Manufacturers Await USAF's PRV Solicitation
The major manufacturers are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the U.S. Air Force's pending competition for a Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV) helicopter to replace its existing combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter fleet. One candidate has bowed out, while another possible candidate is sitting on the fence waiting for the request for proposals to be issued. But the release of that document keeps being delayed. The latest estimate had a draft RFP being published late last month, with the final version to be released in July.
Northrop Grumman, with the NH90 as its airframe, has withdrawn from the bidding, based on preliminary range requirements. Boeing is considering competing for the 141-aircraft program with the CH-47 Chinook, depending on the terms of the RFP. An advantage for Boeing would be that the U.S. Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) already uses the MH-47 for CSAR. Other contenders are Sikorsky with its H-92, Team US101 of Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland and Bell with a version of the EH101 and Bell/Boeing with the V-22 Osprey. Except for Sikorsky, the competition is becoming incestuous. If it enters the Chinook, Boeing would be competing against itself on the V-22 team. Bell in turn would build the US101s (as it is in Amarillo, Texas for the VXX U.S. presidential helicopter contract won in January) or the V-22, if either of those bids wins.
Bell/Boeing argues that the CV-22 already meets most of what the Air Force is expected to require in a PRV. The CV-22 is being developed for the Air Force's special operations force, with 50 ordered for use in the non-combat and personnel recovery role, according to Bob Carrese, executive director, V-22 Business Development. He noted that the U.S. Navy has ordered 48 MV-22s aircraft for the personnel recovery role while the 360 MV-22s ordered by the U.S. Marine Corps are being designed for the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel role as well as amphibious assaults and sustained land operations.
Carrese also said the V-22's higher speed and greater range allow it to readily meet the secondary roles for non-combat evacuation operations, civil search and rescue, international aid, disaster/humanitarian relief and emergency aeromedical evacuation, counter drug activities, and insertion and extraction of combat forces.
Although the RFP has not yet been issued, Carrese said that the CV-22 Block 10 already virtually meets the base line requirements for the PRV Block O, making it low-risk because most of the expensive research and development is completed, although some additional technology will need to be applied. While some question has arisen regarding the heavy downwash from a high blade loading, Carrese said that this has not proven to be a problem in that the Marines have already shown the ability to work directly underneath the aircraft during testing. The problem can also be negated through operational procedures, he said. The high downloading is caused by the weight of the aircraft in relation to the short diameter of the rotor discs.
The technology already developed for the CV-22 should allow the initial PRV-22 aircraft to be in operation within five years, Carrese said. The CV-22 also has some 60 percent of the anticipated Block 10 requirements already in place and should be able to meet Block 10 requirements within six to seven years, with the real driver being funding rather than technology driven. This will allow the PRV-22 to go into Initial Operational Capability (IOC) as soon as funding allows, and into Full Operational Capability (FOC) somewhere within the 2020 time frame, with a 30-year life thereafter.
A major competitor to the V-22 will be the US101, an aircraft that is already being used in the CSAR role as the EH101 by the British, Canadian and other military forces, and that has already proven itself in combat in Bosnia and the Middle East. Greg Caires in Lockheed Martin's newly created Helicopter Systems group said that from a platform standpoint, the US101 is already ready for the PRV role, although the Air Force will be looking for more powerful engines and more sophisticated electronic equipment to take the aircraft to a higher level of connectivity with the Air Force's net-centric warfighting doctrine.
EMS Operators Call for Training Flexibility, Support
Emergency medical service operators in the United States want greater flexibility from the FAA and greater support from manufacturers and training vendors in tackling safety problems that are afflicting that sector of the helicopter industry today.
Operators are under intense scrutiny and growing pressure from federal regulators and safety investigators as well as the media after accident rates involving helicopter air ambulances climbed in recent years. Reviews of those accidents indicate that the pilot's and the operator's decision-making processes are contributing factors, and that common elements are flight into inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions, controlled flight into terrain and operations at night.
Industry representatives debated those issues and others May 5 at an air medical forum hosted by FlightSafety International and held at its learning center at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Operators attending included PHI, Air Methods, LifeNet, CJ Systems, Omniflight, Keystone, Metro Aviation, Air-Evac, Calstar, Southwest Helicopters, Med-Evac, Medflight of Ohio, Careflite (TX), Critical Air, Hermann Lifeflight, Mercy Flight of West, NY, and Children's Hospital (Dallas). Attendees included representatives of many operators, large and small, and of industry groups such as the Council on Accreditation of Medical Transport Services, the Assn. of Air Medical Services, the Air Medical Safety Advisory Committee, the National EMS Pilots Assn., the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn. and HAI. A large contigent of FAA officials attended, as did a number of representatives of insurance companies. Bell Helicopter and American Eurocopter were also represented.
A key point that operators made is that they need some regulatory relief from the FAA that would allow them to get credit for training conducted in simulators that includes not just pilots but entire EMS crews. Some attendees questioned the value of such training, including whether pilots would be comfortable having crewmembers exposed to missteps and errors that are essential to the flight-training learning process.
FAA officials said they would investigate the possibility of granting credits for such training.
Another point was the adequacy of current training devices such as flight-training devices and full-motion simulators. Such units are very helpful in conducting generic training, operators said, but could be even more useful if their visual databases were tailored to particular EMS mission scenarios.
Pentagon's Top Tester Challenges VXX Program
The Pentagon's top official for testing has told Congress that the method chosen to move VXX helicopters rapidly through the testing phase and into operation as the president's helicopter could increase both cost of the program and the time required to put it into operation.
David Duma, acting director of the Defense Department's test and evaluation office, testified before members of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee last April that he opposes the plan for concurrent testing of the aircraft in order to reduce the time before it is delivered to the Marine Corps' VMX-1 for use by the president.
Duma told the Congressional panel that under the plan, all but eight VXX aircraft will already be purchased prior to going through the operational evaluation phase. He said that based on a White House requirement to replace the president's current VH-3 fleet no later than October 2009, "the department has adopted a schedule-driven success-oriented acquisition strategy. The program office acknowledges that the schedule-driven nature of the program leads to high cost, schedule and performance risks."
This strategy most likely will require retrofitting to incorporate necessary changes to the final configuration of the aircraft, retrofits that will require additional time and money, he said.
Duma stated that his office has not yet approved the testing program and that he supports "the established and long-standing policy of fly-before-buy." He further stated that "the VXX acquisition program would benefit by shifting to an event-based strategy that allows time to perform the early operational testing, followed by deficiency correction and then production. I am committed to working within the department to achieve an event-driven strategy, which will enable fixes identified in increment one to be incorporated into the increment two, low-rate initial production aircraft design and production." In response to a question from Rotor & Wing, Duma responded that his office "will continue to work with the VXX Program to develop a Test and Evaluation Master Plan that ensures adequate testing necessary to make the determination of the effectiveness and suitability of the new Presidential helicopter."
The VXX program managers at NAS Patuxent River also stated that they understand Duma's concern, but noted that with the well-proven EH101 airframe, most of the testing that would normally be required has already been accomplished under such adverse conditions as Bosnia and Iraq.
Future Military Rotorcraft Costs Face House Scrutiny
The future costs of both helicopters and UAVs came under fire from members of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee at hearings with top representatives of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Specifically' programs under discussion were the VXX, the Marine Corps' Heavy Lift Replacement (CH-53X) and the V-22, the Air Force's Personnel Recovery Vehicle and the Army's Aircraft Modernization Program.
In questioning the programs, Subcommittee Chairman Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) noted that "the Army is facing major decisions and budget challenges on manpower, modularization, Future Combat Systems and other issues. Yet the Army has at least seven different types of UAVs in development, plans to purchase four different types of new aircraft and plans to start a Joint Heavy Lift Helicopter with no other service currently committed to participating in the program. The Department of the Navy has major shipbuilding issues, yet it plans to proceed with a heavy lift replacement for the CH-53E instead of rationalizing requirements for the Army for a Joint Heavy Lift Helicopter. And the Air Force continues to have major problems with space programs, affording a new aerial tanker fleet, cargo aircraft and F-22s, yet it insists on a new helicopter for search and rescue even though the current aircraft in use, as well as several aircraft from other services, could possibly be used to support this mission.
Along with expressing concern over the costs of these programs, Weldon said that he "continues to have concerns regarding the inadequate level of rotorcraft science and technology investments being funded in service budgets. We've already given up on NASA, so now we're focusing on the services." He said that the levels of proposed spending by the military services for rotorcraft investment should maintain a healthy manufacturing industrial base. "But if we continue to inadequately fund our technology industry base, U.S. long-term competitiveness and capability will continue to fall short of world-class standards. This is especially true now that NASA has completely eliminated its rotorcraft research program, which is why I've embarked on a major effort to put a significant thrust into rotorcraft research nationwide, both within the Science budget as well as within the Defense budget." He added that his concern "is that because of the dereliction of NASA in eliminating the R&D focus on rotorcraft, that we are going to eventually pay the price for that down the road."
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), noted that the services are just starting to replace a large number of aircraft purchased 20 to 30 years ago and that right now "we're looking at the funding crunch, vis-à¶is rotorcraft modernization." He suggested that the DOD should consider "when and where it is appropriate to use the UAV instead of the manned helicopter" and that the services also "have to avoid requirement overload which killed the Comanche program."
Farnborough Demise Rumor Overshadowed By Air Show Proliferation
The perennial rumor of the demise of the Farnborough Air Show, which has popped up roughly every two years for the past few decades, highlights the fact that air shows are marketing departments fantasize about having fewer air shows on which to spend time, money and energy. What is happening, in fact, is that air shows are not only not going away, but are increasing in numbers while becoming more specialized in nature. Regarding the rumor of the Farnborough Air Show folding its tents (which is more than metaphysical, since the air show does, in fact, fold its tents after every show), the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) that has run the show for decades has just created a separate subsidiary, Farnborough International Ltd, specifically to run Farnborough and other air shows (Rotor & Wing, November 2004, page 17). During the 2004 show, some $20 billion in business was conducted, including $100 million at the new Business Aviation Park. The show had roughly 133,000 trade visitors, of which over 80 percent have already stated they would return in 2006. So the rumor is once again apparently proven false, since Farnborough International Ltd. will officially launch its 2006 show at this month's Paris Air Show. Farnborough will be held July 18-23, 2006, with July 17 being a press day and the last two days of the show being for the general public. However, while next year's show is assured, one thing that is not assured is the Farnborough site. Rumors also abound that the venue for the Farnborough show may change. The big questions would be where and when.
Also, last year saw the launching of two new air shows specifically aimed at the international helicopter industry. The first was International HeliTrade, held Oct. 5-7 at Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland and scheduled to be held biennially in even numbered years. This show would apparently compete directly with Helitech Duxford, held in odd-numbered years near Cambridge, U.K.
Aside from the alternating years, the HeliTrade show is differentiated from Helitech by aiming at a different geographic and industry audience, according to Moira Edwards, HeliTrade event director. "In terms of the audience that we deliver (to the exhibitors), the profiles would be similar (to Helitech) but the regions from which the audience hails would be quite different. Of course we had a number of exhibitors who are very familiar with Helitech and are doing it again this year, but we were very pleased to see that we delivered an audience from different parts of Europe than they would expect to see at Helitech." Edwards noted that the different geographic regions also present different segments of the helicopter industry. "For instance fire-fighting. There is not much in the way of forest fires in the northern parts of Europe or the U.K., so as the event develops we will find that it provides an umbrella across all the sectors. We have sort of a geographic differentiation, so we'll probably find ourselves developing a specialty just because the geographic location lends itself to that."
Based on research done prior to launching the show, HeliTrade "will be able to deliver a different geographic audience because of its convenience and because Helitech is perceived by a lot of Europeans, as opposed to U.K.-based people, as being a U.K. show," she said. The convenience of the show is based on its location at Palexpo, an advantage in that it sits in the heart of Europe with ready access by car, train or plane, plus "it also offers physical co-location with the airport, which is important."
Last year's HeliTrade show had just over 80 exhibitors and 1,231 visitors from 30 countries, with a 76 percent exhibitor approval rating and 79 percent exhibitor return indicated. In comparison, the 2003 Helitech show had over 250 exhibitors and some 6,5000 commercial and military visitors. However, Edwards said that a much larger show with a higher number of exhibitors is expected next year, since the premier of any air show consists of a limited number of "pioneers," who want to get in on the ground floor, and the visitors who attend the show to "test the waters" for exhibiting at the next one. "It is a little early to project the numbers for 2006, but we have not had anybody who said they are not signing up again. The vast majority were very, very satisfied with it," she said. "We have had a lot of interest from people, as well as a number of people who were not exhibitors at last year's show and have already signed up for space (for 2006)."
A similar scenario is also occurring with the new Dubai HeliShow, first held last December. The Dubai HeliShow had some 80 exhibitors and just over 2,500 visitors from 20 countries, most representing the Middle East market. Like HeliTrade, the Dubai show is expected to be significantly larger in 2006, according to Julia Cuthbert, director of sales for Mediac Exhibitions and Communications, organizers of the show. This show will compete directly with HeliTrade in that it occurs within a few short months of that show, and with the Dubai Air Show, held in alternate years, which has started its own Helicopter Pavilion.
However, even though a quick scan of the exhibitors at HeliTrade and Dubai HeliShow shows a great similarity in exhibitors, there is not a competition between the two because of the greatly diverse regional markets each one serves, Edwards said.
Cuthbert said that every exhibitor so far who has responded to a questionnaire has indicated that they will return for next year's show, as well as great interest from companies that just visited the show and have indicated they will exhibit in 2004. She also noted that the show will be greatly expanded with training workshops and seminars, reception areas for VIPs and more facilities for the show sponsors.
Robinson Delivers Its 6,000th Helicopter
Robinson Helicopter has delivered its 6,000th helicopter, an R44 Raven II, to Airborne Energy Solutions of Alberta, Canada for use in their charter fleet. The aircraft was S/N 10699. Total production through April was 2,207 R44 and 3,837 R22 helicopters. The 25-year-old company is continuing to grow, having recently added a new 220,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility and increasing production from 15 to 20 helicopters per week. The company sold 690 helicopters last year and forecasts over 700 being sold in 2005.
The delivery of S/N 10699 is Airborne's 34th Robinson helicopter to be used in their current charter fleet. The company has a total fleet of more than 50 helicopters. "The Robinson aircraft work along side other aircraft in the commercial market place and actually give customers more for their money with no loss in safety or performance. I believe it is the safest, most reliable aircraft in my fleet," said Eric Gould, CEO and Founding Director of Airborne. Airborne Energy Solutions, formerly called Aerial Recon, has been a Robinson dealer and maintenance facility for 20 years and operates a wide variety of aircraft in the Canadian energy industry.
East Europe Coming Out at Helitech
Russian and Polish helicopter manufacturers will be making appearances at the Duxford Helitech show this September, indicating a growing presence of the Eastern European countries at international air shows, according to Sue Bradshaw, project manager for the U.K. helicopter show.
Bradshaw said that Eastern European helicopter companies were more visible at shows during the 1990s, but appeared to be pulling back during the early part of this decade. "But they are tending to start coming out more these days," she said. Several Eastern European helicopter companies were at last December's Dubai HeliShow (R&W, February 2005, Pg. 112), and a formidable contingent is expected at this year's Helitech - Russian OEMs Kamov, Kazan, Rostvertol, and Ulan-Ude, plus design agency Mil, are joining Poland's PZL Swidnik at Helitech.
A major reason for this resurgence in exhibiting their wares to the world is the growing business Eastern European helicopter companies are experiencing, Bradshaw said.
She said that PZL plans to send a SW-4 to take part in the static display. The three bladed single-engine helicopter, which first flew in 1996 and looks like a cross between a Eurocopter AS350 (front end) and Schweizer 330 (empennage), is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250C20R/2 turboshaft. Deliveries of the first production batch of nearly 50 SW-4s is underway to the Polish air force, which will use it to train pilots at its Air Force Academy in Deblin. The contract is expected to be completed by 2010. Kamov expects to deliver its first Ka-226 twin-engine helicopter to launch customers this year. A new version of the contra-rotating rotors type, designated the Ka-226T, is to be equipped with Turbomeca's Arrius 2G2 turboshaft. Click here for more Ka-226 news from Rotor & Wing.
Two further Ka-32s are to be delivered to South Korea's firefighting service, which already operates over 30 of the type. Kamov is currently installing new Israeli cockpits in several of the type, as part of a Russian-South Korean debt repayment scheme. During almost eight years of continuous operations, Canada's VIH Logging - the only western operator of the type - has kept its own Ka-32A11BC accident-free. Kamov says it keeps in close contact with VIH, offering insight into technical and maintenance related issues whenever necessary.
At the beginning of March, Kamov and Irkut (a fixed-wing manufacturer) agreed to co-operate in developing the Ka-32 and Be-200 amphibian for use in the fire-fighting role. This is a new form of cooperation for the Russian aviation industry - an alliance between aircraft and helicopter producers targeted at applications across the aerospace industry. A US demonstration program is being planned for this summer.
Russian spare parts distributor VAO Interprofavia will also be at the show. VAO was established in 1991 to support Russian manufacturers by organizing overseas delivery of spare components. It says it also organizes R&D efforts and partners Russian federal program to develop new aircraft and upgrade others.
Bradshaw also reported that Rostvertol has been working on serial production of the Mi-28N (NATO codename Havoc). In January 2005, following successful completion of manufacturer tests, an airframe was sent to Moscow for "state trials" on behalf of regulatory authority ARMAC.
A year ago, rumors were rife that, in a bid to reduce incidences of Russian manufacturers competing against each other for overseas business; helicopter OEMs Kazan, Mil Moscow, Rostvertol and Ulan-Ude were considering a merger. She said that the latest situation appears to be that the Russian state has increased its shareholding in the companies and, at some point between next year and 2008, will indeed approve plans to create a single national aviation company.
U.S. Looks for New Heavy-Lift Helo
Defense contractors have until midday on June 27 to respond to a U.S. military solicitation of proposals on how to best proceed with development and production of a joint heavy-lift helicopter. Fresh from the Army Aviation Assn. of America annual gathering at the Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida, airframe, engine and systems contractors headed to Fort Eustis, Va. for a briefing by officials of the Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate on the solicitation. That call was issued April 28 in the form of a broad agency announcement. Issuance included advisories that the announcement "constitutes the total solicitation. There will be no formal request for proposals, other solicitation requests, or other information regarding these requirements."
The new helicopter is envisioned as an advanced vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)-capable aircraft designed to "overcome enemy anti-access strategies, execute operational maneuver, leverage sea basing" to expand expeditionary maneuver warfare capabilities, conduct mounted and dismounted vertical envelopment, and perform aerial delivery and sustainment operations." The Army wants comprehensive proposals for concepts of such an aircraft in three speed ranges: 160-200, 200-250 and 250-300+ kt.
The program's concept definition and analysis phase would last no more than 18 months, starting in September 2005. It would identify the program and technical risks, cost, schedule, and critical path technologies for the new aircraft. It also would establish credible cost, schedule and risk estimates.
The Army's program manager for cargo helicopters, Col. William Crosby, sat at the Quad A annual gathering that the Army plans to issue a handful of contracts by the third quarter for further work on proposals for the new helicopter. At least one contract would be issued for each speed range. No contract is to exceed $3.45 million. Crosby said the Army's plan is to make a selection of two prototype aircraft for further work by 2011.
All the military services have been involved in development of the program requirements and will participate in reviewing proposals, he said. U.S. Marine Corps officials, who are pursuing development of the CH-53X follow-on to the Super Stallion, have said they currently don't have a need for an aircraft like the Joint Heavy-Lift one. While the Army is pursuing upgrades of the CH-47 for heavy-lift missions, Crosby said, "we have a need for this aircraft even with the upgraded CH-47s."
Grand Canyon Rules Issued
Helicopter companies providing sightseeing tours of Grand Canyon National Park will now have to operate under new noise restriction rules based on the size and passenger capacity of helicopter flown. Under an amendment to FAR Part 93 that became effective on March 29, the helicopters will be rated based on the noise they produce, with larger aircraft carrying more passengers being authorized to have louder noise levels than smaller helicopters. Issuance of the regulation "is necessary to establish reasonably achievable requirements for aircraft operation in the GCNP to be considered as employing quiet aircraft technology." The FAA said this will not have an adverse impact on the helicopter companies providing sightseeing flights through the GCNP.
Nigel Turner, CEO of Heli USA Airways, said the new ruling is "a very positive step" and an amicable solution for both the FAA and the operators. The only possible flaw is that it could encourage operators to move into the larger aircraft, he said. Heli USA Airways operates 12 AS350BAs in the Arizona/Nevada area and in Hawaii.
While the new ruling cites specific noise limitations based on passengers carried, it doesn't specifically list the helicopters falling within those limitations.
Jerry Airola, president of Silver State Helicopters, said that he generally does not have any problems with the new ruling unless it would push him into purchasing European helicopters to meet the requirements. Silver State currently operates all U.S. helicopters, with its turbine fleet being all Bell products, specifically Bell 206s, 206LRs and 407s. In its preamble to the new ruling in Federal Register dated March 29, 2005, FAA states that "replacing non-compliant aircraft with larger, GCNP quiet aircraft technology designation aircraft (e.g. replace a B207L with an EC-130) should produce marked improvement toward substantial restoration of natural quiet." Airola said that he currently operates six Bell 407s into the Grand Canyon, but could require two additional 407s since he has just negotiated a contract with the Hualapai Indians to increase tourism to their Indian Village.
He said that the 407 was chosen for its superior performance in both the high temperatures and high winds in the Grand Canyon, but that he is also looking at the AB139, which "carries more passengers and has better safety features." Part of the attraction of the AB139 is that its larger passenger capacity will cut down on air traffic in the canyon, which is both a safety issue and "a major concern to the Indians," he said.
First UH-Tiger Delivered
German Army Aviation has received its first Eurocopter UH-Tiger, which will serve as a training aircraft at the Franco-German Army Aviation Training Center at Le Luc in the south of France. Delivery of the attack helicopter is considered a major milestone in the build-up of the German Army's air mechanized force, according to officials during the handover. A total of 206 Tigers have been order by four countries: 80 each by France and Germany, 22 by Australia and 24 by Spain.
Southwest Med Evac Open New Base At Snyder, Texas
Southwest Med Evac has announced the opening of its fifth base for emergency medevac services on May 15. The new base is in Snyder, Texas, at the base of the Texas panhandle. Robert Campion, director of marketing, said that the new base is in an area previously underserved by air medical transportation and will be a vital piece in completing Southwest Med Evac's existing network consisting of helicopters in Hobbs, NM and Abilene, TX. These are backed up by fixed-wing aircraft in Carlsbad, NM and Midland, TX.
The area will be served with an AS350-B3 based at Codgell Memorial Hospital. Campion said the inauguration of the Snyder service, joining with service in Hobbs and Abilene, completes the company's Southwest network. The company currently operates six AS350-B3s, one at each base plus a backup, he said.
Helispec has been awarded a five-year contract to do sub-contract work on UH-1 Hueys being readied for foreign contract sales. The initial work calls for corrosion inspection and repair, plus painting on six aircraft plus four options. A second batch of 20 UH-1s is expected to follow the first batch of 10, according to Helispec President Gregg Holt. The Brantley, Ala.-based repair and overhaul company has also received a UH-60 Blackhawk from the U.S. Army as an article of inspection for corrosion inspection, repair and painting to confirm its ability to perform the repair on-time, on-budget, Holt said. If successful, it will lead to basically an endless stream of work on Army Blackhawks, as well as similar work on the Army's CH-47 Chinooks, he said. Helispec is a brand new company started last January by three individuals who had previously worked for Helipro, and has already won six contracts for component repair and structural overhauls on helicopters, Holt said.
Link Simulation and Training has ordered additional IS-900 Inertial-Acoustic Helmet Tracking Systems from Bedford, Mass.-based InterSense, Inc. for simulator programs including the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, and the U.S. Air Force and Air Force National Guard, according to Dean Wormell, InterSense, Inc. marketing manager. The Link simulators using the InterSense helmet tracking system was developed for the Army National Guard's AVCATT program initially developed for the National Guard, but delivered to Fort Rucker for its Flight School XXI Simulation Services program earlier this year. Additional installations will continue to Fort Rucker through September 2008. Additional deliveries will also be made to the National Guard for its mobile reconfigurable rotary-wing simulator trailers. The U.S. Air Force will receive Link's SimuSphere 360-degree display system using the InterSense helmet tracking system for training on the F-16.
Archangel Systems has entered a long-term agreement with Bell Helicopter Textron to supply Air Data Attitude Heading Reference Systems (AHR150A) for the Bell/Agusta BA609 as part of that aircraft's fly-by-wire system. Three Archangel AHR150A systems will be used on each aircraft.
ACROhelipro of Canada has signed a five-year contract with Eurocopter as an approved repair and overhaul provider.
CAE USA has been awarded two contracts worth $20 million by the U.S. Army Program Executive Office - Simulation, Training and Instrumentation to support mission rehearsal and training systems for the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment--Airborne. The first contract, valued at approximately $12 million will provide a new standard database architecture on two combat mission simulators currently being built by CAE for the 160th. The new database will be used on the MH-47G Chinook and MH-60 Black Hawk combat mission simulators. The second is an $8 million contract calling on CAE USA to provide maintenance and support services to the 160th.
AgustaWestland deliver 101st EH101
On April 15 the Portuguese air force formally accepted the fourth of 12 EH101's ordered from AgustaWestland, marking the 101st production EH101 delivered. The aircraft was flown from the production plant at Vergiate, Italy to the Portuguese Air Force Base at Montijo, near Lisbon, on April 21. The aircraft are configured to be used by the Portuguese Air Force for SAR, Combat SAR and Fishery Protection.
The EH101 fleet has now flown over 60,000 hours performing search and rescue, utility, troop transport and various maritime roles. Royal Air Force EH101 Merlins have deployed to Bosnia and Iraq to perform peacekeeping duties while Royal Navy Merlins were deployed to the Arabian Gulf during the initial phase of Operation Telic, the U.K.'s operation in Iraq, in 2003 and are currently deployed in the Arabian Gulf performing maritime surveillance duties. Orders for 146 EH101 have been placed to date by seven customers, consisting of the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, Italian Navy, Canadian Forces, Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Portuguese Air Force, Royal Danish Air Force and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. The EH101 has been ordered in a range of variants for diversified roles including troop transport, logistic support, search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime patrol, combat SAR, airborne early warning, amphibious support, airborne mine countermeasures and head of state transport. The EH101 is powered by three General Electric T700-T6A1 or Rolls-Royce Turbomeca TRM322 engines.
Brazilian Firm Offers AS350 Engine Conversion
Global Air Strategy of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a Soloy Brazilian distributor, is now offering the "Allstar" engine conversion for the AS350, replacing the original Turbomeca engine with a Rolls-Royce 250-C30 engine. The first conversion was displayed at last April's Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD) show. Approval for the conversion was obtained from Brazil's Centro Technico Aeroespacial last year by Soloy, LLC, working through Global Air Strategy. The certification includes the Eurocopter AS350B, AS350BA and the Esquilo HB350B. David Stauffer, president and CEO of Soloy, LLC, said that Soloy is "extremely excited that Global Air Strategy will provide this new conversion option for our South American customers." He noted that Rolls-Royce 250-C30 engines are "more reliable, burn significantly less fuel and are less costly to maintain and overhaul over the original installed equipment." The original AS350/HB350 is equipped with the Turbomeca Arriel engine.
Stauffer also said that Soloy has completed the TBO extension program to increase the freewheeling unit overhaul to 2000 hr., allowing operators to accomplish the 350-C30 engine turbine inspection and freewheeling clutch inspection at the same time, decreasing direct maintenance costs.
Korean University Orders Enstrom Trainers
Hanseo University in Seosan, Korea has ordered two Enstrom helicopters, a 480B turbine and a 280FX piston, for helicopter training. The order for the two Enstrom helicopters was part of a newly developed program by Hanseo University which has finished building a new airfield for aerospace training for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft, as well as mechanics and air traffic controllers. The University also purchased five Cessna aircraft for fixed wing training.
Enstrom President Jerry Mullins said that the order "is another important milestone for Enstrom in the Asia market. Trainees learning to fly in an Enstrom, leads to an Enstrom preference once they obtain their license. This is especially important in Korea as they need to meet the pilot training requirements of the upcoming Korean Helicopter Program (KHP)." Enstrom is further exploring potential co-production of its products in Korea.
New-Build UH-1Ys Officially Approved
Department of Defense has officially approved the new manufacturing of UH-1Y Hueys for the U.S. Marine Corps. The USMC requested the new-builds earlier this year based on a continuing need for the UH-1Ns, which were scheduled to be remanufactured into the -1Y models (Rotor & Wing, March 2005, Page 15).
Approval was issued on April 15 by Michael Wynne, DOD's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Production of the new-build aircraft will begin in 2008 as part of Low-Rate Initial Production 3 lot. The first 10 of the 100 UH-1Ys being produced will be remanufactured UH-1Ns, with the remaining 90 new-builds adding an estimated $17.4 million to the total cost of the program. The additional cost includes approximately $8.1 million in non-recurring engineering costs plus approximately $100,000 per aircraft. Based on the President's 2005 budget, total cost of the USMC H-1 program, both for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, is approximately $5.5 billion.
Col. Keith Birkholz, H-1 program manager, said that the new-builds "better meets the pressing needs of the Marine Corps, both in today's battle space and for tomorrow's requirements." The newly authorized new-build program "gives us the acquisition strategy to give it to them." It was noted that based on the current size and availability of the UH-1N fleet, having a large number of them out of the fleet for the two years required to produce the -1Y model would severely and adversely impact the Marine Corps ability to conduct expeditionary maneuver warfare.
The first 10 remanufacture UH-1Ys and six AH-1Zs are in production at Bell Helicopter's production facilities in Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, with all 100 -1Y Hueys and 180 -1Z Cobras expected to be completed by 2014. Feasibility studies are currently being conducted on new-builds for the AH-1Z program. Both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z programs are scheduled to begin their final operational evaluation later this year.
Whirly-Girls Whirl Into 50th Anniversary
On April 29, 2005, Washington, DC was the site of the 50th anniversary celebration of Whirly-Girls, the international association of women helicopter pilots. On hand were over 130 members from as close as the host city, as far away as Siberia. The three-day 50th anniversary celebration began with a gathering the day before at the St. Gregory Hotel, followed by a celebration and plaque dedication a few blocks away at the Mayflower Hotel, the site of the original Whirly-Girls meeting where the organization was formed in 1955.
The atmosphere was reminiscent of a college pep rally, with members such as Alyson Beausoleil-Holt, Whirly-Girl #1294, cheering and chanting organization slogans. A room was setup for casual browsing, sparking stories of days gone by from senior members such as charter member Nancy Startford, Whirly-Girl #4.
Day two included "hovering," where the members gather in a conference room and take turns sharing a little bit about their life and current flying activities. It ended with a formal banquet at the Mayflower Hotel, where members and their families saluted the group's history, and toasted their future. "I filled out my application to become a Whirly-Girl the day I got my helicopter license," said 39-year old Beausoleil-Holt, an accomplished fixed-wing instructor since 1996, and helicopter pilot since 2004. "The ink wasn't dry on my license before I ran out to sign up as a Whirly-Girl." Also on hand was Swiss-born Margerite Myrick, Whirly-Girl #157, who, in the early 1970's, was one of the first female crop dusters to use a helicopter. Whirly-Girls was founded by Jean Ross Howard, who had served as an Army Air Corps WASP piloting fixed-wing aircraft during World War II. She began flying helicopters shortly after their entrance on the aviation scene. On April 29, 1955, Howard gathered all of the known women helicopter pilots in the world who, at that time, were in France, Germany and the United States. She and the other twelve women chopper pilots met at the Mayflower Hotel in her native Washington, DC, where they officially formed Whirly-Girls. They became member numbers one through thirteen. A half-century later, the organization boasts over 1,340 members in over forty countries. Whirly-Girl membership is open to any licensed female helicopter pilot, with auxiliary memberships open to anyone interested in rotorcraft aviation. They may be contacted at P.O. Box 1943, Los Alamitos, California 90720, USA, or on the Internet at www.whirlygirls.org.
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: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.helidays.freeserve.co.uk.
Aug. 9-11--Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE), Shanghai International Exhibition Center and Hongqiao Int'l Airport, China. Contact: Kathleen Blouin, (202) 782-9364; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.abace.aero
Aug. 15-19--Rotary Wing Technology, Penn State University, The Nittany Lion Inn, State College, Pa. Contact: Dr. Barnes W. McCormick, (814) 863-0602; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.outreach.psu.edu/C&I/RotaryWing.
Sept. 19-21--U.S.-European Competition and Workshop on Micro Aerial Vehicles, Elmau Castle, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Contact: Brigitte Metz, German Aerospace Center Institute for Aeroelasticity, 49-551-709-2342; Fax: 0049-551-709-2862; Website: www.us-euro-mav.com.
Sept. 21-24--Aviation Expo 2005, Bejing, China. Contact: China Promotion Ltd., 852-2511-7427; Fax: 852-2511-9692; Website: www.cpexhibition.com.
Sept. 24-28--International Assn. of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference, Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami, Fla. Contact: Chrissy Hart. (800) 843-4227 ext. 238; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.theiacp.org.
Sept. 26-29--AHS Int'l Helicopter Safety Symposium, Omni Mont-Royal Hotel, Montré¡¬, Qué¢¥c. Contact: Kim Smith, (703) 684-6777; Website: www.ihss2005.com.