AIN Online Aviation News – Rotorcraft

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  • Safran Adds Second Helo Engine Assembly Line In Texas
    by Mark Huber on October 19, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Safran's new Texas assembly line will produce the Arriel 2E engine for the U.S. Army’s UH-72B Lakota.October 19, 2021, 9:40 AMSafran Helicopter Engines has established a second assembly line at its plant in Grand Prairie, Texas, to produce Arriel 2E engine for the U.S. Army’s new Airbus Helicopters UH-72B Lakota. Deliveries of these helicopters to the Army began in September. The engine had been exclusively made in France.  “Assembling this variant in Texas reflects our commitment to the helicopter industry to invest and grow our U.S. presence, bringing us closer to our customers, and allows us to provide increased capability and proximity support,” said Thierry Derrien, president and CEO of Safran Helicopter Engines USA. Safran assembles, tests, and supports several Arriel variants in Grand Prairie, including the -2D for the Airbus H125 and the -1E2 for the U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota, which has more than 900 engines in its fleet. The Arriel also powers the U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet of 102 Airbus MH-65 Dolphins. More than 3,000 Arriel series engines are in service throughout the U.S. and some 12,000 Arriel engines have been produced and collectively have amassed more than 50 million flight hours. The Arriel family, with power ratings between 650 and 1,000 shp, is installed in more than 40 different rotorcraft models. According to Safran, an Arriel-powered helicopter takes off every 15 seconds every day. Defense

  • MD Helicopters Hit with Federal Fraud Verdict
    by Mark Huber on October 18, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    A jury has faulted the company for conduct related to foreign military sales. October 18, 2021, 4:03 PMTwo former MD Helicopters executives could cash in big after a federal jury last month found the company guilty of fraud in relation to military sales to El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, and Costa Rica in 2011 and 2012. Under federal law, the $36 million damage award could be trebled, and whistleblowers Philip Marsteller and Robert Swisher, who originally filed the complaint in 2013, could receive up to 30 percent of the final amount.  The award calls into question the future market value of MD, which is widely believed to be being primed for sale since the departure of former CEO Lynn Tilton in 2020. Tilton was dismissed as a party to the suit prior to trial. An MD spokesman has not responded to AIN’s request for comment.  These fraud charges centered on Col. Norbert Vergez, who ran the U.S. Army’s non-standard rotary-wing program from 2010 to 2012, and his relationship with MD, which became his employer via Tilton and her management company, Patriarch Partners, in 2013. Vergez pled guilty to making false statements and criminal conflict of interest in 2015. The charges stemmed from his failure to report receiving $30,000 for “relocation expenses” related to his immediate post-service employment with Patriarch and from his nondisclosure of the gift of a $4,000 Rolex watch to his wife. She had received the Rolex from the wife of a Lithuanian executive involved in a deal for the U.S. Army to provide Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan Army.  In Marsteller and Swisher’s initial complaint, they cited the “level of Col. Vergez's subservience to [MD CEO Lynn] Tilton and his continuing involvement in MD's Army contracts” after accepting a job offer from the company. But by 2015 Vergez no longer worked at Patriarch, and that company was not implicated in the investigation. MD is currently under the direction of CEO Alan Carr and the investment funds that have equity positions in MD and other Patriarch portfolio companies are administered in bankruptcy. Defense

  • Aero Asset: Used Helicopter Market Contracting
    by Mark Huber on October 18, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    Strong demand continues for medium twins. October 18, 2021, 9:34 AMUsed helicopter inventory is rapidly shrinking, but valuations and deals in the pipeline are also continuing to drop. That’s the latest analysis from consultancy Aero Asset in its third-quarter 2021 Heli Market Trends report.  To date, 98 preowned twin-engine helicopters have been sold to retail buyers for $263 million, on and off-market. This dollar sales volume represents a decline of 26 percent year-over-year that mainly resulted from a significant decrease in heavy helicopter retail sales. However, VIP configured twin-engine rotorcraft saw a nice bounce, with sales volume rising 8 percent, making them the best-performing market segment. North America accounted for one-third of all retail sales during the period. Medium twins are once again leading the way, with retail sales up 43 percent. Light twins sales are edging higher, with the Airbus EC/H145, Leonardo AW109S/SP, and Sikorsky S76C+/C++ the most popular in class. Sales activity of light twins was up 5 percent for the period compared with the third quarter of 2020. However, sales of heavy helicopters declined “substantially” over the period, according to the report.  Meanwhile, helicopter flight hours have increased significantly year-to-date compared with 2020—up 36 percent in North America, 23 percent in Europe, and 155 percent in South America. General Aviation

  • Dart Tapped for New Firehawk Tank
    by Mark Huber on October 14, 2021 at 4:18 am

    Dart Aerospace will provide the new main firefighting tank for United Rotorcraft's Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk completion. October 14, 2021, 12:16 AMDart Aerospace will be partnering with United Rotorcraft, the exclusive completion center for the Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk, for the development and certification of new lightweight fire attack systems. These systems will be developed and manufactured at Dart’s Portland, Oregon facility and include a new 1,000-gallon belly tank made of lightweight materials. The tank is expected to receive FAA STC approval in the second half of 2022. The contract is a testament to the “trust the firefighting industry has in Dart Aerospace to develop quality, reliable fire attack systems,” said Dart CEO Alain Madore. “We expect long-term demand for tanks to increase for years to come.” “This new tank technology will further establish the Firehawk as the standard for aerial firefighting in the U.S. and abroad,” said Larry Alexandre, president of Air Methods unit United Rotorcraft. With more than 1,100 STCs, Dart offers mission equipment and related services, replacement parts, and tools for civil and military operators, completion centers, MR&O facilities, and all major rotorcraft OEMs. Dart's key products include aerial firefighting systems, flotation systems, landing gear, interior and exterior accessories, cargo expansion, cable cutters, and filters. General Aviation

  • AAM Set to 'Change the World,' Innovators Tell BACE Attendees
    by James Wynbrandt on October 13, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    Day 2 Keynote brings six AAM Innovators to stage, highlights repaid eVTOL developments.October 14, 2021, 7:52 AM“How quickly the world has changed,” said moderator Cyrus Sigari, executive chairman and co-founder of jetAviva and co-founder and managing partner of AAM venture capital investment firm UP.Partners, before introducing the six panelists on Wednesday at the NBAA-BACE 2021 Day 2 Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) keynote session. The six—Eric Allison, head of product at Joby Aviation; Kyle Clark, CEO of Beta Technologies; Martin Peryea, CEO of Jaunt Air Mobility; Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Kitty Hawk Corp.; Melissa Tomkiel, president of Blade Urban Air Mobility; and Benjamin Tigner, CEO of Overair—lead companies that are bringing new technologies and solutions to AAM. They explained what is happening and what’s coming in an inspiring session that evoked events from the debut of the Jetsons on television 60 years ago to William Shatner’s journey to space aboard Blue Origin on the day of the forum. All agreed that in getting public acceptance of AAMs, “the biggest issue is noise,” as Blade’s Tomkiel noted. Aircraft these companies are developing all incorporate quiet technology, in addition to electric motors, dramatically reducing sonic impacts.  Blade, rather than building its own AAM vehicle, is creating a support infrastructure while currently providing urban mobility via conventional rotorcraft. Tomkiel noted current service from New York City to JFK Airport is the same cost as black car service, and that airport landing fees represent most of the cost. She called for “partnerships with government and municipalities” to reduce such fees to promote greener eVTOL solutions. All agreed vertical integration is “critical” for manufacturers, as Joby’s Allison said, with each company developing their own aircraft, engines, and operational support “to connect engineering and production, and quickly bring aircraft to market and keep up the cycle of innovation.” Joby, which bought Uber Elevate, is developing a piloted four-passenger eVTOL. The six companies represented all have somewhat unique business models, aimed at exploiting different opportunities in the emerging AAM market.  Beta Technologies, which is developing a six-passenger, mast-mounted single propeller eVTOL, is pursuing an “early adoption path” within the existing regulatory environment, said Clark, starting with transporting organs for transplant, then cargo operations, and passenger service later. “By the time the urban environment will accept AAMs, we’ll have thousands of aircraft and millions of hours of operational experience.” Jaunt Air Mobility is developing a commuter eVTOL with a large, mast-mounted single propeller complemented by four smaller, fixed wing-mounted engines “that behaves like a typical airplane,” said Peryea. He cited a need for more public awareness of AAM's benefits, noting that Uber's car service had succeeded in educating consumers about its on-call offering, but “that voice is gone,” he said. “Everybody on stage needs to work on getting word out to the public.” Kitty Hawk is developing the Flyer, a personal electric aircraft with eight propellers, with “the vision to make every person fly every day,” said Thrun. “We want people to make traffic congestion go away, and make transportation faster and greener.”  Thrun sees a “set of new technologies that are completely mind-blowing,” including AI and machine learning, to transform AAM and “at some point get rid of pilots altogether,” he said. He predicted major advances following “a big moment where Silicon Valley gets interested in aviation.” Overair, a spinoff of Karem Aircraft, is developing the Butterfly quad tiltrotor eVTOL, which Tigner believes can provide lift options “totally complementary to the existing aviation landscape.” With the company’s experience in already providing drone lift for the military, “We can put larger rotors on the system, with four vector thrust engines on its fixed wings,” and hover “in very challenging weather conditions.” All six also see AAMs as helping “turn the corner on climate change,” as Beta Technologies' Clark said.  Joby’s Allision promised attendees, “We will democratize flight, and you’ll be part of it.” Aerospace

  • How Urban Air Mobility Helped Me Beat My Boss
    by Jerry Siebenmark on October 13, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    AIN senior editor Jerry Siebenmark takes a ride on Blade Urban Air Mobility's helicopter in a demonstration of UAM at NBAA-BACE. October 14, 2021, 7:48 AMAs determined as my boss, AIN editor-in-chief Matt Thurber, was to win, there was absolutely no way he was going to beat me in a race between the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall and Henderson Executive Airport (KHND). That’s because he was driving a rented, late-model Ford Escape and I was flying in Blade Urban Air Mobility’s (UAM) Airbus EC130 operated by local outfit Maverick Helicopters. Since Tuesday and in partnership with NBAA, Blade has been operating helicopter shuttles for NBAA-BACE attendees between the convention center and static display for $99 one way. NBAA and Blade are pitching the shuttle flights as a demonstration of what UAM can offer. Thurber had zero chance of beating me to KHND—it took him 30 minutes while I flew over him in jam-packed early evening traffic. For me, it was an approximately 15-minute journey, cruising at 130 knots, from the time I climbed into the helicopter outside the north end of the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall and stepped out of it next to Blade’s chalet at the BACE static display. What he also missed was first-class treatment by Blade’s crews, both at the company’s preflight lounge at the north end of the West Hall and at its static chalet. With an already booked flight, check-in was as easy as showing a Blade attendant a photo ID. And then I was offered my choice of bottled water or a soda as I awaited my flight, sitting on one of the three contemporary couches. The wait wasn’t long before I and another passenger were led out to a blocked-off section of the Diamond parking lot, where our pilot and helicopter awaited us. After a brief demonstration of how to put on the four-point safety belt, we climbed into the seven-seat cabin, the pilot fired up the light-single helicopter’s 848-shp engine, and we lifted off. Flying at 350 feet agl, the short ride provided a beautiful backdrop of the blue mountains surrounding Las Vegas at dusk and as we flew over the foothills before making a sharp bank to the left on approach to KHND. After touchdown and upon exiting the helicopter, a Blade golf cart shuttled us to the company’s chalet. There, once again, we were offered a choice of beverages, including adult libations of which I was able to indulge while Thurber was still making his way to KHND. Business Aviation

  • Airbus Corporate Helicopters Sees Orders Rise
    by Curt Epstein on October 13, 2021 at 5:11 pm

    Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) has seen its order numbers rise in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.October 14, 2021, 7:00 AMAirbus Corporate Helicopters has seen its order numbers rise in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. At a press conference this week at NBAA-BACE, Frederic Lemos, head of the airframer’s helicopter unit, noted that in 2020 it received 62 orders worldwide including 22 ACH125s, 19 ACH130s, four ACH135s, 15 ACH145s, and two ACH160s. The medium-twin ACH160 received its certification last year from EASA and has since added approval from Brazilian and Japanese authorities. While its FAA certification is still pending, Airbus Corporate Helicopters (Booth 1902, A309) has already five orders on its books for the helicopter in North America. In the first half of 2021, the company received 43 orders, good for a 50 percent increase year-over-year. According to the company it now claims a more than 50 percent market share in deliveries in the private aviation segment since 2014. In North America, the manufacturer received 13 orders for new helicopters in 2020, and for the first half of this year it has garnered nine orders. Since 2018, half of its orders in North America have come from new customers, and the company now claims a 30 percent market share there. Last year the OEM launched its ACH130 Aston Martin Edition. The special edition is the first result of a partnership between ACH and luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin Lagonda. It has received 10 orders for the light single with its upgraded interior package, including two in North America and has thus far delivered four. This summer one of the company’s ACH145s operated by German air ambulance operator ADAC earned the distinction of being the first helicopter to fly using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In addition, Airbus has created a SAF User Group to promote the use of biofuels in civil turbine helicopters. Business Aviation

  • U.S. Army Unveils New Black Hawk Helicopter
    by David Donald on October 12, 2021 at 9:45 am

    The UH-60V is an upgraded version of the UH-60L utility transport helicopter with a state-of-the-art integrated cockpit system.October 12, 2021, 5:37 AMIn early October the U.S. Army formally lifted the veil on the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter. The latest version of the medium utility transport rotorcraft represents a significant upgrade of the earlier UH-60L that prepares it for a future serving alongside the new-build UH-60M in a more connected battlefield. The ceremony was held at Muir Army Air Field, Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, where the state's National Guard operates the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (EAATS). The facility trains UH-60 and CH-47 Chinook crews for regular Army, Army Reserve, National Guard, and other nations. Its Aviation Training Battalion-Utility (ATB-U) handles Black Hawk training and is the first unit to receive the UH-60V. “It’s fitting that our location was chosen to begin UH-60 Victor training,” said Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler “The EAATS is an accomplished organization, proving time and time again to be a force multiplier for all components of the U.S. Army and our multi-national partners, unmatched in the Army enterprise.” As a modification of the UH-60L—itself a modernization of the original UH-60A—the UH-60V retains the original dynamic systems but has an all-new integrated avionics suite provided by Northrop Grumman. For the aircrew, the most obvious difference is the full “glass” cockpit that replaces the former analog dials. Behind the screens is an integrated computational system that provides advanced flight planning and mission capability, including a certified GPS RNAV database. [inline-image=”213406”] The UH-60V’s system is very similar to that installed in the in-production UH-60M, providing close compatibility between the two versions and streamlined training. The Army plans to standardize on the two variants in the medium-term, prior to the introduction of the next-generation FLRAA helicopter. Both Black Hawk variants employ open architecture systems that can be rapidly upgraded to meet emerging threats and requirements. Heading the “Victor” program is the Army itself, with Redstone Defense Systems as lead contractor, working with a number of Army organizations centered on the Huntsville, Alabama, area. It is the first time that the Army has implemented a major upgrade program of its own. “In order for us to bring capability onto this platform, it necessitated a significant investment both in dollars and time,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie, the Army’s Program Officer-Aviation. “And because our threat is evolving faster than we are, and because our dollars are limited, it was absolutely essential that we find a way to bring capability onto our platforms more affordable and more rapidly, and that’s what this platform is the first of our ability to do.” The first conversion took to the air on January 19, 2017, at Meridianville, Alabama, and the first was released to service with the Army in October 2020 after the initial operational test and evaluation had been completed. Work is being performed at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas. Under current plans, the Army aims to have 760 UH-60Vs in service, alongside 1,375 UH-60Ms. The first six UH-60Vs were delivered to the EAATS in July to allow the initial cadre of instructors to become acquainted with the type and to formulate a training syllabus in advance of the first student intake. Defense

  • EMS Helicopters Have Twice the Average Fatal Accident Rate
    by Mark Huber on October 11, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Embry-Riddle research finds that helicopter air ambulances have twice the fatal accident rate compared with all other forms of air transport. October 11, 2021, 10:13 AMHelicopter air ambulances have twice the fatal accident rate compared with all other forms of aviation per 100,000 flight hours. That’s the conclusion of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University researchers Richard Simonson, a Ph.D. candidate, and faculty mentors Joseph Keebler and Alex Chaparro. The three worked to identify the specific helicopter air ambulance crash scenarios associated with an increased likelihood of fatalities. The research, published earlier this year by the Journal Aviation Medicine and Human Performance, looked at accident records over a 35-year period (1983-2018) and found that flying at night, under instrument flight rules (IFR), and post-crash fires are all associated with a higher likelihood of fatalities. The research suggests that it may be time to reevaluate helicopter air ambulance safety, given that helicopter air ambulances flew less than 25,000 hours in 1980 and flew nearly 600,000 in 2017. “Safety issues for discussion might include the single-pilot situation, as well as how to make fuel systems more fire-resistant,” said Keebler, associate professor of human factors at Embry-Riddle (Booth 1357).  Using statistical analysis, the researchers found that a helicopter that crashes while flying at night is 3.06 times more likely to suffer a fatality, compared with helicopters flying in the daytime. Medical helicopter pilots flying under IFR are 7.54 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident, and a post-crash fire is 18.73 times more likely to result in a fatality, compared with a crash without fire. The study covered accidents involving 398 people, including 127 who were killed and 94 who were injured over a 35-year time period. In addition to Simonson, Keebler and Chaparro, contributors to the research included Levi Demaris, who was a master’s student in the human factors program, and Eileen Frazer who is the executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport System (CAMTS). Business Aviation

  • Kaman To Build Transcend's High-speed VTOL
    by Mark Huber on October 8, 2021 at 6:31 pm

    Transcend Air has selected Kaman to build its Vy 400 high-speed vertical takeoff and landing (HSVTOL) aircraft. October 14, 2021, 12:27 PMTranscend Air has selected Kaman to build its Vy 400 high-speed vertical takeoff and landing (HSVTOL) aircraft. A mockup is on display this week at NBAA-BACE in Kaman’s booth (#3017). The $3.5 million fly-by-wire, tilt-wing Vy 400 will be powered by a single 2,500-shp GE CT7-8 turboshaft and is designed to expeditiously connect city centers with a targeted top speed of 356 knots, enabling flight from Manhattan to Boston in 36 minutes. Transcend claims the six-seat Vy 400 will deliver door-to-door prices that are lower than those of current air travel options, and door-to-door times that are 65 to 80 percent less.  “Because of the Vy’s high speed, we can complete many more passenger trips per aircraft,” said Gregory Bruell, Transcend Air co-founder and CEO. “The combination of that with VTOL is key to our revolutionary economics, and Kaman will be key to us scaling up production to meet the significant demand that our mass-market fares are expected to drive.” [inline-image=”213475”] Separately, Kaman announced that its Kaman Aerospace Jacksonville (Florida) division expects to receive its FAA Part 145 repair station approval by the end of this year. “We will be the supplier of choice for aging and underserviced aircraft with high metallic structure content, offering manufacturing capabilities to OEMs, as well as a service center and repair source for operators and owners,” said Bruce Dailey, Kaman's executive director of business development and compliance. The facility is expected to serve both military and civilian aircraft and will focus on nacelles, flight control surfaces, and components. It will accelerate aftermarket growth through investment in tooling and test equipment, training, exchange units, and tech data. It currently specializes in aerostructures, major and complex metallic/composite assembly, sheet metal details, extruded parts, CNC machining, design engineering, and MRO repair. Meanwhile, Kaman Composite Structures's (KSC) FAA Part 145 Repair Station in Wichita recently earned EASA approval for composite structures repair. “This approval is just one step in the process of offering more composite repair capabilities to the commercial and business aviation markets,” said Malissa Nesmith, Kaman's senior director of business development. “Kaman has historically performed most of the repair services of the Part 145 station for military support programs. This past year, we have extended those repair services to the commercial market,” she added. KCS offers services from design, prototyping, and testing to full production of composite components and assemblies. KCS companies fabricate components for the defense, aerospace, and commercial markets, as well as for the medical industry, and they provide MRO composite repair services at their FAA-certified Part 145 repair station in Wichita. General Aviation

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