Maverick Helicopters in Las Vegas is preparing to receive its second Eurocopter EC130T2, part of a firm order for 10 new helicopters and options on another 40. The air-tour company placed its first T2 into revenue operations in January and has been pleased with it to date, according to John Mandernach, Maverick vice president of maintenance.
Maverick currently operates the lone T2 and 34 EC130B4s. Along with other EC130B4 operators, it began working with Eurocopter on the T2 four years ago, and Mandernach visited Eurocopter France several times to fly the prototype aircraft and inspect the first production T2. He had specific praise for the T2’s new active vibration control system (AVCS) and new cabin environmental controls, which can be set to a specific temperature.
“The best part [of the helicopter] is the AVCS,” said Mandernach. “It delivers a smooth and solid ride. There are four dampeners mounted beneath the cabin floor and each one has its own accelerometer. There is another accelerometer in the front of the cabin and the entire system is controlled by a computer. These are active tuners that work like the driver in a stereo speaker. It’s ingenious.” Lord Corp. designed and built the AVCS for Eurocopter.
The all-new environmental control system features a two-zone air conditioning and defrosting system that packs nearly twice the power of the old one. “It works really well so far,” Mandernach said, adding that he is reserving final judgment until the T2 is put through its paces during the brutal Las Vegas summer, when daytime temperatures often reach 110 degrees F. The T2 has new external fresh-air vents in both the cowling and the underside of the fuselage.
Small Changes Make a Big Difference
Mandernach also praised smaller changes Eurocopter made to the T2 such as the replacement of push buttons that wore out with more robust toggle switches, longer inspection intervals, more durable door hardware, and better high/hot aircraft performance. He said the new Turbomeca Arriel 2D engine on the T2 consumes two to four gallons more per hour, with an average fuel burn of 54 to 56 gph, than the 2B1 engine it replaces, but the 2D yields five knots higher cruise speed, more when it is hot out. This allows Maverick to carry the same fuel and passenger load and increase its daily revenue with an additional trip per helicopter per day.
“We run an average of seven hours and six tours per helicopter per day, and the T2 will allow us to do each trip two-tenths of an hour faster,” he said. “With the B4s we have to slow down when it is hot out. With the T2 we’ll probably be able to sneak in an extra trip most days.”
Other changes that differentiate the T2 from the B4 include a 154-pound increase in mtow (internal), a more crash-resistant fuel bladder and a completely flat cabin floor.
On the maintenance side, Mandernach said the T2’s requirements are less onerous than those on the B4. The routine inspection interval increases to 150 hours from 100 and the tail boom, long the bane of B4 operators and the subject of an airworthiness directive for mandatory replacement, has been improved with stronger rivets, a reinforced battery door and battery tray, a horizontal stabilizer fitting upgrade, and a ring frame replacement. Maverick has been certified as a level-three shop by Turbomeca, a $300,000 investment in tooling alone, Mandernach said. The company also maintains a $2.5 million inventory of Eurocopter parts. Maverick’s fleet flies an average of 1,200 hours per helicopter per year. “It takes a lot of work to fly 38,000 hours,” Mandernach said.
The company runs two maintenance shifts and mechanics work four days, 10 hours a day. Maverick moved its maintenance operations from Las Vegas McCarran airport to a new and larger facility in Henderson last year. It can accommodate six helicopters with blades on under roof.
Eurocopter now does Maverick’s custom avionics installation for T2s at its Grand Prairie, Texas facility, a job left to Maverick on the B4s. However, Maverick continues to do several of its own modifications, including installation of custom Aero Comfort seat cushions and its high-definition Blu-ray video system that records to flash cards before being transferred to disc. Interiors are replaced every 3,000 to 4,000 hours, and aircraft are repainted every 6,000 hours and waxed every 100 hours.
During the first three months of this year, Maverick flew its T2 nearly 200 hours. The company will receive four more T2s this year and five next year. “We’ll see where it goes after that,” with regard to exercising options for more, Mandernach said.