Kaman develops blade coating

 - February 22, 2010, 4:46 PM

Kaman Helicopters (Booth No. 2329) is reporting significant success applying  Hontek erosion-protection blade coating  to U.S. military helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan and sees a wider market for civil oil and gas-producing operators, particularly in the North Sea and the Middle East. Kaman is an approved applicator of the three-stage, urethane-type coating, which the company says is proving itself superior to protective blade tape.

Mark Tattershall, director of marketing and business development for Kaman Helicopters, said that blade tape typically had to be replaced every 15 hours, but the Hontek coating typically lasts 50 to 100 hours before needing touch-up maintenance and that, when properly maintained, the coating lasts the life of the blade. The results for the U.S. Army helicopters in the Iraq/Afghanistan theater have been dramatic, Tattershall said. In 2008, the Army had to replace 53 taped blades due to erosion. Last year, using the Hontek system, that number fell to zero. Tattershall said the Hontek coating also had other advantages, including its ability to be initially applied and maintained without removing blades from the helicopter.

Don Lownds, Kaman Helicopters senior manager for subcontract business development, said the company started applying the coating to Sikorsky H-60 blades and has done approximately 850 blades to date. He said the three-step coating process consists of a primer, base and top coat that is color-coded for ease of maintenance. “As the top coat is slowly eroded, you see a gray patch. When that happens you are going to apply the top coat again. You touch it up and you are back on track.” Lownds said touch-ups typically take two hours or less and that the helicopter can be flown immediately thereafter.

Tattershall said the Hontek has saved the Army “many millions of dollars” over the last year on the H-60s. He said the program has been so successful that Kaman is now coating the blades of other types of helicopters flying in the theater, including the Light Utility Helicopter, Apache and CH-53.