HAI Convention News

New Rotocraft 2006

 - September 28, 2006, 11:54 AM


A109S Grand–The order book for this uprated 109 variant currently stands at almost 60. An EASA type certificate was awarded last June (as its first private customer, a Briton, took delivery) and FAA certification is expected during the first quarter of this year. At press time, AgustaWestland was expecting to have delivered five airframes, with 10 more planned to take place in the remainder of this year.

The Grand draws upon the high-altitude performance record of the out-of-production A109 K2 and is targeting the search-and-rescue market, among others. Sliding doors on both sides of the cabin offer improved access and should attract public service operators as well. AgustaWestland claims that the helicopter’s operating costs can be as much as 36 percent lower than competitors in the same size category.

AW139–Now certified and being delivered around the world, AgustaWestland’s challenge is to keep its production rate in step with customer demand. With well over 100 airframes on order and capacity still set at around 50 per year, it will have to juggle numbers and customers for some time to come. The recent announcement of an expansion to Agusta’s Philadelphia facility to accommodate a second AW139 manufacturing line have not come a moment too soon.

Bell recently sold its 25-percent interest in the program to AgustaWestland, so the ship is now known as the AW139. AgustaWestland has just launched a military variant, christened the AW149.

US101–Eventually christened the VH-71A Kestrel, development of the new Presidential helicopter is now under way. A first airframe, which will act as a practice testbed until three actual test vehicles arrive in the spring of 2007, arrived at a U.S. Navy test facility in November and immediately began familiarization training for air and ground crew. Engine integration testing began on a contractor vehicle during the summer, at Lockheed Martin’s Owego, N.Y. facility.

Bell Helicopter

Bell 210–The Bell 210 achieved FAA certification in July, 18 months after launch and seven months after first flight. The Huey lookalike features dynamic components from the Bell 212 (main rotor hub and blades, tail rotor, main and tail rotor support structure, transmission, rotating controls and tail boom) and an FAA-compliant Honeywell T-53-517BCV engine.

The result, according to Bell, is a zero-time, FAA-certified, single-engine medium utility helicopter for about $3 million, compared with $5 million for a similarly sized off-the-shelf commercial product. Operating costs are said to be less than $650 per hour. An airframe is on display here at Heli-Expo and first deliveries are scheduled for May.

Bell 429–Program development of this IFR twin is proceeding on schedule with Transport Canada and FAA certification expected during next year’s third quarter. Bell said it has taken nearly 140 orders for the new helicopter, which enters a market sector crowded with established types.

Modified Bell 427 prototypes are already flying with 429 components, and first flight of the complete airframe is scheduled for the third quarter of this year. At press time, Bell had successfully completed concept demonstration tests, wind tunnel tests and inlet and exhaust testing. Detail design is nearing completion and parts and tooling are being built to construct the first prototype.

The Bell 429 will be the first to feature new MAPL (modular affordable product line) components, including a 70-percent larger cabin (compared with the Bell 427i) and a new composite horizontal stabilizer that was test flown last May. Work continues on anti-torque devices, including a rotorless assembly known as PATS (propulsive anti-torque system).

Bell/Agusta Aerospace

BA609–The tiltrotor can now hover like a helicopter and fly forward like a turboprop. After restarting the flying program during the summer, the aircraft converted fully to airplane mode in July and progressed rapidly to expand the flight envelope–up to 255 kcas and 15,000 feet. Before grounding it again for “adjustments,” the crew also demonstrated 2-gs positive and 0-g negative in airplane mode.

A second prototype is preparing to join the flight program in northern Italy. With live data linkage between Italy and Texas, testing has become a continuous process. Every change made to aircraft one is repeated, often in real-time, on the aircraft-two setup in Italy. Milan retains program lead with the introduction of a third aircraft nearing completion in Italy and a fourth “green” example at the Bell XworX hangar in Fort Worth.

AgustaWestland has also taken an increased 40-percent stake in the BA609 program.


EC 225–This new-generation Super Puma entered service last year with the government of Algeria (as a presidential transport) and on North Sea duties with Bristow Helicopters. It was certified for unrestricted operations in icing conditions just in time for the northern winter and, by next year, a new full-flight level-D simulator will be commissioned in Marseilles, France.

EC 175–Aviation Industries of China (AVIC II) and Eurocopter have agreed to jointly develop this new six-ton helicopter, to plug the niche between the five-ton AS 365 Dauphin and the 10-ton Super Puma.

A five-year development phase is due to start soon. The new civil type is to make its first flight in 2009, with European and Chinese certification set for 2011. The EC 175 will have a five-blade main rotor and an energy absorbing airframe. It will be certified for two-pilot IFR and single-pilot VFR operations and carry up to 16 passengers. The helicopter will have a radius of action of 200 nm at a speed of 151 knots.

FH1100 Manufacturing

FH1100–The company has upgraded its FH1100 with a new EFIS cockpit, replacement steel rotor blade and a lubrication-free drive shaft. A latest-build model FH1100, based on the original Fairchild Hiller that first flew in 1963, is on display here at the show. The company claims that the FH1100 has the lowest operating costs in its class. The FAA has yet to issue a production certificate for the helicopter, and the company was unable to predict when one would be forthcoming.

Groen Brothers

Groen Brothers Heliplane–The Heliolater project is being funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency with a combat search-and-rescue role in mind. Potentially worth $40 million, the work could lead to flight testing of a technology demonstrator, based on Adam Aircraft’s A700 very light jet, by mid-2008.

The objective for the demonstrator will be a two-fold improvement in forward-flight performance over a conventional helicopter, including a 350-knot cruise speed and 1,000-nm range with a 1,000-pound payload.

Hindustan Aeronautics

Dhruv–The Dhruv is a multi-role helicopter in the 12,120-pound weight class built to meet FAR 29 and certified by India’s civil aviation authority. Currently powered by two Turbomeca TM333-2B2 engines, it is claimed to meet Category A takeoff and landing performance requirements.

First civil deliveries are still said to be “imminent.” The first of two helicopters for the regional government of Jharkhand is ready, with the second due for completion later this year.


Ka-32–With certification or validation held in six countries outside Russia (Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan), Kamov will seek approval for the export variant of its specialist loadlifter from Europe’s EASA. Last year the OEM established a service center in the Republic of Korea and plans to open another in southern Spain during the first half of this year.

Ka-115–A full-scale mockup of this new utility single was exhibited at an airshow in Moscow last summer. Funding is currently being sought to enable the OEM to start building a working prototype. Another co-axial rotor design, the Ka-115 has a single engine and should deliver a 372- to 434-mile range.

Ka-226–FAA certification for this lightweight (7,480-pound) twin is being sought this year. The Ka-226 has a replaceable cabin “pod” enabling role changes from six-place passenger interior to EMS within about 40 minutes. With the cabin detached, it can carry 2,860 pounds externally.


Aktai–Still being prepared for flight tests, now expected “sometime in 2006,” the Aktai is designed for commercial VFR operations carrying passengers or cargo, as well as SAR operations. The Aktai’s main design principle is to provide simple and low-cost operations combined with good handling and flight performance, according to Kazan.

Ansat–Production of this light twin started in 2004 and five airframes are now in service with South Korea’s forest service. Its sole Russian certification is aligned with FAR/JAR 29 standards.

Mi-38–In partnership with the Mil design bureau and Eurocopter, Kazan continues development of the latest Mi-38 (based on the ubiquitous Mi-17 transport), with a view to commencing serial flight testing next year. Three variants–VIP, passenger transport and medevac–will be offered. The plan is for the model to meet FAR/JAR 29 requirements and be suitable for single-pilot IFR operations.

PZL Swidnik

SW-4–Celebrating 50 years of helicopter manufacture this year, the Polish manufacturer is close to UK CAA certification of its SW-4 light single, with EASA certification the next target. A deal has been signed to purchase 10 more Rolls-Royce Model 250-C20R light turbine engines for the program.


S-76D–Launched at last February’s Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif., the latest S-76 variant will feature composite rotor blades, a new quiet tail rotor, a rotorcraft icing protection system (RIPS, recently certified on the S-92), a new Thales cockpit and Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210 engines.

An announcement about the blade supplier and wind tunnel tests was expected at press time and a full-scale mockup, complete with the Thales cockpit, is on display here at Heli-Expo. First delivery is planned by the end of 2008.

X-2–Sikorsky’s new light helicopter, based on two contra-rotating rotors and a rear propulsion fan, promises a maximum speed approaching 250 knots. A two-seat demonstrator, to be built by Schweizer in Elmira, N.Y., is scheduled to fly before year-end. The nominated fly-by-wire package has already taken to the air, aboard a Schweizer 333 testbed.

The X2 bears a striking resemblance to Sikorsky’s Advancing Blade Concept demonstrator that reached similar speeds in the 1970s. That aircraft suffered particularly from vibration and inherent drag. However, both drawbacks have been overcome using 21st century science, Sikorsky claims.