U.S. Army Choice of EADS LUH Bid Boosts Globalization
The U.S. Army's choice of a European-led team to provide its next-generation light utility helicopter is widely seen as a crucial validation of globalization in the rotorcraft industry. Two critical questions arise. First, can the Army afford the purchase of up to 352 aircraft envisioned when it named Eurocopter's EC145 the winner of a four-helicopter race? Second, will this Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) acquisition become a lever to force European nations to give U.S. manufacturers greater access in future competitions.
The Army's June 30 award to the EADS North America-led team of a $43-million contract--the first of a planned long series of contract options to produce and support the aircraft dubbed the UH-72A that could total $3 billion--hardly can be considered a pioneering move toward globalization. But the fact that the U.S. military, for the second time in two years, picked a non-U.S. aircraft for a critical mission sends a clear signal that the patron of the U.S. rotorcraft industry now welcomes all comers. (The Navy in early 2005 picked AgustaWestland's EH101 as the new U.S. presidential transport helicopter.)
Army officials repeatedly noted in the lead-up to the award that LUH funding was assured as part of a February 2004 plan to cancel the RAH-66 Comanche program and redirect its funding--provided the LUH contract was let before the end of Fiscal 2006. They go so far as to note that the funding plan has White House approval. (Bell Helicopter's ARH-70 armed reconnaissance helo is part of that plan.)
But the Army is under intense budget pressure, with its forces bearing much of the burden of combat operations in southwest Asia without getting much more than their traditional share of the defense budget pie. With Army leaders struggling to fund combat ops as well as "normal" activities, every budget line is under scrutiny, including the planned nine-year-plus funding for UH-72A production and fielding. The aircraft may be particularly vulnerable because it is intended primarily for domestic U.S. missions, not deployment overseas. Many are intended for National Guard units.
It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will point to the LUH and the earlier Navy VXX award in prodding other nations to open their markets more to U.S. rotorcraft makers. Italy, for instance, has faced international criticism for favoring Agusta in acquisitions.
The EADS team will be responsible for supporting the UH-72A to what may be an unprecedented extent. American Eurocopter will re-assemble and complete German-built EC145s in the UH-72A configuration at its facility in Columbus, Miss., which is to more than double in size. Plans call for Eurocopter to ramp up to build most of the aircraft in Columbus by about the 50th aircraft--in 2008's third quarter. Turbomeca USA must do the same for the Arriel 1E2 engines it will produce at its Grand Prairie, Texas plant. American Eurocopter will provide initial and transition training under its commercial curriculum at Grand Prairie; its academy there is also being expanded. CAE will provide flight training devices and other support for the LUH program.
Undoubtedly a key player in the selection, for its familiarity with the Army, was Sikorsky Aircraft, which will provide the contractor logistics support at the heart of the LUH program. According to the Army's solicitation, its flight crews after missions will "shut down the aircraft, tie down and secure the aircraft, lock the aircraft, install covers and call for fuel." All other support is the contractor's responsibility.
MD Head Blasts Army Choice, Reports Service Urged Withdrawal
MD Helicopters' acting chief executive officer, Lynn Tilton, called the U.S. Army's selection of the EADS North America team to provide and support the Light Utility Helicopter an "outrageous decision completely at odds with supporting American industry."
Tilton, whose investment firm Patriarch Partners bought a controlling interest in MD a year ago and claims to have invested about $200 million in turning the company around, said she was "profoundly disappointed" by the award to EADS. The evaluation and selection process "was seriously flawed and perfunctory, at best," Tilton argued. "The simple reality is that there was no attention to substantive matters."
MD, and its team of DynCorp International and GENCO Aviation Systems, had bid the MD902 Explorer. AgustaWestland bid its AW139 and Bell Helicopter its 412EP.
"I have no doubt" that the company met or exceeded all the Army's requirements, Tilton said. "We showed them we had 98 percent of the parts in house for the first eight helicopters, and the first one is off the production line."
She said Army officials had told MD they considered its bid high risk with regards to producibility of the bid aircraft and technical reasons, which she said were not specified initially. That the Army had technical concerns shocked company executives, she said. The company asked for a debriefing on its performance in the competition and received it in a meeting with Army officials July 10 at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. At press time, Tilton was still considering whether to file a protest of the contract award.
In reacting to the Army's decision, MD revealed that service officials had asked the company in March to withdraw from the LUH competition, "based upon the perception that it was, somehow, not ready to perform the task." Tilton said she responded with a 750-page paper addressing in detail the Army's concerns. MD obviously maintained its place in the competition. In May, Tilton said, the Army encouraged MD to raise its bid price, "which it did, as the Army said it did not want to award MD a contract that would not be lucrative for the company." She said the company increased its bid price by about 7.5 percent as a result.
Tilton said she and her investors remain committed to MD. If the company does not protest the LUH award, she said, the production-line positions reserved this year and next for LUH deliveries would be made available to commercial customers. "I'm not really worried about selling what we have," she said.
The company is continuing to work on setting up an FAA-certificated facility in Monterrey, Mexico to make fuselages for its single-engine aircraft. She said she hopes to have that facility up and running by November. It also is pursuing establishment of a production facility in China. Tilton said she planned to visit China in part to discuss that facility in late July.
FAA Signs Off on MD902 Upgrade
The FAA in early June approved a revision to the MD902 Explorers' type certificate modifying its NOTAR tail boom to give the aircraft greater directional control authority and allow it to operate at a max gross weight of 6,500 lb. at 5,000 ft. MD Helicopters pursued the change, which involves a 21-in. extension of the tail boom and the addition on the boom of vortex generators, to satisfy the U.S. Army Light Utility Helicopter competition's requirements. Despite its loss of that contract, MD plans to incorporate the changes in all new-production Explorers and is offering kits to add the mods to existing ones. MD is pursuing FAA approval by late this year for the aircraft to operate at 6,500 lb. at 7,000 ft. and fly in excess of 125 kt. at that weight and altitude.
Despite Loss, AgustaWestland May Gain From LUH Fight
AgustaWestland may derive some benefit from its unsuccessful fight for the U.S. Army's LUH contract. The competition kept the company in the U.S. government's spotlight following the 2005 win of its EH101 in the VXX U.S. presidential helicopter race. The Army's evaluations gave influential congressional staff members and Defense Dept. officials reason to get briefed on AgustaWestland and fly on the AW139 it was bidding for the LUH award. That effectively raised the company's visibility relative to other U.S. government rotorcraft requirements, particularly those of the U.S. Coast Guard and Air Force.
The 139 had been selected as the Coast Guard's medium-range search-and-rescue and interdiction helicopter under that service's Deepwater program under its previous AB139 designation. It was bounced from Deepwater last year, but AgustaWestland officials haven't given up hope of getting the aircraft restored to that role.
After it selects a winner of the Combat Search and Rescue-X competition to replace its aging HH-60 Pave Hawks, the Air Force must find a helicopter to replace UH-1 flying missile-site security around the U.S., VIP transport and continuity-of-government missions around Washington. AgustaWestland is likely to bid the AW139 for that Common Vertical Lift Support Platform competition.
Unmanned Border Flights Suspended
The April crash of a General Atomics Predator B flying in southern Arizona for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has halted the use of UAVs in border-patrol missions at a time when political scrutiny of U.S. border security is intensifying.
The Predator crashed 30 mi. north of Nogales, Ariz. in visual meteorological conditions at about 3:40 am local time on April 25. An IFR flight plan had been filed and activated for the public-use flight of the unregistered aircraft, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. Its investigators believe the ground operator inadvertently shut off the aircraft's fuel. The NTSB's preliminary report is available at www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20060509X00531&key=1. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. is among those faulting what they said is a rush to put UAVs in civil airspace before they have demonstrated an ability to operate safely there. The border agency plans to spend $6.5 million to acquire another Predator B (shown below) for border patrols shortly.
VIH Reorganizes, Re-Brands Units
The parent of Vancouver Island Helicopters and Cougar Helicopters expects to complete its transition to a organizational structure by this month that is intended to allow those and its other companies to work more closely with each, boosting the group's efficiency and customer service, the company said.
Under the Victoria, B.C.-based company's plan, its oldest unit, Vancouver Island Helicopters Ltd. (which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year) will become VIH Helicopters. VIH Logging, Ltd. and VIH International will combine to become the VIH Aviation Group. Western Airways will become VIH Cougar Helicopters. VIH Aerospace and Cougar Helicopters will retain their same company names.
As part of the reorganization, VIH is also launching new logos for all five companies to show that all divisions of the VIH Aviation Group fall under the same parent company.
The VIH Aviation Group as a whole operates a fleet of about 85 helicopters consisting of 14 varieties. Its fleets include Bell Helicopter 205A1s, 206Bs and 212s, Eurocopter AS350Bas and B2s and Super Pumas and Sikorsky S-61s, S-76s and S-92s. It also operates Kamov KA32A11BCs for heavy-lift, construction, heli-logging and firefighting work. The company is the first in Canada to operate the Sikorsky S-92.
The VIH Group services helicopter charter markets, including forestry, oil and gas, air ambulance services, offshore oil personnel transport, mining exploration and aerial construction. In addition to these services, the VIH Group operates a major helicopter repair center as well as an FBO corporate aircraft terminal offering fuel services at the Victoria International Airport.
FAA Grounds L.A. Sheriff's UAV Plan, Probes Demo Flight
The U.S. FAA put a stop to a Los Angeles-area law officer's plan to use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor criminal activity after a dispute arose over whether he had approval to fly the aircraft in Southern California's busy airspace.
Members of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca's department have been working for several years with the defense contractor Octatron to use its SkySeer UAV to spot and track criminal activity. The SkySeer has a 6.5-ft. wingspan and an endurance of up to 1 hr. at its cruise speed of 20 kt.
The Sheriff's Dept. conducted a demonstration of the system for the news media in late June, using the SkySeer to beam video images to the ground from an altitude of 250 ft.
The flight "definitely surprised" FAA officials, an agency official said. Agency officials claim they told the sheriff's staff the department could not fly the drone without first obtaining a certificate of authorization from the FAA.
The FAA is investigating whether the sheriff's department should face disciplinary action for the demonstration flight. Agency officals said they will not authorize further use of the drones until the investigation is over.
Enstrom Signs New Brazil Dealer
Enstrom Helicopter Corp. has signed Bringer Corp. as the newest member of its worldwide dealership network, focusing on sales in Brazil.
Bringer was established in the U.S. in 1983, and has been operating in Brazil since 1989. The company has several offices throughout Brazil, and operates two Boeing 767-300 freighters and a twin-engine Piper Seneca in a variety of roles. It also recently took delivery of an Enstrom 480B to support the Enstrom dealership. Bringer's parent company, Overcom Aero Products, supplies aircraft parts throughout the Brazil.
Bringer's sales office for Enstrom product line is in the heart of the city of Sao Paulo. Bringer also has a partnership with Helipark to offer maintenance and service on Enstrom aircraft. Helipark is Latin America's largest specialized service center for helicopters, and its mechanics are certified on both airframe and component overhaul for Enstrom and other major helicopter manufacturers.
"We're excited to be a part of the Enstrom team," said Ricardo Piccoli, Bringer's chief pilot and sales manager. "The Brazilian market is very suitable for the Enstrom product line," particularly for customers stepping up from a piston to an entry-level turbine.
Brazil is among the world's top helicopter markets. Of its nearly 1,000 civilian helicopters, roughly 455 are flying in the state of Sao Paulo. Of those, about 380 are in Sao Paulo city (which is the capital of the state). In the 45-sq.-mi. area of Sao Paulo Executive's Quadrilateral Zone, there are often 20-30 helicopters flying at the same time. Operations there have reached a peak of 300 in a single day.
AgustaWestland, CAE Open Training Center
AgustaWestland has opened its new A. Marchetti Training Academy in Sesto Calende, Italy. The academy is intended to provide its customers with a wide range of commercial and military helicopter training services. The new academy will allow AgustaWestland to offer its growing customer base a wider range of training services, particularly for the A119, A109, Grand and AW139 helicopters. The company said it would utilize the latest training technologies to improve safety, enhance pilot capabilities and to reduce cost of ownership.
Within the academy is Rotorsim, the joint venture between AgustaWestland and CAE. Rotorsim is operating a CAE-built A109 simulator. The partners said the simulator is the first A109 device to achieve Level D-equivalent certification and has been declared ready for training. The companies said they also would add an AW139 full-flight simulator featuring CAE's Medallion-S visual system. It will be used to provide training for a range of operations, including search and rescue, offshore, emergency medical services, and night vision. The academy in Sesto Calende and the Customer Training Centre in Yeovil, the United Kingdom, are AgustaWestland's primary training establishments.
Jury Deadlocks In Trial Of Alleged Katrina Helicopter Shooter
A New Orleans jury reportedly could not reach a verdict in the case of a man accused of shooting a pistol at a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flying rescue and relief missions after Hurricane Katrina last September. The jury did convict the man of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, prosecutors will consider a retrial for Wendell Bailey, a 20-year-old New Orleans resident, on a charge of attempted destruction of an aircraft. The jury deliberated for nearly two days before U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon accepted the deadlock June 22.
Bailey faces up to 10 years in prison for arms possession.
He was arrested Sept. 5 by federal agents who said they saw him shoot at the helicopter as he stood outside an apartment.
Officials said Bailey had been released Aug. 24, five days before Katrina struck, after serving nine months in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He reportedly had been previously convicted of drug violations.
Global Vectra to Buy 412s, EC155s
The Delhi, India-based offshore logistics company Global Vectra Helicorp plans to grow its fleet more than twofold in the next 2.5 years to meet growing demand for offshore support.
The growth plan calls for the addition of Eurocopter EC155B1s, among other aircraft, to Global Vectra's fleet of Bell Helicopter 412s. The company operates 12 aircraft now. It plans to add 17 more by the end of 2009.
Global Vectra also plans to set up maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Juhu airport in Mumbai.
The company serves India's offshore energy industry, transporting crews and cargo for oil and gas companies to oil platforms 50-100 nm off the coast.
The sector is booming, as it is in other oil- and gas-producing regions of the world. The boom is driven by high oil prices that in mid-July topped $75 a barrel.
Of particular interest to energy companies is greater exploration of deep waters further offshore. This is one reason Global Vectra is opting for the technologically advanced EC155B1. Its long range is suited for more distant offshore operations.
Global Vectra recently filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Board of India to make an initial public offering of its stock.
Part of the proceeds of that offering would finance the acquisition of four Bell 412s and two EC155B1s.
The company plans to set up an MRO facility by the end of fiscal 2007 that includes an avionics shop at the Juhu airport. It also plans to construct a hangar on India's eastern coast. Global Vectra said it has received approval to use of land at the Juhu airport.
India's Pawan Hans to Set Up Service Center
India's state-owned operator Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd. is setting up what it says is a state-of-the-art regional maintenance, repair and overhaul centre in Mumbai.
In addition to serving its own fleet of 35 helicopters and state government rotorcraft, the new center at the Juhu airport will provide complete servicing Eurocopter's products in Southeast Asia.
"The center will cater to any helicopter around the globe," said Capt. V. K. Verma, Pawan Hans western region's general manager (operations) told the Indo-Asian News Service. "Besides Pawan Hans' existing clients, including Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and several state governments, we will provide services to external agents
He said the company has secured an exclusive contract with Eurocopter to service its aircraft in the Southeast Asian region. Pawan Hans plans to add seven more Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin helicopters to its existing fleet of 35 rotorcraft by early 2008. The first two aircraft are expected to be delivered in March and April next year.
The company also is looking to increase its presence in India's growing religious tourism sector. It recently signed an agreement with the Gujarat government to start helicopter services to Dwarka temple and other religious sites in the state. Pawan Hans already operates regular flights to Kedarnath Shrine from Augustmuni. Pawan Hans claims it has an 80-percent-plus share of India's helicopter operations, engaging in regular passenger and charter flights and offshore support.
Feds Probe Cause Of Chicago F.D. Helicopter Crash
Investigators are trying to determine what caused a Chicago Fire Dept. helicopter to make a crash landing June 30.
The Bell UH-1H, N681FD, had been dispatched to the scene of the drowning in Lake Michigan. It departed the Chicago Fire Dept. Air Sea Rescue Heliport with a pilot, co-pilot and two divers on board at about 11:50 am local time. While cruising at 1,200 ft. msl, the pilot experienced a vibration and a slight right yaw, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report (www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20060711X00918&key=1). After another round of vibration and yawing, the pilot headed for an open area on shore.
During the landing flare, left yaw increased and the aircraft rolled over at about 12:00. The pilot and divers suffered minor injuries. The co-pilot was uninjured. Investigators found the No. 1 tail-rotor driveshaft hanger assembly had separated, and the machine bolt that holds it together was not installed with the required cotter pin.
India Plans Move To Satellite-Based Navigation by 2010
India's space agency and airports authority are teaming up to shift that nation to a satellite-based air traffic navigation system within four years.
The agency plans to implement the satellite-based navigation system throughout Indian airspace for civil aviation in the coming years, said the ISRO chairman recently.
Speaking at an industry meeting on satellite navigation in Bangalore on July 4, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation GMadhavan Nair, said his agency will work with the Airports Authority of India to implement the satellite-based navigation system by 2010.
The system, called GAGAN, consists of a space segment and a ground segment for navigation. This project was being developed to provide accurate signals based on GPS. Navigation software and communication links had been installed and preliminary checks had been just concluded, Nair said.
Nair said that the government has approved a project to implement an Indian Regional Navigation System (IRNSS) over India in the next five years. The IRNSS will consist of a constellation of eight satellites and a large ground segment. The entire IRNSS system will be under Indian control. The space segment, ground segment and user receivers will be built in India, he said.
Eurocopter Sets Up Shop in India, Russia
Bidding to strengthen its presence in India and its position in competitions for defense work, Eurocopter plans to set up a new subsidiary there and is looking into supplying 10-tonne-class helicopters to India's armed forces.
Eurocopter is participating in an Indian competition for light helicopters with its AS550C Fennec. It also is discussing a long-term production collaboration agreement with India's aerospace industry regarding a 10-tonne-class helicopter requirement for India's armed forces.
The Franco-German consortium is considering setting up a subsidiary in Bangalore and hiring a qualified local workforce quickly.
In Russia, Eurocopter is staking a claim to being the first Western aircraft manufacturer to implement a full-scale maintenance center to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul services for its products flying in Russia. The facility is at Ostafievo Airport near Moscow.
On June 22, an agreement to set up the maintenance center was signed at Eurocopter's headquarters in Marignane, France by Philippe Harache, executive vice president of the Eurocopter Group, and Andrey Ovcharenko, general director of Gazpromavia.
This maintenance center would be the first in Russia to be certified under European standards, which will be implemented by Eurocopter, according to the company. This would allow the provision of MRO services of the level required by aircraft flying under European airworthiness and type certificates.
The agreement came two months after the official inauguration of Eurocopter Vostok, a 100% subsidiary of Eurocopter.
"Implementation of this first maintenance center highlights the priority given to our Russian customers," said Jérôme Noulens, CEO of Eurocopter Vostok.
By the end of 2006, Eurocopter Vostok plans to open two more maintenance facilities in cooperation with local partners--in St. Petersburg and in the Tumen region--to provide MRO services for Eurocopter helicopters.
The next phase of the after-sales support improvement program in Russia will result in the establishment of three additional service centers in 2007.
HAI Fields Database For Finding Helos in a Crisis
The Helicopter Assn. International has declared its first-responder helicopter database operational.
The group began developing the searchable online database after last year's Hurricane Katrina to simplify the acquisition and dispatch of rescue and relief rotorcraft to disaster sites. It is designed to allow emergency response agencies to identify, locate, and coordinate helicopters with specific capabilities quickly in the event of a catastrophic event.
The group is encouraging helicopter operators worldwide, both its members and non-members, to participate in the free, voluntary program. The First Responder Program is designed to take full advantage of the benefits and capabilities of helicopters to assist rescue efforts during times of emergency or crisis.
The First Responder concept is not new. HAI has been engaged in talks with various government agencies for years in an effort to design, develop, and implement a usable "First Responder database," a system that would allow emergency response agencies to identify, locate, and coordinate helicopter assets quickly in the event of a catastrophic event.
Malaysian Helicopter Service Orders S-76C++s
Sikorsky Aircraft has signed a contract to build three S-76C++TM helicopters for Malaysian Helicopter Service for use in the offshore oil market by Exxon Mobil.
The new contract, which includes a complete support package, signifies the first aircraft replacement by Sikorsky for Exxon Mobil in the Malaysian region in 14 years.
MHS will operate and maintain the helicopters. The helicopters are scheduled for delivery in July 2007.
"MHS recognizes the safety and reliability of the S-76, having been an operator of this model for a significant period of time," said Daniel Zsebik, director, commercial sales for Sikorsky. "These helicopters perform more than one duty; they are a national asset to the country in which they operate."
Aircraft Spruce Signs Distributer Deal With 3M
Corona, Calif.-based Aircraft Spruce & Specialty has signed a distributorship agreement with 3M, entitling them to offer all 3,000 products manufactured by 3M. Aircraft Spruce already stocks over 250 3M products that can be utilized in various levels of aviation activity. Other items can be special ordered. The general categories include: abrasives, adhesives, automotive products, cleaners & lubricants, consumer packaged products, electrical products, facility care products, fasteners, matting & treads, safety products and tapes.
Through the end of August, 2006, Aircraft Spruce will also be offering a special "3M Bucket Promotion" that includes the following products: Super 77 Multipurpose Adhesive, Adhesive Remover, Scotch-Weld Threadlocker 3494, Scotch-Weld Threadlocker 3496, Scotch-Brite Hand Pads 7447, Concrete Repair 600 Self-Leveling Kit, Performance Plus Duct Tape 8979 and General Purpose Masking Tape 203. The array of 3M products is packaged in a reusable 5-gallon bucket for shipment. The price for the eight products is $66.50, a 33 percent savings over individual purchases.
Aircrane Hovers Over Toronto's CN Tower . . . Again
An S-64 has once again hovered over that Canadian icon, Toronto landmark and engineering wonder--the CN Tower.
The aircraft, on June 25, joined the celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of what is billed as the world's tallest building and freestanding structure.
The aircraft helped the CN Tower claim that title when it was built in 1976 by lifting the last section of the antenna that tops the tower.
The aircraft then was a Sikorsky product. For the anniversary, Erickson Air-Crane dispatched one of its Aircranes to Toronto. There at 6:45 pm on June 25, the giant bird hovered for 2 min. to re-enact the topping of the tower.
The Aircrane then landed on the grounds of the CN Tower, where it was open to visitors the next day.
In addition to its status as an iconic symbol of tourism for Toronto, the CN Tower serves as a critical telecommunications hub for North America and world-class entertainment and dining destination.
Pilot Sentenced Over Alps Crash
A court in Austria has handed down a 15-month suspended prison sentence to a helicopter pilot for an accident in which nine Germans died.
His helicopter dropped a concrete block on a cable car last September in Soelden, a ski resort in the Tirol.
A mechanical hook beneath the helicopter let go of a tub carrying the block, which fell on the ski lift.
Three adults and six children died as some were hurled out of gondolas.
At the opening of the trial, Markus Jaeger, 36, said he was "very, very sorry about what happened." Jaeger had faced up to five years in prison.
He told the court in Innsbruck he denied he may have pushed a wrong button by mistake, allowing a mechanical hook beneath the helicopter to release a tub weighing more than 1500 lb used to transport concrete.
The tub hit the cable car below, sending one of its gondolas plunging 100 ft on to a rocky mountainside. Other victims were catapulted out of two other gondolas.
"Boneyard" Super Stallion Returns to Flight Status
The first U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion to be brought out of the desert and restored was returned to flight status MCAS New River, N.C.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Sqdn. 464 (HMH-464), the "Condors," received the aircraft.
This Super Stallion helicopter and two others spent more than 11 years in storage before arriving at the Naval Air Systems Command Depot, Cherry Point, N.C., last August from the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Ariz. They arrived in large pieces on two Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft.
"Our heavy lift CH-53E squadrons have been in high demand for many years, and this project will help alleviate the growing strain on our shrinking inventory of CH-53E helicopters." said Marine Col. Paul Croisetiere, the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopter program manager.
Of the eight aircraft originally in storage in Arizona, two are still in rework and five still in storage at AMARC.
Collins to Provide CH-53K Avionics
Sikorsky Aircraft has picked Rockwell Collins to provide the avionics management system for the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter it is developing for the U.S. Marine Corps under a $3-billion, sole-source contract.
The selection came after an intense competition involving the world's major avionics makers. "It was clear Rockwell Collins' bid provided the best value and lowest risk for our Marine Corps customer," said Dave Haines, Sikorsky's CH-53K program manager. The avionics maker is to provide a glass cockpit to improve pilots' situational awareness and ability to operate in a joint environment. It also is to reduce logistics and operating costs, key objectives of the program. The CH-53K avionics management system is to consist of five fully integrated, active-matrix, liquid-crystal, multifunction displays, dual integrated processing cabinets, dual control-display units, and dual data-transfer units. The integrated cockpit Rockwell Collins proposed would include fully integrated primary flight instrumentation, a crew alerting system, display and vehicle management, civil and military flight management, and navigation and communication equipment management.
Self-Deployment Not Without A Hitch
One of two U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys on a mission to self-deploy to the United Kingdom took an unscheduled detour to Iceland after suffering compressor stalls over the Atlantic.
The V-22 contractor team of Bell Helicopter and Boeing wanted the aircraft at the Farnborough Air Show to show off to potential international customers. The Marines took the opportunity of that request to refine refueling and self-deployment techniques and procedures for the Osprey. Top Marine officials have committed to deploying V-22s to combat in Iraq within about a year, and the service is mulling whether they will be transported there or deploy on their own. So the visit to Farnborough and the Royal International Air Tattoo that preceded it became a showcase for that deployment capability.
Transcontinental flights from MCAS New River, N.C., where Marine Tilt-Rotor Operational Test and Evaluation Sqdn. 22 (VMX-22) is based, to NAS Miramar, Calif. and refuelings on the way proceeded without a hitch.
But after the aircraft and their KC-130 tanker departed Goose Bay, Canada for a planned 9-hr. flight to Farnborough on July 10, one of the aircraft experienced compressor stalls in its right Rolls-Royce AE1107C turbofan engine. About 4 hr. into the flight, the crew made a precautionary landing at NAS Keflavik, Iceland. A spare engine was shipped there for changeout.
The other Osprey continued uneventfully to Farnborough.
Pentagon Allows Bell to Keep Troubled H-1 Program
The U.S. Navy planned to award a low-rate initial production 3 contract for the U.S. Marine Corps' H-1 upgrade program to Bell Helicopter last month, but it will keep a close watch on the effort and develop a risk-management plan for the program.
The service's plans come on the heels of a June 22 decision by Pentagon acquisition chief Ken Krieg to permit the H-1 program to continue, provided the Navy resolves various program issues, including possibly developing alternatives to the program, according to Geoff Fein of our sister publication, Defense Daily.
A Navy official told Fein the alternatives could range from a change in the upgrade plan to looking at another helicopter.
Bell is pressing ahead with the current program, noting that Krieg's acquisition decision memorandum "calls for the Navy to `continue with the program'." The company maintains it has made significant progress on the H-1 program both before and after Krieg's review. Bell said there are 12 H-1 helicopters on the assembly line at its Amarillo, Texas plant and it will deliver four of them this year.
The program calls for the remanufacture of 180 AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters and 100 UH-1N Huey utility helicopters into four-bladed AH-1Z and UH-1Y models.
Boeing Delivers First New-Build Chinook to U.S. Army
Boeing in mid-June delivered the first of 452 new-production CH-47F Chinooks to the U.S. Army. The aircraft features a newly designed, modernized airframe and a Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System advanced digital cockpit. The new airframe uses modern manufacturing techniques that replace multiple-piece, sheet-metal structures with single-piece machined components. The new components are intended to reduce operating and support costs, improve the aircraft's structural integrity and extend the Chinook's service life.
The advanced avionics are designed to provide improved situational awareness for flight crews with an advanced digital-map display and a data-transfer system that allow storing of pre-flight and mission data. The aircraft's BAE Digital Advanced Flight Control System replaces a legacy analog system. Its improved survivability features include Common Missile Warning and Improved Countermeasure Dispenser Systems. "This aircraft, delivered on cost and on schedule, marks the beginning of a long production run that is a keystone in Army Aviation's transformation," said Col. Tim Crosby, U.S. Army Cargo Helicopter program manager.
Powered by two 4,868-hp. Honeywell engines, the CH-47F can reach speeds greater than 175 mph and transport payloads weighing more than 21,000 lb.
Canada Turns to Boeing for Rotorcraft Lift
Canadian defense officials are turning to Boeing to quickly deliver additional heavy-lift rotorcraft capability.
Canadian officials determined that Boeing was the only vendor that could deliver the needed aircraft "in a timely manner,'' Canada's Public Works Dept. said in a statement. The department oversees federal acquisitions in Canada. Other manufacturers have 30 days to challenge the July 5 finding that favors Boeing.
Canada wants the helicopters within four years.
Canada's defense ministry on June 28 unveiled an estimated Canadian $4.7 billion project to acquire a fleet of 16 medium-to heavy-lift helicopters. The program is part of a plan to strengthen Canada's military and reinstates what defense officials called a vital capability that aircrews and soldiers have done without for over a decade.
"This government's new Canada First Defence Strategy promises to rebuild the Canadian Forces which had been underfunded, undermanned and under-equipped for more than a decade," said National Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor. "Mobility is an essential capability that the men and women of the Canadian Forces need to get the job done."
Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, noted that emergency response personnel work side by side with Canadian Forces in the event of natural or man-made disasters. "These helicopters will mean quicker responses to emergencies throughout Canada," Day said, "and will help protect Canadians at home and abroad while enhancing our capacity to better cooperate with our allies in the fight against terrorism."
U.S. Navy Starts Retiring S-3B, Clearing Way for MH-60Rs
The U.S. Navy recently disbanded an S-3B Viking anti-submarine warfare squadron, a move that heralds the transition of some of that aircraft's former duties to the service's new MH-60R helicopters.
The service on June 15 disestablished Sea Control Sqdn. 33 (VS-33), the "Screwbirds," one of five remaining S-3 Viking squadrons. "The squadrons are going away, because the aircraft is going away," said Lt. Michael F. Parker, pilot for VS-33. "The aircraft was developed back in the 1960s, and the technology is approaching the end of its life cycle."
The MH-60R Knighthawk will share the the Viking's various anti-submarine warfare capabilities with the F/A-18 Super Hornet . Both are capable of aerial refueling, dropping sonar buoys and painting surface pictures via radar.
"The capabilities of the sailors here will carry on to other platforms," said Lt. Cmdr. Jon R. Labruzzo, executive officer of VS-33. "All good things come to an end, and now it's time for more good things to come about." VS-33 was commissioned April 1, 1960, as Air Anti-Submarine Sqdn. 33 (VS-33) in San Diego. The unit originally flew the Grumman S-2 Tracker. VS-33 introduced the S-3A Viking in 1975, and in 1991, they transitioned to the S-3B.
A Safer, Lighter Phrog
This is not your father's Phrog...well it could be...but recent improvements have gone a long way in improving the safety and payload of the 40-year-old Battle Phrog.
Responding to warfighter needs, the CH-46E Sea Knight (aka the "Phrog") program office, PMA 226, located at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., is working on several programs aimed at improving the safety and recovering the payload of the Phrog.
"New lightweight armor, new pilot/co-pilot crashworthy seats and various hydraulic, avionic and structural improvements, will reduce the Phrog's weight by more than 700 lb over the next three years," ," said Paul Fitzgerald, the assistant program manager of systems engineering. "Additional weight-removal options, such as removing obsolete cockpit vibration absorbers, can be
done to offset the weight gains made with any future modifications.
"During the Vietnam era, the Sea Knight was outfitted with heavy, metallic armor plates around the engine and the flight control system to protect the aircraft from small arms fire. In 2003, lighter weight armor became an item of congressional interest and the Phrog received funding in a markup in the 2004 Defense Appropriations Act," added Fitzgerald.
Sgt. Edmund Rastrelli of Marine Medium Helicopter Sqdn. 261 (HMM -261) said one piece of new lightweight engine armor panel saves about 40 lb alone.
Marines Praise Russian-Developed Turbine Engine Blade Coating
U.S. Marine flight and maintenance crews are singing the praises of a new engine blade coating derived from the technology of an old foe, the Soviet Union.
Known as TiN, the coating is an erosion-resistant, multi-layer coating comprised of titanium nitride and other elements that is applied to compressor blades within gas turbine engines. Right now, somewhere in the harsh and unforgiving desert of Iraq or the Horn of Africa, a CH-53E with a General Electric T64 or a CH-46E with a General Electric T58 is delivering a heavy but critical load of supplies, taking troops from one hot spot to another or performing a casualty evacuation. The aircraft are flying more because of the coating.
"This technology more than doubled the reliability of the T64 engines operating in our deployed CH-53E helicopters," said Stoney MacAdams assistant program manager for the Heavy Lift Helicopter Program Office. "This has become the standard for measuring the success of technology transition in terms of relevancy, coordination and timing."
Originally developed by Russians to prevent turbine blade erosion on their Mi-24 and Mi-28 Hind attack helicopters, this erosion coating is comprised of layers with both hard and elastic properties.
Attack--Turkey has short-listed South Africa's Denel, competing the Rooivalk, and AgustaWestland, competing the A129 Mangusta, for its Tactical Reconnaissance & Attack Helicopter ATAK program to acquire up to 50 attack helicopters. Eurocopter and Kamov were eliminated from contention.
Attack/Utility--The U.S. Defense Dept.'s Defense Acquisition Board is scheduled to conduct another review of the U.S. Marine Corps/Bell Helicopter H-1 upgrade program of AH-1 Cobras and UH-1 Hueys. The board has directed the U.S. Navy to assess possible alternatives to the program.
Heavy-Lift--The U.S. Marine Corps plans this year to retrieve two more retired CH-53Es from the aircraft "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. for refurbishment and return to flight status. One recently was returned to flight status and two are in refurbishment. The Corps is critically short of heavy-lift capability.
Utility--Sikorsky was expected to unveil its plans for a simplified, lower-cost International Black Hawk version of the H-60/S-70 at the Farnborough Air Show last month. The aircraft would be targeted for indigenous production by non-U.S. customers as a sales enticement.
Communications--AgustaWestland says it has completed trial installation testing of the Bowman radio system in U.K. Royal Air Force EH101 Merlin HC Mk.3 and Chinook HC Mk.2/2A under a contract from Bowman prime General Dynamics UK. The helicopters are the first rotorcraft fitted with the new VHF radio system, which is based on ITT Defense SINCGARS radio used in the United States and elsewhere.
Armed Recon--Bell Helicopter has picked FLIR Systems to provide its Brite Star 2 airborne stabilized multi-sensor system as the target acquisition sensor suite for the U.S. Army's ARH-70A armed reconnaissance helicopter.
Attack--Russia's defense ministry reportedly plans is to purchase 67 Rosvertol Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters in the next few years, including seven by year's end.
Special Ops--The U.K. Defence Ministry and Thales are again discussing options for regaining avionics certification of eight Royal Air Force HC3 special operations Chinooks that have been grounded since 1999. Thales is proposing its TopDeck integrated helicopter avionics system as a solution.
Utility--New Zealand has authorized its defense ministry to open negotiations with NH Industries on the purchase of up to eight NH90s to replace its fleet of 14 Bell UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters.
Future Lynx to Boost Performance, Maintainability
AgustaWestland and a team of suppliers are to provide up to 70 upgraded Lynx helicopters that should boost the vertical-lift performance and reliability of the British Army Air Corps and Royal Navy.
The 1-billion-pound-Sterling ($1.8-billion) contract for Future Lynx aircraft was no surprise. The U.K. Defence Ministry last year named AgustaWestland its preferred supplier on the program to provide a common, marinized airframe for both services--40 battlefield reconnaissance versions for the army and 30 surface combatant variants for the navy.
Improvements are to include a new tail rotor and two 1,361-shp CTS-800-4 engines from LHTEC, the partnership between Honeywell and Rolls-Royce, that are expected to boost performance significantly over the Rolls Gems that currently power British Lynxes. The new engines are expected to improve hot/high performance and reduce fuel consumption.
Based on the Super Lynx 300 already flying in Malaysia, Oman and Thailand, the Future Lynx is to improve maintainability and logistics through extensive use of monolithic panels, such as that shown above for the tail boom. They are expected to cut parts counts by up to 80 percent compared to current Super Lynx structures.
First flight is slated for 2009, with the aircraft is to enter service with the British Army in 2014.
Sikorsky has won a maximum $224.4 million, firm, fixed-price contract for spare parts to support aircraft platforms for federal civilian agencies by the U.S. Defense Supply Center following a sole-source competition with one solicited and one responded exercising option year one.
Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, N.Y., received an order not to exceed $41.9 million from the U.S. Naval Inventory Control Point against a basic ordering agreement for procurement of 12 weapons-replaceable assemblies for the U.S. Navy MH-60R helicopter. Work will be performed in Owego, N.Y., and is expected to be completed by January 2008. The company also recently won a $23.8-million, firm, fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract from the Naval Inventory Control Point for the purchase of spares for the common cockpit for that helicopter. One quarter of that work will be performed in Owego, N.Y. and one quarter in Farmington, N.Y., with the remaining half to be done in Salt Lake City; it is expected to be completed by June 2008.
Goodrich Corp. of Monroe, N.C., was awarded a $5.7-million, firm, fixed-price contract by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal for generators for the CH-47. The work is to be done in Pirstone Bucks, United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed by August 2009.
Honeywell Defense and Space Electronic Systems in Clearwater, Fla. received a $5.16-million, firm, fixed-price contract modification from the U.S. tri-service EGI office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio exercising an option to purchase 66 embedded global positioning system/inertial navigation system (EGIs) production install units for the CH-47. The work is to be complete by June 2008.
Raytheon Integrated Defense Services of Portsmouth, R.I., has been awarded an order not to exceed $45 million from the U.S. Naval Inventory Control Point against a basic ordering agreement contract for procurement of six complete MH-60R systems and six weapons replaceable assemblies for that U.S. Navy helicopter. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, R.I., and is expected to be completed by September 2007.
AgustaWestland has awarded Smiths Aerospace a contract to implement its SDS-5000 large-area cockpit display system on 70 of the U.K. Defence Ministry's new Future Lynx. Smiths in Cheltenham, U.K., will manufacture the display suite with deliveries to AgustaWestland to start in 2008.
Northern Airborne Technology Ltd. of Kelowna, B.C., Canada, has transferred Mitch Stinson, formerly vice president of engineering at NAT Kelowna, to the NAT Seattle facility, where he has taken the role of vice president and general manager. He is responsible for the overall operation of that location. Maurice LeNoble has assumed the position of vice president of engineering at NAT Kelowna. He is responsible for all functions of the Engineering and Research & Development departments. Gary Cooper has accepted the position of Contracts Manager at the NATKelowna location. He brings several years of experience in aerospace contract management and negotiations to NAT. NAT is a leader in communications equipment for special mission aircraft applications.
Unison Industries has appointed Doug Folsom vice president-operations, effective immediately. In this role, Folsom will be responsible for Unison's global supply chain, including its nine manufacturing and service facilities in the United States and abroad. These sites include Dayton, Ohio; Holtsville, N.Y.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Norwich, N.Y.; Rockford, Ill.; Wichita, Kan.; and locations in Canada, Mexico and Thailand. Folsom brings more than 15 years of operations and management experience to Unison.
Matthew Grieve has been named Mechanical Apprentice of the Year at Bristow Helicopters at an early stage in his training. The 22-year-old apprentice from Insch, near Aberdeen, Scotland, already has an HND in aeronautical engineering and is now working towards achieving his Civil Aviation Authority license, as he continues his four-year apprenticeship. His father, Andy Grieve, is a Bristows senior engineer in Lagos, Nigeria.
Onset Computer Corp., a leading supplier of battery-powered data loggers and weather stations, has named Gregg Daly as director of sales. He brings more than 20 years of sales management experience to Onset's senior management team, having most recently served as the company's sales manager.
Dallas Airmotive has named Nandu Madireddi as its senior vice president of business operations. "Nandu comes to us with many years of international general business, P&L operations and aviation leadership experience," said Dallas Airmotive President and CEO, Hugh McElroy. "We are excited about having him onboard and looking forward to the improvements he will bring to business operations at Dallas Airmotive, Premier Turbines and H+S Aviation." He joins Dallas Airmotive after a 19-year career of increasing responsibility at United Technologies with Otis and Pratt & Whitney. At Otis, Madireddi held country management positions in Asia. In 1999, he moved to Pratt & Whitney as director, Global Airfoil Repair, a P&L management role for Pratt & Whitney's multi-site full-service turbine airfoil refurbishment network serving major airlines worldwide. Most recently, he was an executive at Pratt & Whitney's commercial aftermarket business.
Aug. 11-13--Abbotsford Airshow,
Abbotsford International Airport, Abbotsford, B.C., Canada. Contact: 604-852-8511; Web: abbotsfordairshow.com.
Aug. 21-23--CASA/FAA Suspected Unapproved Parts Conference,
Hilton Hotel Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Contact: Conference Secretariat, 61-2-6217-1316; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.casa.gov.au/sup2006.
Sept. 16-18--National Guard Assn. of the United States 128th General Conference and Exhibition,
Albuquerque, N.M. Contact: Web: www.ngaus.org.
Sept. 25-27--2006 Air Medical Transport Conference,
Phoenix Civic Plaza, Phoenix, Ariz. Contact: Fax: 703-836-8920; Web: www.aams.org.
Oct. 27-28--Professional Helicopter Pilots Assn.'s second Human Factors Safety Conference.
Grand Hotel/Casino, Tunica, Miss. Contact: Jeffery Smith. E-mail: email@example.com. Web: www.autorotate.com/autorotate/safety2006/.
Nov. 9-11--AOPA Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn. Expo,
Palm Springs Convention Center, Palm Springs, Calif. Contact: 888-462-3976; Web: aopa.org.
Olympia Conference Center, London, England. Contact: Claire Lynam, 44-(0)-1628-606950; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.