off to 580–590 annual deliveries in 2012-13.” The near-term spike is due in no small part to the order backlogs of a number of recently announced new models, he said. Manufacturers have been working to reduce this backlog during the past two years. Forecast International is projecting shipments of approximately 10,500 commercial rotary-wing aircraft with a value of just under $20.25 billion during the 10-year 2005–2014 time frame.
For the total military/civil market, including major modification programs, deliveries are expected to rise from 1,606 last year “to a 10-year high figure of 1,658” this year, the study said. “Shipments will then decline, bottoming out at 1,473 deliveries in 2007 before rising steadily to about 1,620 annual shipments in the 2012-2013 time frame.” The total 2004-2013 market is projected to be 15,935 deliveries worth an estimated $104.3 billion.
On the military outlook, from 2004 through 2013, production is expected to increase steadily, with final figures for 2004 projected at 365 delivered, then continuing to grow to a peak of 672 delivered in 2012, followed by 627 delivered in 2013. The dollar value, when measured in constant FY04 U.S. dollars, is also expected to increase through nearly the entire forecast period. “Indeed, due to the progressively higher incorporation of relatively expensive rotorcraft in the annual mix, the growth in production value is expected to considerably outpace the growth in unit production.” Production value for 2004 is expected to come to some $4.6 billion, rising to $11.1 billion in 2012, then fall off somewhat to $10.2 billion in 2013.
Those figures include major modification/re-build programs such as upgrades in the CH-47 and CH-53 programs as well as re-building of USMC UH/AH-1s. Out of 5,448 military helicopters produced during the 10-year time frame, a total of 1,668 is expected to be modified or remanufacturered. (For a more detailed review of the military market, see Rotor & Wing, January 2004, page 12)
British Establish Military Helicopter Hotline
The British Ministry of Defence has established an advisory service for members of the public inquiring about low-flying military helicopters. The telephone service will provide daily advice on planned low-flying military helicopter activity in low-flying areas, to include information on the number of helicopters involved. Creation of the advisory service follows an incident in which a woman was killed by falling off her horse after it was spooked by a low-flying RAF Chinook helicopter.
This new advisory service was introduced as part of an MOD review of low-flying military helicopter training. It responds to one of the recommendations made by the Louth & Spilsby District Coroner, who held the inquest into the tragic death of Heather Bell in June 2003.
The advisory service will provide a daily forecast of planned military helicopter low level flight activity in the appropriate Low Flying Area, ranging from the ground up to 2,000 AGL. However, it will not be able to provide information on helicopter activity around helicopter training schools and main helicopter operating bases.
FlightSafety International has named Stephen Phillips as its director of communications to replace Roger Ritchie, who is retiring. Phillips joins FSI from Bombardier Aerospace, where he held positions in both marketing and public relations. FSI also announced the appointment of Julie Goodridge to be assistant manager at its West Palm Beach Learning Center. Goodridge previously served as alumni director at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
National Business Aviation Assn. has elected Kenneth E. Emerick as chairman of the NBAA Board of Directors, and elected the current Treasurer, Jeffrey W. Lee, to also fill the post of vice chairman. Emerick is director of aviation for GM Worldwide Travel Services. Lee is director of flight operations at IBM Corp.
Bell Helicopter Textron has appointed Mike Cox as vice president of communications to replace Carl Harris, who has retired after 38 years with Bell.
Maria Gelfond, executive vice president, CFO and founding partner of Jet Support Services, Inc., an aircraft maintenance management company, has been inducted into the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.
Bob Kenney has joined Bell Helicopter as vice president of the Bell Boeing V-22 Joint Program Office at NAS Patuxent River, Md., replacing Mike Tkach, now vice president of Boeing’s Army Rotorcraft Systems in Philadelphia. Kenney most recently was a vice president at Sikorsky, where he spent 25 years. Mike Anderson of Boeing Naval Systems has been named vice president and Kenney’s deputy. He will be based at Bell’s V-22 Assembly Center in Amarillo, Texas. He was Boeing’s F/A-18E/F program manager.
April 7-9—AeroExpo 2005, Santa Fe Convention Center, Mexico City and Toluca Airport. Contact: Juan A. Jose, 52+55+55-64-99-31; fax: 52+55-55-64-99-31; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.aeroexpo.com.mx.
April 26-29—Helitech LA, Riocenter, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Website: www.helitech.laadexpo.com.
May 3-5—Canadian Business Aviation Assn, 44th Annual Convention and Trade Show, Westin Bayshore Hotel & Piedmont Hawthorne. Contact: Beverly Bonnell, (613) 236-5611; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.cbaa.ca.
May 5-11—Army Aviation Assn. of America (Quad-A) Annual Convention, Disney Springs Coronado Resort, Orlando, Fla. Contact: Bob Lachowski, Monroe, Conn., (203) 268-2450; fax: (203) 268-5870; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.quad-a.org.
May 16-17—Penn State Flight Simulation and Avionics, Days Inn Penn State, State College, Pa. Contact: Dr. Edward C. Smith,
(814) 863-0966; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.outreach.psu.edu/C&I/rotarywing.
May 18-20—5th Annual European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE), Palexpo Conference Center, Geneva, Switzerland. Produced by the European Business Aviation Assn. and the National Business Aircraft Assn. Contact: Kathleen Blouin (NBAA) (202) 783-9364; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.ebace.aero.
June 12-14—46th International Paris Air Show (2005), Le Bourget Airport, France. Contact: Salons International de l’Aeronautique et de l’Espace, Paris, France, +33-(1)-53-23-33-33; fax +33-(1) 47-20-00-86; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; Website: www.paris-air-show.com.
July 20-23—Airborne Law Enforcement Assn. (ALEA) annual conference, John Ascuaga’s Nugget Resort Hotel, Reno, Nev. Contact: Sherry Hadley, (918) 599-0705; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.alea.org.
July 26-31—EAA, Oshkosh, Wisc. Contact: (920) 426-4800; Website: www.eaa.org.
July 29-31—15th Int’l HELIDAYS, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England. A public air show displaying European military and civil helicopters. Contact: 44-1934-822524; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.helidays.freeserve.co.uk