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  • Sikorsky CEO Vows Continued Support for Discontinued S-76 Helicopters
    by Mark Huber on June 1, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    Paul Lemmo said Sikorsky would continue product support for S-76 and seek customers for the S-92A+.June 1, 2023, 8:17 AMOn a conference call with reporters this morning, Sikorsky CEO Paul Lemmo vowed continued product support for the company’s line of S-76 medium twin-engine civil helicopters, even though the airframer has no plans “to be producing any more here in the [United] States.” Lemmo said there are no new developments with regard to a potential sale of the type certificate to an offshore OEM, despite persistent rumors that at least one company in India was interested. “We continue to examine all other options with other partners and we'll see where that goes,” Lemmo said. “Obviously, we continue to support the aircraft. We've got a large number of customers out there and we're committed to supporting them.” While declining to disclose whether the company had secured any orders for its proposed S-92A+ heavy helicopter, Lemmo said Sikorsky is having “some great discussions with several customers, but nothing to report yet.” The company shut down its Coatesville, Pennsylvania civil helicopter assembly plant last year and dispersed limited remaining production of export-market S-76s and S-92As to its other facilities. Sikorsky took the decision to end domestic production of the S-76 following an FAA mandate that all new-production helicopters be equipped with crash-resistant fuel systems. During the first quarter of this year, the company delivered no S-76s and only one S-92A, according to data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. GAMA data indicates that Sikorsky delivered no S-76s and just four S-92As in 2022. Business Aviation

  • Piasecki Develops Hydrogen Helicopter at Sikorsky Factory
    by Charles Alcock on May 31, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    Piasecki Aircraft has acquired the former Sikorsky helicopter factory in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and will use it to develop VTOL aircraft.May 31, 2023, 10:38 AMPiasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) is acquiring Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Heliplex facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, to establish a research and development hub for VTOL aircraft and uncrewed aerial systems. The 219,000-sq-ft site previously served as the production and delivery center for Sikorsky’s S-76 and S-92 helicopters and once served as the site where Schweizer helicopters were manufactured. PiAC plans to base its PA-890 hydrogen-powered helicopter program in Coatesville. The company aims to fly a technology demonstrator of the slowed-rotor winged helicopter by the end of this year as it works toward FAA type certification in 2028. The PA-890 is expected to be used for applications including emergency medical flights, logistics, and passenger transportation. In the military market, privately owned PiAC is also working on the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System tilt-duct optionally crewed VTOL vehicle and its Adaptive Digital Automated Pilotage Technology flight control system for new and existing rotorcraft. Lockheed Martin closed the Sikorsky Heliplex in 2022, causing the loss of hundreds of jobs. PiAC, which has not disclosed how much it paid for the site, expects to reopen it in the fall and to hire around 400 workers there by 2028. The company is headquartered in Essington, Pennsylvania, which is near Philadelphia International Airport and about 40 miles from Coatesville. [inline-image=”221607”] “This world-class facility will serve as a strong foundation for growth and will enable us to expand our R&D and production capabilities as we deliver transformational vertical lift technologies to the defense and commercial markets,” said PiAC’s CEO, John Piasecki. “We chose to expand our development capabilities in the Delaware Valley because of its deep roots within the helicopter industry, its highly talented workforce, and its robust supplier network.” Hydrogen-Powered Helicopter Heads to Market PiAC is working with five undisclosed prospective customers to refine the operational requirements for the PA-890. The company has also established a working group with the FAA’s Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation to develop the G-1 certification basis for the helicopter, which it expects to follow existing Part 27 and 29 requirements. The aircraft is expected to be able to carry a pilot and up to seven passengers on trips of over 200 nm. Its maximum payload is 1,660 pounds and the maximum takeoff weight is 7,000 pounds. Hydrogen propulsion developer ZeroAvia is providing its High-temperature Proton Exchange Membrane hydrogen fuel cell technology for the PA-860. This will be integrated with four 125-hp electric motors with a two-stage gearbox to drive the main rotor and a 150-hp motor with a separate gearbox for the tail rotor. With financial support from the U.S. Air Force, PiAC and ZeroAvia are preparing to start ground testing a 660-kilowatt propulsion system on a full-scale test stand. ZeroAvia acquired fuel cell specialist HyPoint, which had started the project with PiAC and has incrementally expanded its hardware from “mini stack” fuel cells to a full-scale 20-kilowatt stack. ZeroAvia is developing a family of hydrogen propulsion systems to convert existing twin-turboprop regional airliners. PiAC said it opted for a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system for the PA-890 over battery-electric and hybrid-electric technology based on its projections for the available specific power and energy density. The company also believes this choice will deliver lower direct operating costs and emissions, as well as less noise. A ribbon-cutting ceremony in Coatesville on May 31 was attended by PiAC’s industry partners, including ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftakhov; Dan Crowley, CEO of aerostructures group Triumph; Martine Rothblatt, founder of the medical group United Therapeutics, which is sourcing new VTOL aircraft for transporting human organs; and Metro Aviation CEO Mike Stanberry. Also present were Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, Pennsylvania’s community and economic development secretary Rick Siger, and Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society. Advanced Air Mobility

  • India Expands Emergency Medical Flight Network
    by Neelam Mathews on May 30, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    The Indian government plans to build hundreds of helipads along highways that could be used by helicopters, drones, and new eVTOL aircraft.May 30, 2023, 8:59 AMIndia is embarking on a project to boost the use of helicopters for emergency medical services (EMS) with a plan to build a network of helipads along major highways. The initiative, which is being launched in the mountainous northern state of Uttarakhand, is expected to extend across the vast country with plans for at least 600 landing sites that could also be used by drones and eVTOLs. In February, helicopter operator Pinnacle Air won a bid to provide its Airbus H125 EMS aircraft for a pilot project called “Sanjeevani” (translation: “immortality”) that was organized by the Uttarakhand state government and India’s civil aviation ministry. According to the company’s director Sandeep Saraf, the state is well placed to lead the nationwide initiative because it already has 28 helipads, including seven located along highways. The H125 will be used exclusively by the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), which became famous after a visit by The Beatles at the height of the group’s fame in 1968. It will be based at the hospital, ready to be dispatched quickly across a 150-km (94-mile) radius. India civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said his agency is working with the country’s roads, transport, and health departments to coordinate the expansion of EMS services. “We can evacuate accident victims from highways directly to hospitals,” he explained. Based on the lessons learned from the pilot project in Uttarakhand, a similar operating model will be implemented in other Indian states. The federal government’s priority is to save more lives on the national highways, which saw 415,000 road accidents in 2021. Roads and transport minister Nitin Gadkari recently confirmed the government is planning to set up helipads and drone landing facilities on national highways in around 600 locations. Request for proposals will be issued to construct this network of helipads, with the government indicating its intention to fast-track decision-making across multiple agencies—also including its finance, environment, finance, commerce, and legal—to avoid past practice in which a single agency can delay progress by procrastinating over approvals. According to Vishok Mansingh, CEO of aircraft leasing group Vman Aero, the program will attract the participation of helicopter operators with the promise of a one-year contract with a minimum utilization per vehicle of 45 hours per month. There are around 231 civil helicopters in India, which is not a large number given the vast size of the country; in April, India overtook China to claim the world’s largest population with more than 1.4 billion people. The country has almost 2,000 highway construction projects underway, expanding existing roads and adding new ones over a total distance of 55,561 km. Mansingh told AIN that bids for further EMS contracts in other states could be opened in 2024 and predicted this process could result in 500 more helicopters being deployed across India within the next decade. “We expect more single-engine helicopters will come in as they are more versatile and maneuverable, can fly at high altitudes, and are inexpensive to run,” he commented. In his view, twin-engine rotorcraft in India will largely be used for executive and VIP transportation and for special operations. Business Aviation

  • Hill Helicopters Order Book Tops 800
    by Mark Huber on May 26, 2023 at 3:18 pm

    Hill Helicopters will unveil its first completed HX50 helicopter to the public in December.May 30, 2023, 11:07 AMHill Helicopters’s order book stands at 830 as the company finished its first complete fuselage and tailboom assembly for the HX50, nearly completed the design of its GT50 turbine engine, and manufactured a variety of components such as turbine fans, gears, and bearings. Separately, the company said it plans to publicly unveil its first completed helicopter on December 7 during an event at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, UK.  “When you come to the event, you will be able to experience HX50 for the very first time. You'll be able to sit in the seats, you'll be able to see the lines of the aircraft, use the digital cockpit and experience what it's going to be like to own one of these for yourself,” said Hill CEO and founder Jason Hill during his monthly webcast. “You’ll also get to experience the GT50 engine for the first time. And we’ll be rolling out the drivetrain and the rotor systems.”  According to Hill, the order book is split between 673 HX50 kit helicopters and 157 to-be-certified HC50 variants from customers in 59 countries. He also provided additional details regarding standard equipment on board the helicopter that includes leather seats, climate control, digital cockpit, two-axis autopilot, retractable landing gear, and a choice of colors. Business Aviation

  • Weststar Signs for Five More Leonardos
    by Mark Huber on May 25, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    A Weststar AW139 became the first SAF-fueled helicopter to fly in Malaysia .May 25, 2023, 9:47 AMWeststar Aviation Services of Malaysia has ordered five more Leonardo AW139 intermediate twin-turbine helicopters that will join its existing fleet. Separately, Leonardo announced that Weststar will lease a Leonardo AW609 tiltrotor, demonstrate it in-country, and use it in a variety of operational roles. Leonardo will support the AW609 and the AW139s from its maintenance and training hub near Kuala Lumpur. The AW139s will be configured to support Weststar’s offshore energy support business. Weststar operates over 35 Leonardo AW139, AW169, and AW189 helicopters out of its bases in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Mauritania, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo. A VIP-configured Weststar AW139 recently became the first to fly in Malaysia fueled with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which was supplied by Petronas Dagangan Berhad in collaboration with global SAF producer Neste. “At Weststar, we are committed to driving sustainable aviation practices and reducing our carbon footprint. We are a step closer toward reducing the environmental impact of Malaysia’s rotor wing sector with the successful demonstration flight of our AW139 fueled with sustainable aviation fuel,” said Tan Sri Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, Weststar group managing director.   Business Aviation

  • Sloane Ups Leonardo AW109 Orders
    by David Donald on May 24, 2023 at 8:05 am

    Leonardo and its UK/Ireland dealership continue to achieve good sales in UK and Ireland, with the AW109 family leading the way.May 25, 2023, 8:25 AMSloane Helicopters, the UK and Ireland regional distributor for Leonardo VIP/corporate helicopters, has announced orders for two more AW109 light twins at EBACE 2023. They cover an AW109 Trekker and an AW109 GrandNew. Leonardo (Booth S58) and Sloane began their partnership in 1995, and last year confirmed their continued agreement into 2024. In addition to dealership activities, Sloane is an authorized service center for the AW109 GrandNew and AW169. It also provides type rating training for Leonardo helicopters. Nearly 110 commercial helicopters have been delivered since the start of the partnership, with eight being handed over in the last year alone. Current orders for the UK and Ireland number more than a dozen, including AW109 GrandNew/Trekkers and five AW139 intermediate twins. Deliveries are due between the second half of this year and 2025. Business Aviation

  • Airbus Corporate Helicopters Posts Record Annual Sales
    by David Donald on May 22, 2023 at 9:06 am

    ACH’s latest product, the ACH160, is leading the way for sales efforts, which have achieved significant success with other models from the range.May 24, 2023, 6:11 PMAirbus Corporate Helicopters (Booth Z52) returns to EBACE in Geneva after a record year in which 114 helicopters were sold for a value of €752 million. The majority of sales were of the smaller ACH125, ACH130, ACH135, and ACH145, but the roster also included a pair of the larger ACH175, plus two ACH225s, the latter for head-of-state duties in Asia. Moreover, the figures also included 10 of the latest ACH160, which is the principal focus of the company’s participation at EBACE. “This is the year of the ACH160,” said Airbus Corporate Helicopters head Frédéric Lemos, and two of these helicopters—plus a cabin mockup—are present this week at EBACE, including one for customer demonstration flights. ACH160 handovers began with the shipment of the first via an A300-600ST Beluga transporter to Brazil in August last year, and the first ACH160 with the premium Exclusive cabin was recently handed over to a European customer. In March, deliveries began of six ACH160s in the basic Line configuration for The Helicopter Company in Saudi Arabia, the first example to be operated by Red Sea Global. An initial order from India has also been received. Currently in build is the first ACH160 Line with the Lounge package, destined for an Italian customer. The Lounge package fits within the Line aircraft, which has been designed so that the helicopter can be reconfigured for other purposes if required at a later date. The ACH160 fleet has already surpassed 1,500 flight hours, and deliveries will begin shortly to the North American market. These are being held up while the type awaits FAA and Transport Canada certifications, which are expected later this year. Airbus has already installed a full-flight simulator in Dallas. Lemos reported that ACH160 production slots are currently available for 2024/25. Airbus Corporate Helicopters’ sales figures reflect that—despite the private/corporate helicopter market being more resilient than most from the effects of Covid—an inevitable dip occurred during the pandemic in 2020, followed by a spectacular rebound in 2021/22. The company recognizes that there has been a subsequent leveling out following the rebound and that sales figures are naturally returning to around the 2019 level, but with a strong performance forecast over the next five years. Airbus Corporate Helicopters has secured 67 percent of the turbine market between 2018 and 2022. Other recent company highlights include the delivery of 11 Aston Martin special edition ACH130s, including the latest that was flown all the way from the finishing facility in the UK to its new home in Australia. Success with the initial batch of 15 Aston Martin editions has led to the production of 15 more being authorized, with new color trims being introduced. Deliveries of the latest version of the ACH145 with a five-blade main rotor have now surpassed 30. The popular Mercedes-Benz Style edition of the ACH145 is to receive a facelift in 2025. Airbus is also heavily involved in sustainability efforts, including studies into new propulsion systems and more efficient aerodynamics and structures. In the short term, all of the company’s helicopters are certified to run on a 50 percent synthetic aircraft fuel blend, and one ACH130 operated by Helsinki Citycopter is flown all the time using this blend. Further work is underway to reach 100 percent SAF certification for Airbus helicopters by 2030. Business Aviation

  • New ACA Board Member To Boost Rotary Representation
    by David Donald on May 21, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    Alana Burns has led Atlas Helicopters to become one of the UK’s leading helicopter charter companies.May 21, 2023, 9:19 AMThe Air Charter Association (ACA; Booth N77) has elected Alana Burns, operations director of Atlas Helicopters, to the board. “I am honored to be joining the board and look forward to taking an active role in developing the membership in the rotary sector, and working on ways in which the ACA can further support helicopter charter operations,” she said. While helicopters represent a relatively small sector within the air charter world, it is vital that they continue to operate safely and legally, and with high levels of service. Having led Atlas Helicopters to a position of being a leading charter company in the UK and bringing 20 years of experience in the business to the table, Burns is “ideally qualified” to support the rotary-wing element of the charter industry, ACA said. Business Aviation

  • Babcock Awarded $192M Australian SAR Contract
    by Mark Huber on May 16, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    Babcock Leonardo AW139s will provide medevac and search and rescue services to Australia's Queensland area.May 16, 2023, 9:28 AMBabcock has won a $192.4 million, 12-year contract to provide a pair of medevac and search-and-rescue-provisioned Leonardo AW139 intermediate twin helicopters to Australia’s Queensland Government. The helicopters will be based on Horn Island and provide 24/7 service to the Torres Strait and Northern Cape York peninsula. They will be equipped with the same roll-on-roll-off stretchers used by Queensland Ambulance Service, a winch, and a Wescam MX-15 Electro-Optic/Infra-Red Camera.  “Introduction of the AW139 represents a step change in capability to Queensland Ambulance Service and Queensland Health’s service in the Torres Strait,” said Babcock managing director of aviation and critical services for Australia Peter Newington. “Babcock has operated in the remote Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula regions for more than 27 years, ensuring ongoing access to emergency medical services for some of the hardest-to-reach communities. Our experience in the region gives us a unique understanding of the tasks and their interaction with the challenging environment due to the cluster of small islands and ever-changing weather conditions.” Business Aviation

  • Boost HEC System for Airbus AStar Helos Gets EASA Nod
    by Mark Huber on May 16, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    Boost Systems has received EASA STC approval for its human external cargo system for the Airbus H125 family of helicopters.May 16, 2023, 9:03 AMBoost has been awarded EASA supplemental type certificate (STC) approval for its Airbus AS350/H125 human external cargo (HEC) system. The Boost system has a carrying capacity of 1,100 pounds, which allows for multi-person rescue. The quick-install provisions and dual hook and load beam missions kits come with a case to store the equipment when not in use.   The AS350/355/H125 HEC system, which also received STC approval from Transport Canada and the FAA, is recommended for use during external load missions such as search-and-rescue, law enforcement, and HEC operations, as well as cargo transport and utility line work that includes powerline maintenance and forestry operations. Boost offers a line of Transport Canada- and FAA-certified HEC systems for other helicopter models, including the Bell 412/212/205, 206L and 407, and MD Helicopters MD500. In addition, it also offers fully compliant accessories, including approved personnel carrying device systems and Boost Systems’ Generation II HEC suspension lines. The company also provides training for HEC operations. Business Aviation

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