The first flight of the Quest Helicopters AVQ light twin has slipped by half a year, to “August or September” this year. A prototype aircraft is said to be almost ready to fly, even as the company shifts its focus from the four-seater to a larger 10- to 15-passenger version.
Unveiled in November 2011, the AVQ features two counter-rotating rotors in tandem configuration and an ejection capsule for the occupants. It is being designed mainly in Ukraine and is to be manufactured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Development progress is “slow but sure,” Mike Creed, commercial and deputy project director, told AIN, “and the escape pod is taking more time than expected.” Destructive testing is being conducted on two prototype capsules “to establish the trajectory and integrity,” Creed said.
The safety ejection capsule is the primary innovation on the AVQ. In case of “a catastrophic failure” (something more serious than an engine shutdown), the pilot can pull an ejection handle. The cockpit and cabin, encapsulated together, then separate from the rest of the airframe and the rotor system. Ejection thrusters push the cabin in a forward direction and two parachutes deploy. The company expects the capsule will be capable of safe deployment and successful touchdown from as low as 300 feet.
Quest is also working on fly-by-wire controls and aerodynamic refinements. The company has adjusted fairings on the aft fuselage to prevent buffeting due to the presence of two main rotors.
The flight-test phase of the four-seater will last about one year, Creed estimated. Quest Helicopters wants to have the AVQ certified under Ukrainian regulations and plans for EASA certification to follow, as he expects the European agency to spend a lot of time certifying the escape pod. “We are hearing huge interest from China, and the CAAC will be happy to accept a Ukrainian certificate,” he asserted.
However, anticipating that the market “will not accept” the four-seater, Quest has no significant production plans for the aircraft. Rather, the company could place it into “limited production” once it receives certification. “However, we believe we will maintain this model as a research-and-development proof of concept,” said Creed.
To appeal to a wider market, Quest designers have completed the design for a 10- to 15-seater. “It is just a stretch and we have no cg problem thanks to the two-rotor configuration,” he pointed out. However, Quest designers are ready to drop the fly-by-wire and the escape pod features on the larger design. “The capsule would be too big,” Creed said. Quest wants to start building a prototype of the larger aircraft in the fall.
The company has bought land in the Umm al-Qaywayn emirate in the UAE, where it plans to build a factory. “Production [of components] could begin in Ukraine early in the summer of 2014,” Creed said. The main assembly line is scheduled to begin operating in the UAE in 2015.