‘Revitalization Project’ Aims to Boost Military Helo Safety, Survivability
A new U.S. rotorcraft industry task force is seeking measures to improve the survivability of helicopters in combat in the near term and increase the safety and reliability of all helicopters in the long term.
Dubbed the Rotary-Wing Revitalization Project, the effort aims to overcome the main impediments to broader use–and, consequently, greater sales–of rotorcraft. Those are the high rate of helicopter combat losses, the excessive operating costs of rotorcraft and intense maintenance needs.
Regarding the first point, said Mike Romanowski, helicopter crashes are consistently in the running–along with suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices–as a chief cause of combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vice president of civil aviation for the U.S. Aerospace Industries Assn., Romanowski is overseeing the project, which is being run under the AIA’s auspices. Before joining the AIA in 2003, he was director of product safety certification and airworthiness at Sikorsky Aircraft.
In discussions among themselves and with military officials, industry representatives concluded, "we haven’t seen a concerted effort" to address combat losses, he said. "We felt there was a need to do something to protect the troops."
A key problem, he said, is that "rotorcraft are still vulnerable to Vietnam-era weapons–rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire." But while those threats generally were confined to forward operating areas in previous conflicts, "the nature of the battlefield has changed." Aircraft of that era were designed on the assumption "that they were never going to be operating in forward areas."
"In the global war on terrorism, there really is no forward edge of the battlefield, so that fundamental design assumption has changed."
The task force is taking a two-pronged approach: assessing what steps have the most promise of quickly improving safety and survivability and identifying business practices that can be applied to the full range of helicopter products to streamline their design, production, operation and maintenance.
The group’s goal is to make recommendations to the Defense Dept.’s Office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics before year’s end. While the immediate focus is on military applications, Romanowski said, industry representatives will continually be feeding findings of the group back into their own operations, both military and civil.
A key question for the longer-term objective of the group, he said, is "how do you leapfrog capability from where it is today," in areas such as designing airframes, improving drive-train performance and refining advanced design concepts?
The task force coincides with pushes by the oil and gas industry to dramatically improve by the safety and reliability of helicopters used in offshore support and by the international helicopter community to achieve an 80-percent reduction in fatal helicopter accidents within 10 years.
An ideal outcome of the task force’s work, Romanowski said, would be a long-term federal commitment to rotorcraft research and development. "Helicopters are going to be an incredibly important tool in U.S. national security going forward," he said. "We’re trying to build the case for sustained R&D investment to support that."
NTSB Seeks Stricter Rules For EMS Ops
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is calling on the FAA to impose stricter requirements on all emergency medical services flights, including helicopter operations.
After a special investigation, the safety board recommended that the FAA ban U.S. commercial air medical operators from conducting flights under FAR Part 91 and require them to conduct all portions of a medevac mission under the more restrictive Part 135, regardless of whether a patient is on board. NTSB investigators said they had not assessed the impact that rule might have on patient care by delaying transport because Part 135 requirements kept on the ground a helicopter that might have been able to start the mission and fly to the patient under Part 91.
The board also called on the FAA to require EMS operators to implement flight-risk evaluation programs similar to those recommended under FAA Notice 8000.301. That guidance to FAA inspectors, issued last August, is only in effect for a year, NTSB investigators said.
The board urged the FAA to require EMS operators to use formal dispatch and flight-following procedures that include up-to-date weather information and assistance in flight-risk assessments.
It also wants the FAA to require EMS operators to install terrain-awareness and warning systems and to train crews in their use. Investigators said night-vision systems could help EMS pilots identify and avoid hazards during nighttime operations.
The recommendations followed an extended review by the safety board of 55 EMS accidents that killed 55 people and seriously injured 18 between January 2002 and January 2005. Investigators focused on seven accidents that they said typified the problems identified in EMS operations, including five helicopter accidents.
Investigators found that 35 of the 55 accidents occurred while the aircraft were operated under Part 91, with crewmembers on board but no patients on board.
Bell to Study New Medium Twin, Logs Solid Performance in 2005
Bell Helicopter is launching a study to identify the markets for a new medium twin aircraft and the systems and capabilities that aircraft must have to satisfy operators’ demands.
"We think the marketplace is sending strong messages" that customers "are looking for aircraft with far more integrated systems, everything from safety dimensions" like terrain-awareness and warning and traffic-alerting/collision-avoidance systems to onboard recording and health-monitoring systems, Bell CEO Michael Redenbaugh told Rotor & Wing. He planned to unveil the market study for the "21st century new medium twin" at the HAI Heli-Expo 2006 trade show in Dallas late last month.
The move follows Bell’s departure late last year from the joint program with AgustaWestland that brought the AB139 medium twin to market.
Bell’s sale of its stake in the AB139 program helped boost revenues and profit last year, according to the latest financial statement by its parent, Textron, Inc. Results also were aided by greater government revenues, stemming from Bell’s win in the U.S. Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program and full-rate production approval for the U.S. Marine Corps V-22 it builds with Boeing. Bell’s fourth-quarter 2005 revenue was up more than 36 percent, from $590 to $805 million, and profits for the period jumped 78 percent, from $68 million to $121 million. Its annual 2005 profits were up 47 percent, from $250 million to $368 million, and revenues rose nearly 28 percent, from $2.25 billion to $2.88 million.
Eurocopter Order Book Grows Through 2005
Eurocopter last year logged 401 orders for new military and civil helicopters, which the European consortium said secured its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer.
The company said its consolidated turnover, or revenue, increased 15 percent, from 2.8 billion ($3.33 billion) to 3.21 billion euros ($3.82 billion). In terms of sales value, it said, the main contributors were helicopters (55 percent) and customer support activities (31 percent), with R&D and miscellaneous activities accounting for 14 percent.
Eurocopter reported orders as follows: 44 EC120 Colibris, 193 for the Ecureuil/Fennec/EC130 family, 87 EC135s, 20 EC145s, 25 for the Dauphin/Panther/EC155 family, 14 for the Super Puma/Cougar/EC225/EC725 family, six Tigers and 12 NH90s.
It valued the number of orders (including for the Tiger and NH90), customer support services and R&D activities at 3.52 billion euros ($4.9 billion). Eurocopter’s current backlog amounts to 9.97 billion euros ($11.8 billion).
"The number of helicopters and services sold throughout 2005 prove the success of our strategy to focus on emerging markets of the future by means of excellent products and fruitful industrial cooperation, combined with our efforts to constantly optimize our service network and customer orientation," Eurocopter President Fabrice Brï¿½gier said. "Once again, we have shown that Eurocopter remains the benchmark in global helicopter business."
Eurocopter’s strategy for growth in 2005 was based on worldwide activities with a special focus on Spain, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and India.
In Spain, it set up a subsidiary that it billed as "the third pillar" of the Eurocopter group. In the U.S., it won re-engining work for Coast Guard HH-65s and teamed with EADS North America, Sikorsky, Westwind and CAE on an EC145 bid for the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program. In China, it launched joint development with AVIC 2 Corp. of the EC175 six-ton-class civil helicopter. The South Korean government chose Eurocopter as the primary partner of Korea Aerospace Industries in the new Korean Helicopter Program. Eurocopter Japan won an open competition to equip the Japanese coast guard with EC225s. Eurocopter also set up a new office in New Delhi "to be present in one of the world’s most strategic markets," Brï¿½gier said.
USAF Accelerates CSAR-X by Two Years
The U.S. Air Force on Feb. 16 called for revised bids from the three teams competing to supply its next-generation combat-search-and-rescue helicopter to deliver the first aircraft by 2009, two years earlier than previously planned.
The move stems from a provision in President Bush’s proposed 2007 defense budget to add $849 million to the Combat-Search-And-Rescue-X program through 2011. That budget would fund the program at $254 million in Fiscal 2007. If the Air Force actually gets the added funding, the acceleration would be welcome news. Service officials have long said their CSAR H-60Gs are aging fast and limited in their range and other performance areas.
The CSAR-X program calls for delivering five test aircraft and up to 141 production helicopters. It is valued at $8-10 billion.
Competitors must now submit revised bids on the accelerated schedule by March 27. The change could delay a contract award, which had been scheduled tentatively for May. The Team US101 of Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland and L3 is bidding a U.S.-built version of AgustaWestland’s EH101. Sikorsky has teamed with Boeing on an entry based on its S-92. Boeing has a separate bid with an upgraded, MH-47 version of its Chinook.
MD Helicopters Names New Interim Management
MD Helicopters, Inc. has yet another CEO, again on an interim basis. Five months after naming Robert Rene as the manufacturer’s interim CEO, new MD parent Patriach Partners said in January that Rene had left the company "as part of a broader management realignment," as had his number two, Chief Operating Officer Randy Kesterson.
A New York-based investment firm that specializes in companies in distress, Patriarch bought MD in July 2005.
While the search continues for a permanent CEO, the newly appointed chief financial officer, Peter Hokanson (above), has assumed day-to-day CEO duties. He formerly was vice president of business administration and information technology at Garrett Aviation.
COO duties are being split between David Langenhuizen and Charles Vehlow. Langenhuizen was named MD’s general manager of operations. He had been the company’s director of materials and director of operations. Vehlow was named director of operations for Patriarch Partners Management Group. He is a former vice president and general manager for the Boeing Helicopter Div. and vice president of MD’s Apache program. In addition to his co-COO duties, Vehlow will provide production management support for increasing MD’s helicopter output, both for commercial demand and the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program if it should win that competition.
AgustaWestland, Parent Company Set Up Joint Venture With Libya
Libya has signed a three-way joint venture agreement with Finmeccanica and its AgustaWestland subsidiary for aircraft production and personnel training.
The new, Tripoli-based organization, Libyan Italian Advanced Technology Co. (LIATEC), will be owned 50-percent by the Libyans and 25-percent each by the two Italian companies. Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland are to provide training, technology, equipment and expertise while the Libyans would primarily provide infrastructure, facilities and marketing. Start-up financial resources with be shared among them.
Plans initially call for ensuring the modernization of Libya’s existing fleet of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, including efficient maintenance of that fleet. A training center will be opened for both flight and maintenance personnel. The plan also calls for construction of a modern maintenance center and assembly line.
LIATEC will develop agencies responsible for procuring helicopters and medium-to-light fixed-wing aircraft, with commercial rights in a number of African countries to sell helicopters assembled locally.
Flying Laboratory Allows Fast Testing In Flight of Mission Avionics
German military and industry researchers are using a new flying testbed that recently completed its first flight to study and assess components for helicopter avionics and other components
The mission equipment carrier, known by the German acronym MAT, is the result of two years’ development by the Munich-based electronics and information-technology Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH (ESG). It developed the aircraft under contract to the German Federal Ministry for Armaments Technology and Procurement (BWB).
Based on what ESG said is a fully redesigned UH-1D, the MAT is designed to allow engineers to test individual components or entire systems (such as aircraft guidance, integrated helmet of sensor systems, mapping modules or the operator-machine interface) under operational conditions.
Sensors weighing up to 308 lb. (140 kg.) can be attached to two equipment racks on its nose. RUAG Aerospace Services GmbH in Oberpfaffenhofen did the mechanical and electrical conversion of the UH-1D.
The key advantage of the aircraft, ESG said, is that the test equipment can be clearly separated from the actual helicopter. This allows testing of individual components without first securing approval to use them in flight.
U.S. UAVs–Sorry, UASs Reach Key Milestones
Two developmental unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)–or unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), as the Pentagon now calls them–recently passed major milestones.
The TR918 Eagle Eye, one of two tilt-rotor UASs Bell is developing, achieved its first flight milestone on Jan. 26 (shown above) when it lifted vertically off the ground and hovered for 9 min., then landed safely. During the flight demonstration, it executed yaw and translation maneuvers.
The TR918 is being developed simultaneously with the U.S. Coast Guard’s TR916 Eagle Eye . Bell is paying for the TR918’s development on its own to make a tilt-rotor UAS available to other customers prior to the TR916. Bell UAS Executive Director Bob Ellithorpe said the Eagle Eye "offers a capability never seen in the UAS industry.."
The RQ-8A Fire Scout that Northrop Grumman is developing for the the U.S. Navy’s Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle program passed its milestone Jan. 16-17 when one of the UAVs took off from NAS Patuxent River, Md. and landed on board the USS Nashville operating offshore, with the last landings performed autonomously.
In the flights on Jan. 16, operators at ground stations ashore and on the Nashville controlled the Fire Scout’s takeoffs and landings, but the aircraft flew from the shore to the ship autonomously. Two more takeoffs and landings were made onboard the Nashville before the Fire Scout returned on its own to shore, landing at the Webster Field annex of Pax River.
On Jan. 17, a second Fire Scout was launched to complete the testing, which included having the aircraft land on and takeoff from the Nashville autonomously.
The system that the Naval Air Systems Command tested consisted of the Fire Scout, a shore-based ground control station, a ship-based control station, the Tactical Control System software and an Unmanned Common Automatic Recovery System precision landing system. NavAir is developing four-bladed MQ-8B variants, which are designed to havegreater payload and performance capabilities, for the Navy and U.S. Army. Cmdr. Rob Murphy, leader of the Navy team, said the tests were designed to exercise areas of the system that are maturing and provide feedback as the MQ-8B’s baseline software build is finalized.
Ireland to Realign Dublin Airspace To Better Handle Helo Traffic
Irish aviation officials are developing new air routes over Dublin to allow air traffic contol to better handle the increased volume of helicopter traffic in the Republic of Ireland.
According to the Irish Aviation Authority, helicopters will be given specific routes across the greater Dublin area under the new regulations being drafted. The change is intended to improve separation between helicopters and larger aircraft transiting the area and arriving and departing Dublin.
The airspace changes are to take effect later this year, according to the ministry.
The Irish Aviation Authority reports that it has 123 private helicopters on its register, up from 56 in 2000. There are more helicopters operating in Irish skies, considering those registered in other nations but flying there.
U.K. Weighs Crackdown On N-Registered Aircraft
Aviation officials in the United Kingdom are facing some pressure to crackdown on the operation of aircraft that are registered in the United States or other countries but based or operated primarily in the British Isles.
Some U.K. operators and safety advocates argue that U.K.-based owners and operators are securing registrations from other nations to circumvent what are often the more stringent operational, maintenance and training standards of the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority’s regulations.
Such an arrangement also allows operators to avoid some U.K. tax requirements. The critics’ ire is directed mainly at aircraft flying with U.S. N-number registrations.
The U.K. Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. reportedly is opposed to such a crackdown.
European Marine, Border Agencies Order AB139s
Spain’s marine safety agency has ordered three AB139s for search-and-rescue operations. Known as Sasemar, it is the fifth government agency to order the AgustaWestland medium twin-engine. Other orders have been placed by agencies in Estonia, Ireland, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Estonia’s interior ministry has ordered one AB139 for its border guard, and taken an option on one more. The AB139 order book now stands at more than 150 aircraft as of January.
Funding for the Estonian aircraft will come from Schengen Facility program funds. The Schengen cooperation agreement is an agreement between most of the European Union countries to allow free movement among the signatory states.
Rotorcraft Leasing Buys Industrial Helicopters
Rotorcraft Leasing Co. has acquired Industrial Helicopters, a former competitor in serving offshore energy firms in the Gulf of Mexico. The integration of Industrial, which already is under way, gives Broussard, La.-based Rotorcraft Leasing a combined fleet of more than 80 helicopters.
Rotorcraft Leasing operates a fleet of Bell 206s, 407s and 412s and Sikorsky S-76s. Its president, Lloyd Marks, said it has been steadily increasing its fleet, using a $6.5-million refinancing from Stonghenge Capital Co. in 2004 and funds from a recapitalization last August by H.I.G. Capital Co.
Industrial Helicopters’ president, J. Oran Richard, said the two companies had been competitors for 15 years and that "Industrial brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table."
Rotorcraft Leasing claims to be the largest privately-held helicopter transportation company operating the Gulf. It acquired the aviation business of Omni Energy Services last year. Rotorcraft CEO Rodger Bagwell said the company "is always on the look-out for additional operating assets in order to grow our fleet of helicopters in line with our long-term customer base in the Gulf."
U.S. Army Leaders Back Away from IED Helo Threat
The U.S. Army gave word of a new threat to helicopters operating in Iraq at AUSA’s Aviation Symposium in January, then quickly dismissed the idea as a theoretical one.
At a briefing for reporters, Brig. Gen. Edward Sinclair, commander of the Army’s Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., mentioned that foes in Iraq have been deploying home-made bombs, or improvised explosive devices, that can be propelled straight up from a concealed spot to detonate near a helicopter passing overhead.
Army headquarters almost immediately waived off the idea of such a threat, issuing a statement that "we do not know of any incidences of insurgents employing aerial IEDs against U.S. helicopters."
The plot thickened later when Army Secretary Francis Harvey, also speaking with reporters on Jan. 18–after the symposium, referred to the aerial IED as "an anticipated threat." He didn’t rule out that the threat had, in fact, been encountered in battle, saying only that he hadn’t heard that it had.
At AUSA, Cody Touts "Modularization"
Active Army aviation will be fully reorganized into modular brigades by the end of this year and modularization of aviation brigades in the Army National Guard is on track, according to Gen. Richard Cody, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army.
Speaking at the Assn. of the U.S. Army Aviation Symposium and Exhibition in Washington, D.C. in January, Cody said cancellation of the Comanche program provided the money "to fix in the Future Years Defense Program all the problems we would have had in Army Aviation."
He said the Army needs to do better in aircraft survivability, that half of the Army’s aviation fleet is either in reset or engaged in combat. "The truth is commanders are asking for more aviation." A total of 630 rotary wing aircraft are engaged in combat and U.S. soldiers are working side by side with Iraqis in building their aviation capabilities. However, he added, "Overall, I think we are in pretty good shape."-Douglas W. Nelms
Meeting Offers Updates On Army Programs
During the AUSA Aviation Symposium’s two days of presentations, military and industry leaders reported on the status of Army aviation programs.
Bell Helicopter’s RAH-70 is on schedule and on budget, according to Lt. Col. Neil Thurgood, ARH program manager, who said the aircraft will be flying soon and start flight testing mid-year, with limited-use training starting in August. Milestone C, or low-rate initial production (LRIP), will start by March 2007, he said, with 38 aircraft. Of those, 30 will go to the first RAH-70 unit and eight will be used for training. Four aircraft are now being prepared for system design and development (SDD), with SDD-1 coming out this month and SDD-4 out by May.
Col. Derek Paquette, AH-64 Apache program manager, said the Apache will need continuous upgrades, including improved performance, more powerful engines to handle increased weights and improved avionics to allow better communications with other components on the battlefield. An agreement was signed last June to allow Boeing to go into Block 3 of the AH-64 program. This provides for 23 technological enhancements to the aircraft, including the ability to stream video from the aircraft to vehicles on the move and tactical operations centers, instead of sending a single frame as is done now.
Sikorsky President and CEO Stephen Finger noted that UH-60 Black Hawks are now less expensive than the original 1978 UH-60A "when you figure for inflation" and are easier to maintain, with about a $1,000 reduction in maintenance cost per flight hour. The latest versions of the UH-60 now have fully integrated, self-monitoring systems and flight data recorders.
In discussing Army Aviation’s heavy maintenance and repair, or Reset, program Brig. Gen. Edward Sinclair, commander of the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., said the Army has now spent $2.6 billion on resetting Army aircraft since the first airframes were returned from Afghanistan, accounting for some 2,100 airframes reset over the past four years.
Claude M. Bolton, Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said UH-60 Black Hawks alone have logged more than 280,000 hr. and AH-64 Apaches are now over the 180,000-hr. mark. He said UAV usage will also increase in the future "as the Army continues to make advances in this technology." Even the current UAVs are now giving soldiers in the field "unbelievable situational awareness," Bolton said.
Simplex Delivers New Fire Attack System For Kamov Ka-32
Simplex Manufacturing has delivered the first units of its Model 328 fire-attack system for the Kamov Ka-32 to LG International of Seoul, South Korea for use by Seoul’s Daego Fire Dept. The new water-tank system features a computer-controlled door system and a single, 6-in. AC electric hover pump with a refill rate of 1,000 gpm. (3,800 lpm.) and is designed to deliver multiple flow rates. President and CEO Steve Daniels said the Portland, Ore.-based aerial application design and manufacturing company is already working on a 1,188-gal. system. "There is a strong international market for this product in Korea, Europe and Australia," Daniels said, and "new sales are already pending."
Simplex also is to deliver its first fire-attack system to a customer in Venezuela. The national power company, Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG) Electrificaciï¿½n del Caroni, will use the Model 308 system on a Bell 407.
Air Methods Gets FAA STC For Wheeled Litter System
Air Method Products Div. has secured an FAA supplemental type certificate for a wheeled patient litter system for the Eurocopter EC135. Air Methods said it developed the new system in response to customer requests for a wider EMS stretcher. Traditional aircraft patient litters are about 18 in. wide; the Model 1275 litter is 24 in. wide and incorporates additional features such as folding side rails. Air Methods said it weighs 81 lb. The first aircraft equipped with the litter system has been delivered to Air Methods LifeNet Div. Six more EC135s are scheduled to undergo extensive completions over the next 12 months to include this new system. This litter will also be available for the EC145 in the near future, the company said.
TechTest Fields New SAR Decoder
TechTest, Ltd. is offering a new decoder system to detect, locate and verify signals from 406-MHz. emergency transmitters.
The Techtest 12-406-7 is designed to pick, track and verify signals from personal locator beacons, emergency position indicating radio beacons, emergency locator transmitters and automatically deployable ELTs.
The HR Smith company said the decoder is a self-contained battery portable unit, encompassing a complete decoder, display and portable antenna that is housed within a ruggedized travelling case of a size suitable for laptop operation. TechTest said the unit will receive and decode all types of search-and- rescue (SAR) 406-MHz. messages.
The 12-406-7 is designed to provide continuous monitoring of 406-MHz. frequencies and display of beacon hexadecimal codes. In the event of beacons incorporating GPS, TechTest said, the decoder will display the applicable lat/long coordinates. The unit will display up to a maximum of 10 individual beacon codes, including serial numbers, on an LCD graphic display, (black and white VGA), to enable rescue services to allocate resources accordingly.
New Year Brings New Names For Petroleum Helicopters, Offshore Logistics
Two major U.S. helicopter companies started off 2006 with new names.
Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.’s new moniker shouldn’t be too hard for industry folks to pick up. The company announced Jan. 1 that it was formally changing its name to PHI.
The name change is intended to better reflect the markets in which PHI participates beyond offshore oil and gas support. In addition to offering third-party aircraft maintenance services, PHI has a unit that provides helicopter and fixed-wing medical transportation services, both on an emergency basis and otherwise, throughout the United States.
Offshore Logistics, Inc., another leading provider of helicopter services as well as production management services to the offshore energy industry, has changed its corporate name to Bristow Group, Inc. In conjunction with this move, the company changed its common stock symbol on the New York Stock Exchange to "BRS" effective Feb. 6.
It operates under the names Air Logistics and Bristow Helicopters for helicopter services and Grasso Production Management for production management services. Those brands will continue to be used in their markets alongside the new Bristow name.
U.K. EH101s to Get Electro-Actuated Fly-By-Wire
AgustaWestland will begin introducing a third-generation fly-by-wire system into the EH101 Merlin HM Mk. 1 helicopters, replacing the existing hydraulic control inputs to the rotor system. The new helicopter electro actuation technology (HEAT) program follows the award of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus (MCSP) program last January and the successful completion of technology testing by AgustaWestland. Funding for the research and development phase of the HEAT program was funded jointly by the U.K. Defence Ministry and industry.
The HEAT program technology differs from other fly-by-wire systems in that it uses electro-actuation technology for all flying controls, including main and tail rotors. The brushless electric motor actuators incorporate quadraplex (four-lane) architecture with fail-safe technology that allows the system to function safely even after failure of two of the systems.
AgustaWestland’s managing director of military programs, Alan Johnston, said the EH101 "is the first helicopter in the world to utilize this advanced technology, which will bring significant operational and cost benefits to customers. We are pleased that by adopting the partnering principles being developed between AgustaWestland and the U.K. MoD, we will be able to introduce this important technology into the EH101 Merlin HM Mk.1 fleet." He said that the HEAT program is being funded through an innovative contracting strategy that builds on the partnered principles being developed between AgustaWestland and the defense ministry. Production costs of the HEAT system will be offset by future savings in cost of ownership that, in turn, will come from future Merlin support contracts.
Dhruvs Reported to Resume Flights After Accident
The fleet of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.’s Dhruv light helicopters resumed flying in mid-January after a grounding that followed a crash of one of the type late last year, according to the Press Trust of India
Quoting a statement from HAL, the media outlet on Jan. 19 said, "Clearance has been given to the operators to commence flying and helicopters have already started operations."
Dhruvs of the Indian Air Force, which called the aircraft the Advanced Light Helicopter, shortly thereafter joined practice for a flyby for celebrations of Republic Day Jan. 26. That date is the anniversary of the implementation of India’s constitution.
"The grounding of the helicopters was only a precautionary measure, as a positive step towards safety in the sky," the HAL statement reportedly said, adding that extensive checks had been carried out on all the helicopters in service and those in testing.
The investigation of the Nov. 29 crash involving a tail-rotor failure has apparently focused on flaws in one batch of tail rotors for the aircraft ("HAL Defends Dhruv After Crash," January 2006, page 9).
U.S. Navy Retires Sea Kings
The U.S. Navy has retired its H-3 Sea Kings, with the last two making their final operational flight on Jan. 27. The H-3, with a 45-year history with the Navy, has been replaced by the MH-60S Knighthawk. The last H-3s had been serving with Helicopter Sea Combat Sqdn. (HSC) 2. The first Knighthawks delivered to HSC-2 will be used for training, with HSC-2 designated as the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron for the MH-60.
CH/MH-47 Chinooks: Boeing is scheduled to deliver 12 MH-47Gs, four of eight remanufactured CH-47Fs and five of seven new-build CH-47Fs under Production Lot 3 this year.
CSAR-X: Sikorsky tapped Aerospace Integration Corp. to provide special-mission system engineering for its HH-92 entrant and to support operational test and evaluation and brought Rockwell Collins Simulation & Training Solutions on board as its team’s "training solutions" provider. Separately, AgustaWestland picked Air Methods Corp. to develop the multi-mission aeromedical interior for the Team US101 entrant. Team US101 consists of Lockheed Martin (prime contractor and systems integration), AgustaWestland (aircraft design) and Bell Helicopter (aircraft production.
RQ-5A: The Northrop Grumman RQ-5A Hunter UAV has completed a 10-day U.S. Army demonstration that tested its ability to use a new, adaptive joint-intelligence payload designed to allow the aircraft to share multiple types of communications simultaneously.
UH-1Y/AH-1Z: Two UH-1Ys and two AH-1Zs are to begin USMC operational evaluations this month at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif. Flight training on the aircraft began in January.
UH-60M: Sikorsky signed a $245-million, low-rate initial production contract late last year with the U.S. Army to build 22 UH-60Ms, with options for up to eight more. The first is expected to be delivered mid-year to Fort Hood, Texas for operational evaluation.
V-22: The USMC plans to stand up its first combat V-22 squadron March 3. Based at MCAS New River, N.C., Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Sqdn, 263 (VMM-263), the redesignated Marine Medium Helicopter Sqdn. 263 (HMM-263), is to receive nine Block-B MV-22s initially, with three more in about three years. The unit is comprised of 165 Marines and is scheduled to deploy in September 2007. It is commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Rock, one of the USMC’s most experienced V-22 pilots.
VH-71: Two aircraft are in testing: Civil 01 is conducting integration tests on the fully developed 2,500-shp. GE CT7-8E engines; Test Vehicle (TV) 1 is at NAS Patuxent River conducting pilot, maintainer, logistics and engineering familiarity training.
X-2: Sikorsky’s X-2 Technology demonstrator is scheduled to begin ground-testing runs during the early third quarter of this year..
R22: Robinson Helicopter delivered its 4,000th R22 by the end of 2005. Frank Robinson presented the keys of ship No. 4000 to John Skeen of Heliflite, Australia.
S-76: Sikorsky Aircraft has delivered the 600th S-76 since the first reached a customer in 1979. The 600th aircraft was delivered to an unnamed company. More than 220 operators in 59 countriesfly S-76s.
Bell 412 LUH to Benefit From Civil Upgrades
Bell Helicopter is submitting the 412EP as its entry in the U.S. Army’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) competition in a straight, off-the-shelf configuration. But if Bell is selected for full production, the LUH entrant would benefit under upgrade programs being designed for the commercial 412EP, according to Stephen Eppinette, Bell’s Army business development manager. Eppinette said Bell’s contender already meets or exceeds all requirements of the LUH request for proposals, including those for single-pilot VFR and IFR operations and redundant electrical, hydraulic and automated flight controls.
Bell is conducting design studies to introduce new technologies into the next generation of the 412EP, he said, which will then go into the production LUHs. These include a full-authority digital engine controller (FADEC) on its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3D engines. Bell is also committed to putting glass cockpits in all its commercial product lines; the LUH will have the glass-cockpit architecture developed for the 429 light twin, he said. Bell also hold STCs on equipment such as electronic flight displays, digital mapping, video downlink capability, forward-looking infrared sensors and Simplex fire-attack equipment that can be used to meet any future Army requirements or missions that may arise, he said.
A major mission of the LUH will be medevac, and the 412 has already proven its value as a medevac helicopter, according to Bell, which noted that Pakistan used its 16 army 412s to log 2,743 hr. in 4,580 missions to rescue 54,960 people following the Oct. 8, 2005 earthquake that killed more than 80,000 people.
Crestview Aerospace Corp. has been awarded a contract from Bell Helicopter to produce UH-1Y airframe structures over an eight-year period that it said is potentially worth more than $100 million. Production was to begin in January at Crestview’s Fairhope, Ala., plant, with first deliveries expected in July. Full-rate production of 15 units a year should start by 2008. Bell also awarded Crestview a contract for production of 30 Bell Model 210 tail-booms. It currently produces tail booms for the U.S. Army’s Model 406.
Longbow L.L.C., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $76-million increment as part of a $100-million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Apache Block 3 radar electronics units. Work will be split evenly between Baltimore and Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 30, 2008.
US Helicopter, a division of Bell Aerospace Services, Inc. and subsidiary of Bell Helicopter has received a contract from Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems for nine TH-1H training helicopters. These aircraft will be used to support U.S. Air Force undergraduate rotorcraft training at Fort Rucker, Ala. Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems is the prime contractor under the USAF flexible acquisition and sustainment program and is responsible for systems integration and program management. US Helicopter will refurbish, modify and flight test the aircraft at its Ozark, Ala., facility. US Helicopter also won a contract for 10 Huey 2 aircraft upgrade kits to support the U.S. State Dept.
Sikorsky Aircraft has received multiple contract awards for the UH/MH-60, including a $33.3-million modification to a firm, fixed-price contract for U.S. Navy MH-60S Knighthawks, a $17.85-million firm, fixed-price contract for rotor hub assemblies for the UH-60 Utility Black Hawk, a $341.3-million modification to a firm, fixed-price contract for UH-60Ls and UH-60Ms and a $37-million modification to a firm, fixed-price contract for UH-60L and HH-60M Black Hawks.
CJ Systems Orders Seven Eurocopter Helicopters, Opens New Florida Base
CJ Systems Aviation Group has picked up options on five EC135s and signed purchase agreements with American Eurocopter for two EC145s as part of its long-range fleet modernization plan. "With delivery of the new aircraft, CJ Systems will become the largest operator of EC135s in the United States, with a total of 41 in service," said the company’s president and COO, Larry Pietropaulo. "Having a large fleet of like aircraft allows for greater efficiencies in maintenance, training and customer service."
CJ’s senior vice president of air medical services, Ed Marasco, said the seven aircraft feature night-vision goggles and "represent significant safety enhancements. "CJ Systems has made these upgrades," he said, "to provide improved performance, faster transport capabilities, more extensive on-board medical equipment, and greatly reduced costs of operations and maintenance for our regional air medical clients."
Two of the new Eurocopters will be used for a new AirMedic base opened in Bonifay, Fla., its third serving the Florida panhandle. Its other bases are in Quincy and Perry, Fla. The Bonifay base has a BK117 transferred from Quincy, which is using a new EC135. The BK117 will be used until an EC135 is delivered to Bonifay later this spring, at which point it will be placed in CJ Systems’ backup fleet.
FH1100 to Open Flight Training Academy
FH1100 Manufacturing Corp. is expanding its factory flight training program, with plans to offer all-turbine ab initio training through commercial and CFI-I ratings.
Training will be done through the Van Nevel Helicopters Academy, which will soon be open to the public, according to Georges Van Nevel, president of the Century, Fla. aircraft maker. " All of our instruction will be in the Rolls-Royce 250 C-20B-powered FH1100 at a rate comparable to piston-engine trainers," he said. "Since we build the FH1100, we are in a unique position to offer it at a rate much lower than that of any commercial operator."
He said the training is targeted at aspiring professional pilots. The commercial pilot curriculum will include training in such areas as elevated platform operations for those with a goal of working in the offshore oil industry. External load training may also be provided at advanced levels.
"To help pilots build flight time," he said, "we intend to hire our graduates as instructors. Conceivably, a person enrolling at our school could go from zero time to getting his first job without ever having flown a piston helicopter."
Based in Florida’s Panhandle, the academy intends to offer on-site housing for students.
Odyssey Aviation Services Acquires Arizona Heliservices
Odyssey Aviation Services, out of Palm Springs, Calif., has purchased Mesa, Ariz.-based Arizona Heliservices, Inc., an FAA Part 133/135 helicopter operation performing sling, charter, movie, and tour flights out of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Arizona Heliservices CEO Tim Goulet said the company plans to open a base of operations in Palm Springs later this year to run executives back and forth from there to Los Angeles. The company flies Bell 206s, although it could acquire a twin-engine helicopter for the executive transport operation, he said.
AAG, Keystone Partner on Maintenance, Charter Ops
Associated Aircraft Group and Keystone Helicopter Corp., both wholly owned subsidiaries of Sikorsky Aircraft, are collaborating on a program to bring what they said will be "industry-leading integrated helicopter services" to the Philadelphia market. The companies plan to provide aircraft maintenance and charter helicopter service between Philadelphia and the Northeast U.S. corridor as well as flights to the Washington, D.C. area, and the North Carolina "Technology Triangle" of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh. The executive-configured Sikorsky S-76 will be operated by AAG.
Keystone, recently acquired by Sikorsky, is headquartered in suburban Coatesville, Pa. and is one of the largest and oldest helicopter services companies in the United States. Founded in 1953, Keystone operates a large technical-services depot and completion center near Philadelphia. AAG provides charter services, fractional aircraft sales, helicopter maintenance and management services from its facilities in Danbury, Conn. and Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
Helifor Joins Columbia Helicopters
Helifor of Canada will soon become part of Aurora, Ore.-based Columbia Helicopters. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based heavy-lift helicopter company is being purchased by Helifor International, a Columbia Helicopters affiliate created to meet the requirements for international acquisitions.
The Canadian company specializes in logging and heavy-lift operations using Vertol 234 Chinooks and 107s leased from Columbia helicopters, and has been operating as the helicopter logging arm of Vancouver-based International Forest Products (Interfor). Following the acquisition, it will continue to operate independently using its present management team, supporting Interfor and meeting other operational demands.
The acquisition is subject to approval by Canada’s Ministry of Transport.
India Aviation Authority Issues Weather Flight Warnings
India’s civil aviation authority has issued a warning to helicopter pilots to better assess weather conditions prior to take off. It comes after a helicopter carrying political VIPs flew into a mountain in bad weather, killing all on board. It precedes elections in five Indian states during which there is an increase in helicopters leased by politicians for electioneering. In warning pilots to obtain route weather forecasts, particularly in hilly areas where weather can change quickly, the circular also warned pilot that "pressure to complete the mission should not take precedence over safety."
The Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) International Assn. has increased its board of directors from seven to 10 members and voted in eight new members. The board now consists of: Jean Caron, EADS (secretary); Fabio Gamba, Boeing Research and Technology Europe; Peter Jenkins, QinetiQ; Bjorn Kullbert, Saab; Nick Miller, Thales (secretary); Torbjorn Rehn, TRC AB; Trevor Rogers, TGR Helicorp; Peter van Blyenburgh, Blyenburgh & Co. (president); Bernhard von Bothmer, UAV DACH, and John Walker, The Padina Group.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has named Thomas Connolly as the university’s new Daytona Beach, Fla. chancellor. He replaces Irwin Price, who is retiring.
Aerospace Industries Assn. has selected Ronald Sugar as its chairman for 2006. William Swanson, chairman and CEO of Raytheon Co., was selected as vice-chairman while John Douglass was re-elected as president and CEO. Sugar is chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman. Stephen Finger, president of Sikorsky, Dean Flatt, president, Defense and Space for Honeywell Aerospace and James Guyette, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America are also members of the 2006 Executive Committee.
Jeremy Awenat has returned to Sloane Helicopters to serve as managing director. Awenat had served at Sloane Helicopters as commercial manager, but left in 2001 to become managing director of the Specialist Aviation Services Group of companies.
The U.S. Marine Corps has nominated two rotary-wing aviation brigadier generals for promotion to major general. Brig. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Jr., chief of staff of the U.S. Southern Command, became a naval aviator in May 1976 and was assigned to Marine Attack Helicopter Sqdn. 169. In July 1983, he was designated a presidential command pilot at Marine Helicopter Sqdn. One (HMX-1), Quantico, Va. He served on aviator status until February 1993, when he attended the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy and was subsequently assigned to Allied Forces Southern Europe as amphibious planner. Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Three, became a naval aviator in August 1977 and was assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. He served as commander of Marine Aircraft Group 39 from 1999 to 2001.
Aircraft Belts, Inc. has hired Rene Sosa as purchasing manager and Crystal Knox as customer support. Sosa will be responsible for the procurement of raw materials, components, supplies, equipment, and services. Knox will be responsible for assisting customer service representatives in upholding customer service standards set forth by ABI.
March 1-3–Conklin & de Decker Advanced Helicopter Operators & Management Course, Wyndham Anatole Hotel, Dallas. Contact: David Wyndham, 508-255-5975; E-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.conklindd.com.
March 22-23–7th Russian Helicopter Society Forum, 2, Sokolnichesky Val, Moscow, 107113, Russia. Contact: Phone: 7-095-269 94 48 or 7-095-269 94 66; Fax: 095-264 55 71; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 23-25–17th Annual Women in Aviation Conference, "Reaching New Heights in Success." Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tenn. Contact: Connie Lawrence, 937-839-4647; E-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.wai.org
March 27-April 2–FIDAE: The International Air & Space Fair, Benitez International Airport, Santiago, Chile. Contact: Alisha O’Hanlon, 56-2-530-5750; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.fidae.cl.
May 3-5– European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (EBACE 2006). 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; Web: www.ebace.aero.
May 9-11–Flight Safety Foundation/NBAA 51st Annual Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, Chandler, Ariz. Contact: NBAA, 202-783-9283; Web: www.nbaa.org/events.
May 21–Imperial War Museum May Air Show, Duxford War Museum, Duxford, England. Contact: 44-1223-835-000; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: iwm.org.uk.
May 23-24–U.S. Forest Service National Wildland Firefighting Crew Resource Management Course, Boise, Idaho. Pre-registration required. Contact: Sheila Valentine, 208-387-5621; E-mail: email@example.com.