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  • Helo Crashes Trigger Probe of Honolulu FAA FSDO
    by Mark Huber on February 14, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    The FAA’s Honolulu Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) is under fresh scrutiny following the filing of a two separate whistleblower complaints. February 14, 2020, 3:16 PMThe FAA’s Honolulu Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) is under fresh scrutiny following two separate whistleblower complaints filed last year regarding the office’s oversight of a pair of helitour operators involved in recent fatal accidents.  Since June, staff from the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation have been investigating the allegations from FAA employees that their supervisors obstructed effective oversight of operators, issued improper check ride certifications, had “inappropriate” relationships with operators, and retaliated against the employees when they questioned supervisors' conduct in these matters.  In a public statement issued on January 31, the Commerce Committee accused the FAA of stonewalling its investigation by both delaying the production of requested documents for months at a time and then producing tranches of documents that were largely incomplete and irrelevant. The Commerce Committee also suggested that the FAA was engaged in ongoing harassment of at least one of the whistleblowers and has asked the Transportation Department’s Inspector General to investigate “these allegations of regulatory violations and whistleblower retaliation.”  In a statement provided to AIN, the FAA said, “The FAA takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously and prioritizes safety above all else. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation acknowledges that its review of these allegations is ‘incomplete and not yet conclusive.’ The FAA itself has been investigating these matters and is already taking steps to address substantiated concerns. As we have indicated to the committee, we cannot comment further on any pending investigations or potential enforcement actions. The FAA will cooperate with any investigation that the Office of the Inspector General might undertake, in the interest of establishing a thorough, fact-based record upon which to base any appropriate corrective action.”  Honolulu FSDO Attention This is not the first time the Honolulu FSDO has drawn unwanted attention. During an FBI raid on the headquarters of Guam-based Hansen Helicopters in 2016, documents were uncovered that led to the federal wire fraud indictment of Honolulu FSDO Aviation Safety Inspector Timothy Cislo, who subsequently pleaded guilty to three counts of wire services fraud in 2018 for taking a 2014 bribe from Hansen in the form of a Taylorcraft BC-12D light aircraft valued at $20,000.  Hansen acquired a pair of written-off helicopters and returned them to service after Cislo signed off on inspections that were backed by missing/falsified maintenance logs that clearly misstated the extent of the helicopters’ original accident damage. The bribe was paid in exchange for issuing and reissuing special airworthiness certificates for helicopters without performing the requisite inspections. In emails with Hansen employees, Cislo referred to these illegal certificate approvals as “sign-fests,” according to federal prosecutors. Cislo was also involved in irregularities involving the paperwork on at least eight other Hansen helicopters, according to criminal complaints. Cislo’s activities came to light during an NTSB investigation of a September 2015 crash of a Hughes 369, N9068F, off Manra Island, Kiribati, that killed the pilot. N9068F had previously been reported as “destroyed” following a 1997 crash in Saipan, India. The reported serial numbers of the aircraft from both accidents match.  Fatal Accidents More recent fatal crashes, by Hawaiian helitour operators Novictor Helicopters and Safari Helicopters, are central to the current whistleblower complaints and the Commerce Committee’s investigation into the Honolulu FSDO. The initial complaint was made to the committee in June following the fatal crash of a Novictor-operated Robinson R44 on April 29 that killed all three aboard, one of three accidents involving the operator in the last two years. A second FAA whistleblower, publicly-identified by the committee as FAA principal operations inspector (POI) Joseph Monfort, then came forward in December and alleged that managers in the Honolulu FAA FSDO had “an inappropriately close relationship” with the company and had “granted multiple policy deviations” for it. Novictor is owned by Helicopter Association International board member Nicole Vandelaar.  John Cox, Novictor's vice president for safety, issued the following statement to AIN on February 17. “On January 31st, Novictor became aware of grossly misleading allegations by a rogue FAA inspector to a Senate committee. The complaint contains numerous inaccuracies and mischaracterizations both of Novictor's operations and Novictor's relationship with the FAA. Novictor is, and always has been, focused on safety and compliance with the appropriate federal aviation regulations and categorically denies any allegation that states or implies otherwise.” Cox went on to point out that Novictor employs an FAA-recognized safety management system and that Novictor “and numerous other operators have had substantial difficulty with working with this particular inspector for quite some time.” According to Monfort, Novictor’s letter of authorization (LOA) to conduct air tours under Part 91 was revoked in November 2018 following an Oct. 22, 2018 crash of a Novictor-operated R44 that seriously injured the pilot and his two passengers and a Sept. 18, 2018 crash that substantially damaged another company-operated helicopter during an emergency landing. Novictor was then required to operate under the more stringent Part 135. On Nov. 20, 2018, Monfort’s front line manager approved Part 135 check airman authority to Vandelaar, even though she had been denied a similar approval in 2017 by the FAA’s regional flight standards manager due to lack of qualifications under 14 CFR 119.71. That rule requires a director of operations to have three years of managerial experience within the last six years. Monfort’s investigation of Novictor’s fatal April 2019 fatal crash revealed the discrepancy and on May 3, 2019, he revoked Vandelaar’s check airman authority by letter.  His supervisor removed Monfort from the crash investigation later that day. This was corroborated by documents reviewed by the Committee.  Monfort also charges that his supervisors stymied his oversight of another company in his portfolio, Safari Aviation, based on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It operated a tour helicopter that crashed on December 26, killing seven. Monfort said his supervisors did not approve his requests to visit Safari in September and November last year. In 2016, Monfort “had initiated a review of Safari’s training program due to deficiencies he noted in a check ride with the pilot involved in the December 26, 2019 crash,” according to the Commerce Committee. Monfort said he was subsequently suspended twice after he appealed to senior FAA management to overturn his direct supervisor’s decision not to send him to visit Safari, action he alleges is whistleblower retaliation. He has filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.  But the Commerce Committee suggests that FAA retaliation against Monfort is ongoing. In January, an FAA special agent began re-interviewing Monfort with regard “to a previously investigated matter from 2018 in which he alleged deficiencies in a Part 135 operator’s training program. Additionally, Monfort was notified that he would be interviewed by FAA and DOT attorneys in February 2020 regarding a fatal helicopter accident he investigated in October of 2017. “Mr. Monfort reports increasing pressure by his FAA manager to revise findings of his Novictor investigations,” the committee reported. The Commerce Committee concluded that its “thorough investigation and review of available documents lends credibility to Mr. Monfort’s disclosures and appears to corroborate many of his allegations. The review, while incomplete and not yet conclusive, raises significant concerns about the efficacy of FAA oversight in Hawaii.” General Aviation

  • Leonardo Breaks Ground On Brazil Service Center
    by Mark Huber on February 14, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Leonardo broke ground on a new, larger regional helicopter customer service center in Itapevi, Brazil.February 14, 2020, 12:51 PMLeonardo broke ground on a new, larger regional helicopter customer service center on Friday in Itapevi, Brazil, 19 miles outside of São Paulo. The center will replace the existing facility there. Construction is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter. The new support center will include maintenance hangars, bonded warehouse, workshops, and a dedicated heliport and will house spares, maintenance, product support, engineering services for the AW119 single and AW109 light twin, along with the AW139, AW169, and AW189. Leonardo said the new center demonstrates its “long-term commitment to the region and its customers and aligns with Leonardo’s Industrial Plan’s focus on stronger customer support services and proximity. Enhanced services will contribute to maximizing helicopter fleet mission effectiveness and safety of operations to the benefit of operators, crews and the served communities.” To date, more than 190 Leonardo helicopters operate in Brazil, flying diverse missions including corporate/private transport, law enforcement, public services, offshore transport, and naval applications.     General Aviation

  • Airbus Delivers 332 Helicopters in 2019
    by Mark Huber on February 13, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    Airbus delivered 332 helicopters in 2019 and logged gross orders for 369 rotorcraft.February 13, 2020, 9:32 AMAirbus delivered 332 helicopters last year and logged gross orders for 369 rotorcraft (310 net), combined with its support and services revenue, worth more than $7.61 billion. The company claimed 54 percent of the civil and parapublic market in terms of units for the year. Orders included 130 and 91 for the H125 single and H145 twin, respectively. Military orders included 23 NH90s for Spain and 25 H225M heavy twins, mainly for the forces of Hungary and Indonesia. Also in 2019, the French armed forces announced the accelerated launch of the Joint Light Helicopter program, with deliveries of the Airbus H160M intermediate twin advanced to 2026. Key support contracts inked last year were for the NH90 in service in the German Army, the Tiger; Cougar and Caracal contracts in France; and a five-year extension of the through-life support contract for the Australian Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) Tiger. On the civil side, 250 additional helicopters were covered by global HCare contracts. “The increased contribution from support and services and key wins in the military sector in 2019 underlines the importance of our robust business model. The balance between our different revenue streams enables us to maintain our global leadership in a challenging civil and parapublic market,” said Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even. General Aviation

  • Leonardo Forms New Joint Venture in Brazil
    by Mark Huber on February 12, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    Leonardo&Codemar S.A. will deliver urban security, new infrastructure, and helicopter-based services under a joint venture.February 12, 2020, 4:38 PMLeonardo and Brazil’s Companhia de Desenvolvimento de Maricá (Codemar) have created joint-venture Leonardo&Codemar S.A. to deliver urban security, new infrastructure, and helicopter-based services. “The joint venture will focus on delivering systems and services for the security, resilience, and protection of populations and territories and will prove how space, cyber and digital, aeronautical, and unmanned technologies can contribute to development,” said Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo. According to the companies, the joint venture will provide innovative products and services to the Brazilian municipality of Maricá, which is set to become a primary logistic base for oil and gas operations nationwide. As such, it is a large potential market for related businesses, as well as a substantial tourist and residential development, facilitated by its proximity to Rio de Janeiro. Leveraging Codemar’s local knowledge, the joint venture aims to partner with Maricá municipality on projects and services and gain access to similar opportunities throughout Latin America. General Aviation

  • New Garmin Flight Control System for Airbus AStars
    by Mark Huber on February 12, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Garmin has received FAA STC approval for the GFC 600H helicopter flight control system in the Airbus Helicopters AS350 B2/B3 single.February 12, 2020, 11:26 AMGarmin has received FAA supplemental type certification (STC) for the GFC 600H helicopter flight control system in the Airbus Helicopters AS350 B2/B3 single. The attitude-based (AHRS-derived) flight control system features include attitude hold (ATT), Helicopter Electronic Stability and Protection (H-ESP), dedicated return-to-level (LVL) mode, hover assist, and overspeed and low-speed protection. The GFC 600H requires the Garmin G500H or G500H TXi flight displays and offers integration with compatible instruments and navigation sources. The system is expected to be available later this month through select Garmin dealers.   The GFC 600H provides inputs designed to help stabilize the helicopter while hand-flying. The stability provided by the GFC 600H system offers workload reduction and benefits helicopter operators by maintaining a commanded attitude and its cyclic-mounted trim controls facilitate seamless interactions without removal of hands from flight controls during basic operations, including system initialization of ATT mode and adjustments of the pitch and roll trim. While flying with ATT, pilots can easily “fly through” the flight control inputs for smooth maneuvers beyond the preset trim condition. H-ESP works when hand-flying the helicopter and in all modes, even when the system is not engaged, and can be manually disabled to allow for maneuvering flight. The GFC 600H also features a dedicated level mode that can be engaged by the pilot to return to straight-and-level flight, helping to avoid a potential loss-of-control scenario. Hover-assist mode automatically detects a hover condition and provides flight control inputs to help maintain position over the ground. The optional yaw axis control holds heading while in a hover. Available groundspeed hold allows the pilot to input a forward or sideways command, useful during taxi and takeoff. The system uses guidance for en route and approach navigation from a compatible Garmin navigator, such as the GTN 750Xi/GTN 650Xi or GTN 750/650 series, to automatically fly approaches and search and rescue patterns. Additional vertical and lateral modes include altitude hold, altitude select, vertical speed, indicated airspeed, and heading select.    The GFC 600H features a stack-width mode controller with push-button controls, a night vision goggle (NVG) compatible display and supports a three-axis configuration. Integrated “smart” servos provide pitch and roll inputs as commanded by the system, and the available third servo and collective sensor provide yaw axis control capability and smooth flight control adjustments when the pilot moves the collective. The digitally controlled, high-torque servos are designed for a faster, crisper, more powerful response. General Aviation

  • SAFE Develops New Pitch Link Tool For Robinson Helos
    by Mark Huber on February 11, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    S.A.F.E. Structure Designs has developed a unique pitch adjustment tool for all models of Robinson helicopters. February 11, 2020, 1:28 PMS.A.F.E. Structure Designs has developed a unique pitch-adjustment tool for all models of Robinson helicopters. The tool, inspired by Southern Utah University (SUU) maintenance manager Jared Britt and his team, ensures accurate adjustment and replacement of pitch change links and makes track and balance adjustments easier. “The tool allows for accurate measurements in adjusting and replacing links and rods,” said Johnny Buscema, S.A.F.E. CEO. “This can save hours and provides greater accuracy than the trial and error method used in the past. We designed a similar tool for Blackhawks for the USCG fleet of MH-60s three years ago.”   S.A.F.E. said it will be designing and manufacturing similar pitch adjustment tools for other helicopter models in the future. It is also working with SUU to develop a certificate training program on track and balance for A&P mechanics. The pitch-adjustment tool will be used to teach students how to perform the track and balance procedures with increased accuracy. Track and balance will be the first of several certificate programs from S.A.F.E. and SUU for mechanic training in helicopter specific maintenance. The first class will start in September. SUU has already received FAA approval on a helicopter-specific A&P program.  General Aviation

  • Honeywell Offers Synthetic Vision for AW139s
    by Mark Huber on February 11, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Leonardo is upgrading the avionics on new AW139 medium twin helicopters to the Honeywell Primus Epic 2.0 Phase 8.February 11, 2020, 9:11 AMLeonardo is upgrading the avionics on new AW139 medium twin helicopters to the Honeywell Primus Epic 2.0 Phase 8 that includes the SmartView synthetic vision system. SmartView is usable down to hover and can facilitate nine-degree descents to landing, including oil rig approaches. Phase 8 also features a more user-friendly iNav map, an improved cursor control device that speeds map manipulation and menu navigation, and wireless high-speed data loading. The navigation system is track-based and follows the actual path of the helicopter while accounting for wind and other environmental factors. “With the Epic 2.0 Phase 8 upgrade, AW139 pilots will not only reduce the time and cost of some operations, especially those in weather and around challenging terrain, but they will also experience some of the best safety features available anywhere in the helicopter market,” said Honeywell vice president of cockpit systems Mike Ingram. General Aviation

  • Congressman Seeks To Mandate HTAWS
    by Mark Huber on February 11, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    Long-time helicopter critic seeks to mandate HTAWS in the wake of Kobe Bryant crash. February 11, 2020, 7:16 AMLess than a week after the January 26 crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant and eight others, long-time aviation industry critic, California Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Thousand Oaks), introduced legislation to mandate terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS) on all helicopters. In a press release accompanying the announcement of the “Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act,” Sherman declares, “Had this [TAWS] system been on the [accident] helicopter, it is likely the tragic crash could have been avoided.” The press release does not cite evidence for this claim. Sherman’s bill would also “establish a commission on helicopter safety and require a report to Congress on best practices for helicopters in cases of low visibility.” This is not the first time Sherman has introduced helicopter legislation. In 2011 he co-sponsored the “Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act” which would have mandated flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopters within the Los Angeles basin, proposals roundly criticized as ineffective, unworkable, unsafe, and ultimately rejected following thorough evaluation by the FAA in 2013.  General Aviation

  • U.S. Navy Receives First Osprey Tiltorotor
    by David Donald on February 11, 2020 at 1:56 am

    The carrier onboard delivery version of the tiltrotor has greater internal fuel capacity than the Marine and Air Force versions.February 10, 2020, 8:51 PMBell Boeing delivered the first of a planned 48 CMV-22B Ospreys to the U.S. Navy on February 10, the aircraft having first flown late in 2019. Handed over at the factory in Amarillo, Texas, the aircraft will go to U.S. Navy squadron HX-21 “Blackjack” at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for developmental test and evaluation trials. The variant is intended to replace the aging Northrop Grumman C-2 Greyhound in the carrier onboard delivery (COD) role, ferrying passengers and cargo between ship and shore. Using a tiltrotor platform for the COD role instead of a fixed-wing transport significantly increases flexibility, as the CMV-22B is not confined to operations at sea from just the carrier. To prepare it for the role and to meet Navy range requirements, Bell Boeing has developed larger fuel tanks housed in enlarged fuselage-side sponsons. The CMV-22B can carry 6,000 pounds over more than 1,150 nm. Another key requirement is for a cabin large enough to transport major components of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine that powers the Lockheed Martin F-35C that recently achieved IOC with the Navy. The F-35C is due to undertake its first carrier deployment aboard USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and the CMV-22B will also make its operational debut at that time. Navy crews have been training on the Marine Corps MV-22B version for some time, and the first operational squadron—VRM-30 “Titans”—was established at NAS North Island, California, in December 2018. Two more units, VRM-40 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, and VRM-50 at a base in the Western Pacific region, are to follow. Defense

  • Airbus Protests Leonardo's U.S. Navy Training Helo Deal
    by Mark Huber on February 10, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Airbus claims Navy had "technical misunderstandings" in awarding Leonardo $680 million training helicopter deal. February 10, 2020, 11:16 AMThe long-standing animus between Airbus and Leonardo over U.S. government contracts is continuing in the wake of the U.S. Navy’s award of the TH-73A training helicopter program to the latter. The Navy announced on January 13 that it had selected Leonardo to provide up to 130 TH-73A training helicopters, military derivatives of the single-engine AW119, in a deal potentially worth more than $680 million. Airbus had proposed its H135 light twin for the mission and filed a protest on February 3 contesting the award. In statement to AIN, an Airbus Helicopters spokesman said, “While we respect the Navy’s right to choose the asset that best meets its needs, we believe that certain technical aspects of our proposal were not assessed accurately. We’re confident that when these technical misunderstandings have been clarified, the Navy will be reassured that the H135 is not only the best overall value for taxpayers but also the most suitable aircraft for the mission. The H135 is a proven military trainer with more than 355,000 training flight hours logged by 10 U.S. allies around the world.” Leonardo defended the award, with a spokesman there telling AIN, “Leonardo believes the U.S. Navy executed a thorough and competitively bid procurement process for its TH-73 helicopter program, selecting the best-value Leonardo TH-119. We remain committed to the Navy’s vital training mission and program timeline.”  A third bidder for the contract, Bell, which was offering its 407GXi single for the Navy mission, is not protesting the award “at this time,” a spokesman told AIN. This is not the first time Airbus and Leonardo have pursued legal action as the result of a U.S. DoD helicopter contract award. In 2014, Leonardo protested add-on orders for more Airbus UH-72A Lakota helicopters for the U.S. Army’s training mission at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in proceedings that dragged on for more than three years and threatened to shut down the UH-72A production line in Columbus, Mississippi. Leonardo claimed the Army bypassed the competitive bidding process in making the award. The legal wrangling finally came to an end in 2018, when Leonardo withdrew its latest lawsuit concerning the award after a defeat in the U.S. Court of Appeals. But there was no doubt as to the bitterness Leonardo’s legal tactics left with Airbus executives. Two weeks before the Court of Appeals decision, Chris Emerson, then CEO of Airbus’s North American arm, said Leonardo’s conduct threatened the entire defense department acquisition process and “constituted a credible threat to every major player in the defense industry by a company that had nothing to lose.” Defense

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