Quest Helicopters, a new entrant in the rotorcraft industry, launched a new light-twin helicopter here at the show on Sunday. The AVQ is designed mainly in Ukraine but is to be manufactured in the United Arab Emirates.
The aircraft is an innovative design, featuring two counter-rotating dual rotors in tandem configuration and an ejection capsule for the occupants. First flight is planned for early 2013.
At the Dubai Air Show, Quest Helicopters is exhibiting a full-size mockup and a real cockpit and cabin prototype. Over the past few months it has also been known as “Project Q” although the project can be traced back to the Ru-Mas 240 design from Russian company, Maslova.
The design bureau, led by Volodymyr Udvenko, is also the designer of the AK1-3 helicopter kit, is located in Kharkov, Ukraine. The engines, Progress DB/Motor Sich A1-450M turboshafts, are a new Ukrainian design. They are FADEC-controlled. Rolls-Royce engines are being considered, too.
“This is a testbed,” insisted Mike Creed, commercial and deputy project program director. Thanks to the dual-rotor, dual-engine configuration, “we can add plugs into the fuselage.” Therefore, the company may decide its first production model will be “a four-seater or a fifteen-seater,” depending on flight test results and market response. As for applications, Creed talked about “VIP, police, EMS and utility.”
The safety ejection capsule is the main innovation on the AVQ. The cockpit and cabin, encapsulated together, separate from the rest of the airframe (with the two rotors remaining attached). Two parachutes deploy, bringing the two parts gently down to the ground. The safety altitude, from which the capsule can be safely jettisoned, is said to be as low as 300 feet. Four rocket boosters thrust the capsule.
Asked about certification, Creed appeared confident, saying the company would succeed “as long as we prove the design and the maintenance program is right.” He said that the system had the potential to save many lives, just like the safety parachute on Cirrus light fixed-wing aircraft.
Moreover, the AVQ will be one of the first civil helicopters to have fly-by-wire controls. “We are talking to two suppliers,” Creed said. These two companies are claimed to have already designed and certified helicopter fly-by-wire systems.
Another feature is a “telemetry downlink” maintenance monitoring.
Quest Helicopters is looking for a location in the UAE to build its factory, such as in Umm al-Quwain. It aims to start production in 2014. The idea is to be able to start deliveries immediately after the authorities give their approval. The company plans to assemble some 20 aircraft in the first year, ramping up to 40 in the third year.
According to Creed, Quest currently has a team of 10. It’s CEO is Yousef Al Ansari and its chairman is investor Mahmood Al Ansari. The latter has committed to provide “up to $50 million” over five years, starting in 2010, to cover development spending until the first production aircraft is built. Asked about the low initial investment, Creed answered that Ukrainian costs are very competitive.
Quest Helicopters also has hopes that a proposed bilateral agreement between the European Aviation Safety Agency and Ukraine’s civil aviation authority will come to fruition, allowing a single certification program to be used. UAE certification is planned, too.
The Quest AVQ by the Numbers
|Maximum Speed||160 knots|
|Maximum Range||435 nm|
|Engines||2 x 450-shp Progress DB/Motor Sich Ukraine A1-450M|