The rarefied offshore energy market continues to be the prime driver for development of new civil helicopters, but the training and entry-level market is also heating up, with Bell and others announcing or hinting at new models. Various studies predict that worldwide civil helicopter production will double between now and 2020 in terms of overall sales value as OEMs focus on delivering larger and more expensive helicopters. Concurrent with this growth, the worldwide market for new military helicopter sales, the lifeblood of most helicopter OEMs, is expected to be slashed dramatically during the same period, from $12 billion to $6 billion per year. That reduction could have an impact on certain OEMs’ abilities to fund new civil programs after 2015 and their opportunities to leverage technology developed for new military programs into civil helicopters.
China-based Avicopter is developing the AC352, the counterpart of the Eurocopter EC175. The two airframers have shared the program 50-50, with Avicopter responsible for the fuselage, among other subassemblies. The two companies are handling the certification effort, customer support networks and marketing separately.
With the exception of the engine, the status of the AC352 program is largely unknown. The Turbomeca/Avic Engine Ardiden 3C/WZ16 made its first run at the French firm’s test facility in Bordes, southwest France, late last year. Chinese certification of the 1,800-shp turboshaft is expected in September next year.
AgustaWestland has gone glass in the updated AW119 single. In 2012 the company unveiled the $3.9 million AW119Kx, which features the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-37A engine (872 shp continuous) and the Garmin G1000H integrated avionics suite with synthetic vision, moving map and highway in the sky and obstacle/terrain avoidance systems. The helicopter was certified last year, and 10 are in service with launch customer Life Flight Network, an EMS operator in the Pacific Northwest. The G1000H in the AW119Kx features two 10.4-inch LCD screens to provide both primary flight display and multifunction display information. The new avionics are also optimized for diagnostics and data analysis for maintenance purposes. The EMS-configured AW119Kx will include night-vision imaging system lighting and operation of night-vision goggles.
AgustaWestland announced the 4.5-ton-class AW169 medium twin in 2010. The eight- to 10-passenger helicopter is being designed for single-pilot IFR operations and made its first flight in May 2012. Three more prototypes are flying and have accumulated more than 480 hours of flight time. Certification remains on track for later this year. The AW169 is intended to compete with the S-76D and uses a variant of the same Pratt & Whitney Canada Fadec-controlled PW210-series engines (1,000 shp each) that power the Sikorsky. The AW169 features a digital, large three-screen glass-panel avionics system that includes dual FMS; a 222-cu-ft flat-floor cabin; a 45-cu-ft baggage hold; and low noise signature. It is expected to offer good high/hot performance. The cabin is large enough to accommodate transverse-loaded stretchers. AgustaWestland plans to offer military, search-and-rescue, EMS, offshore and corporate variants.
AgustaWestland holds orders for more than 100 copies and anticipates a market for 1,000 copies of the $10- to $12 million AW169 over the next 20 years. The helicopter will be produced at AgustaWestland’s main plant in Vergiate and at AgustaWestland Philadelphia with major components manufactured at the company’s facility in Yeovil, UK. Approximately 30 percent of all orders to date are from North and South America.
The Italian airframer announced the AW149 program in 2006 and the 8.6-ton helicopter made its first flight in 2009. Based on the successful AW139 medium twin, the AW149 is a military variant that is 12 feet longer, four feet taller, 5,000 pounds heavier (mtow), has a slightly larger main rotor disk and a pair of more powerful, Fadec-controlled GE CT7-2E1 turboshafts (2,000 shp each) that give the helicopter good high/hot performance and satisfy the 6,000-foot, 95 degree F OGE standard. The air-conditioned 409-cu-ft cabin is 25 percent larger than that of the AW139 and the baggage hold offers 71 cu ft. The AW149 can hold 12 fully provisioned troops or seat 18 passengers, cruises at 150 knots and has a maximum range of 635 nm. It has a full glass-panel avionics system that is NVG compatible, a four-axis autopilot and can be ordered with optional rotor ice protection. AgustaWestland continues to campaign the AW149 but has yet to find a launch customer.
In 2011 the company announced its intention to offer a civilian variant of the AW149, the AW189, aimed mostly at the lucrative offshore oil-and-gas industry. Four prototypes and two preproduction aircraft have amassed nearly 2,000 flight-test hours to date and last month the company said certification was “imminent.”
The AW189 is being marketed as a lower-cost alternative to the Sikorsky S-92A and Eurocopter EC225. With 12 passengers, the AW189 has the range to reach and return from platforms as far as 200 nm offshore. The manufacturer is offering the AW189 in offshore, VIP, maritime search-and-rescue and parapublic variants. The AW189 is expected to be certified with a variety of options and kits, with the eventual goal of approval for single-pilot IFR. Bristow Group is the launch customer. Other orders have been received from ERA, Bel Air, Azerbaijan Airlines, Weststar and Gulf Helicopters. Altogether, more than 80 AW189s are on order from more than 10 customers in 10 countries as well as distributors in China and Russia.
AW609 Civil Tiltrotor
AgustaWestland acquired the portion of the 609 program it did not already own from Bell in 2011, effectively dissolving the joint venture known as the Bell/Agusta Aircraft Company that had been jointly developing the aircraft as the BA609 since 1996. The AW609 program is currently headquartered at a new facility in Arlington, Texas, and the aircraft will be certified initially by the FAA under Parts 23, 25, 29 and a new category called powered lift. Approximately 120 employees are working on the program in Arlington and another 120 at AgustaWestland’s plant in Cascina Costa, Italy, where construction of a third prototype has just been completed; it will join the test fleet late this year, for use primarily in icing trials. The fourth will join the fleet next year equipped with various enhancements, including a new tail fin, reshaped engine exhaust stacks and the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics system. Bell continues to provide temporary engineering support and will manufacture the rotor blades and yokes for the AW609.
The two current prototypes, one based in Arlington and the other at Cascina Costa, have logged 850 flight-test hours since 2003 and explored 95 percent of the flight envelope. Plans currently call for certification in 2017. Announced aircraft performance includes a maximum forward speed of 275 knots, a ceiling of 25,000 feet, a hover out of ground effect of 5,000 feet, hover in ground effect of 10,000 feet, and a useful load of 2,500 pounds. Short-takeoff capability will be added to the certification basis to increase the helicopter’s maximum gross weight on departure from 16,800 pounds to 18,000 pounds. The extra weight could be used to increase available fuel and range, now estimated at 700 nm.
AgustaWestland is currently promoting four interior configurations for the aircraft, including a standard two-pilot, nine-passenger layout; a six- and seven-passenger VIP/executive cabin; a two-litter medevac interior; a search-and-rescue design that includes hoist, basket, litter and four single seats; and a patrol/surveillance variant. A new flush opening cabin door with a retractable hoist is being designed for later models. Much speculation remains as to pricing but sources close to the program think it will be less than $30 million in current dollars. The AW609 will be assembled in Europe and the U.S.
Bell announced its five-seat Short Light Single (SLS) at the Paris Air Show last year. Performance goals for the SLS include a speed of 125 knots, a range of 360 to 420 nm, a useful load of 1,500 pounds and a ceiling of 11,000 feet. Power will come from a Turbomeca Arrius 2R (rated at 450 to 550 shp) with Fadec and Garmin will provide the G1000H glass-panel avionics. The SLS also features a fully flat-floor cabin and rear clamshell loading doors for cargo or medevac. Bell is adapting proven drivetrain elements from its legacy 206L4 LongRanger to contain costs. First flight is anticipated later this year with certification in 2015 or 2016. The SLS will be built at a new facility in Lafayette, La. A price has not yet been set.
Bell announced its most ambitious civil helicopter program at Heli-Expo 2012 and has begun assembly of the first prototype for first flight early this year. The 525 Relentless is a 19,300-pound (max takeoff weight/7,400 pounds useful load) ship with an expected range of more than 500 nm, a speed of better than 155 knots and a ceiling of 20,000 feet, aiming it squarely at the oil-and-gas market. Certification is expected next year.
The helicopter will be powered by a pair of GE CT7-2F1s (1,800 shp each) driving an all-composite five-blade main rotor system and a four-blade tail rotor. The aircraft will incorporate a triple-redundant fly-by-wire flight control system with a BAE flight computer that incorporates lessons learned on the Bell/Boeing V-22 and AW609 (formerly Bell/Agusta 609) tiltrotors. The 525 will feature the Garmin G5000H touchscreen-controlled glass panel integrated avionics suite with four main displays and Telligence voice-command capabilities, two key components of Bell’s new ARC (awareness, react and control) Horizon cockpit. The ergonomic cockpit features pilot seats that J-track, pushing back and swiveling outward, for ease of egress. Right-hand, fly-by-wire sidesticks replace the conventional cyclics. The 525’s tailboom has been designed to provide less resistance and more lift for a higher hover out of ground effect altitude than conventional designs. Bell claims the boom’s aerodynamic shape will allow 88 more horsepower to be directed to the main rotors, compared with conventional designs, by directing downwash to provide counter-torque. The five-blade main rotor is a commercial first for Bell, but its design is conventional. Entry to the 525’s 4.5-foot-tall cabin is through a pair of hinged doors located between the cockpit and the first row of four seating areas or through a pair of large aft sliding doors. Each seating area offers comfortable four-abreast seating for a total of 16 passengers.
Last summer company CEO Jerry Mullins hinted that work is under way on a new, piston-powered two-seat trainer to compete with the Robinson R44 and the Sikorsky 300C. While the company has yet to make a formal announcement on the project, it is believed to be exploring the development of a smaller version of its three-seat 280FX to tap into the burgeoning worldwide training market.
EASA certification of the 16,500-pound EC175 medium twin, originally anticipated for late 2011, is now expected early this year. As one of the final steps in the process, Eurocopter has submitted the rotorcraft’s flight manual to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Three customers are scheduled to take delivery this year.
At its 16,500-pound mtow, the helicopter can take off at an altitude of 4,500 feet in ISA+20 degrees C conditions. Maximum radius of action with 16 passengers is 140 nm, while maximum cruise speed is 165 knots. The first prototype made its maiden flight in December 2009 but the program then encountered delays resulting from a performance improvement and development hurdles with the new in-house-designed Helionix avionics.
Eurocopter is anticipating the EC145T2, an upgraded version of the EC145 light twin, will be certified this year instead of 2012. The company attributes the delay to longer-than-expected development of aerodynamics and avionics.
In the cockpit, the Helionix avionics will be accompanied by a four-axis autopilot. Its greater power means that the 894-shp Turbomeca Arriel 2E engine burns more fuel than the current engine, but 3 to 4 percent more fuel capacity keeps the payload-range diagram unchanged. Eurocopter claims that an 8- to 10-percent reduction in direct maintenance costs will offset the cost increase.
On the EC145T2, the tail features a shrouded fenestron tail rotor, installed in a new damage-tolerant, all-composite boom, without an intermediate gearbox. The design has also been improved with a duplex actuator and dual hydraulic circuits.
Another delayed program at Eurocopter is the AS365N3e Dauphin, deliveries of which are now planned to begin early next year. The medium twin will use the upgraded Starflex rotor head and the reinforced main gearbox of the AS565MBe military variant. This will both cut direct maintenance costs by 10 percent and accommodate the increased power.
New features in the Turbomeca Arriel 2N turboshaft, such as a reworked axial compressor, yield a 750-pound increase in mtow at ISA+20 conditions. Meanwhile, the initial TBO will be extended to 3,500 hours, according to Turbomeca.
The avionics suite includes a vehicle engine multifunction display, a first limit indicator and Waas functions, among others. The cabin will benefit from more ergonomic seats and new LED lighting.
FAA certification of the Eurocopter AS332C1e Super Puma–the “low-cost” version of the medium twin–was imminent at press time. The helicopter received EASA certification in November.
While the C1e’s airframe is the same as that of the AS332C1, the C1e is a new helicopter. The cockpit features four six- by eight-inch displays and a four-axis autopilot. Two Turbomeca Makila 1A1s provide 1,877 shp each. The C1e can lift up to 9,900 pounds as a sling load, with an mtow of 20,600 pounds. Otherwise, mtow stands at 18,900 pounds.
Although it is equipped with the latest generation of engines and avionics, the C1e is cost-competitive with the Russian Helicopters Mi-171A2, Eurocopter claims. In addition, the manufacturer claims the C1e burns 30 percent less fuel than the Mi-171A2, for a higher cruise speed.
A new artist rendering of the in-development Eurocopter X4 medium twin emerged in December, showing design changes since 2011. A horizontal empennage with a two-level lifting surface is visible on the tailboom, forward of the shrouded tail rotor. The main rotor retains five blades that seem to draw from the Blue Edge research blades, a double-swept design intended to reduce blade-vortex interaction and noise.
The X4, to replace the AS365/EC155 Dauphin series, will compete in the 9,000- to 12,000-pound category and will be released in two versions. The first, less advanced one, will enter service in 2017. In 2020 the second iteration of the X4 will feature a cockpit with advanced human-machine interface and fly-by-wire controls. Customers will have the choice between two 1,100-shp engine options: the Turbomeca TM800 and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210. Messier-Bugatti-Dowty will supply electric brakes.
Marenco Swisshelicopter rolled out the first prototype of its SKYe SH09, a helicopter designed for the higher end of the light single segment, late in November at Mollis Airport, Switzerland. First flight, initially pegged for 2012, is now expected early this year, followed by EASA certification early next year and production.
The composite-material airframe is a primary feature of the SH09. It enables, for a given weight, greater performance and cabin volume, according to Marenco. Engineers were also able to design an open airframe, with sliding doors on both sides, rear clamshell doors and large transparency areas. The turboshaft is a 1,020-shp Honeywell HTS900-2.
The SH09’s list price is $3 million, which allows for a basic avionics suite and two sliding doors. It can carry up to seven passengers or 3,300 pounds as a sling load. Its mtow stands at 5,840 pounds with an internal load or 6,170 pounds with an external load. Preliminary data also indicate a cruise speed of 140 knots, 430 nm of range and five hours of endurance.
MD Helicopters MD540F
MD Helicopters announced plans in 2012 to offer a new six-blade variant of its MD530F single with a more powerful Fadec Rolls-Royce 250-C47E with dual-channel Fadec and an increase in available rated takeoff power to 700 shp.
The new helicopter will be available for both the commercial and military markets–to the latter as a scout/gunship–and will include a full suite of Elbit glass-panel avionics. Preliminary specifications call for the MD540F to have a maximum external gross weight of 4,100 pounds, a useful load of 2,000 pounds, hover in ground effect at 16,000 feet and out of ground effect at 14,300 feet, a Vne of 152 knots, a range of 232 nm and a service ceiling of 20,000 feet. It is being designed to satisfy the military’s requirement for hover at 6,000 feet at 95 deg F and will incorporate the landing skids of the MD600N to accommodate the heavier weights. Civil certification is expected late next year or early 2016.
Russian Helicopters announced last August that it received Russian certification for a variant of its Ansat light twin using conventional flight controls instead of the original fly-by-wire (FBW) controls. The Ansat fell short of being the first commercial helicopter with a FBW system. This was the initial plan but “no commercial FBW helicopter had obtained certification anywhere in the world, and there were no established requirements for such a helicopter,” the airframer said in explaining the development of the conventional version. The helicopter retains the same takeoff weight (7,900 pounds) and technical parameters. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207Ks and can carry eight passengers at a cruise speed of 119 knots.
Joint light single with AgustaWestland
Russian Helicopters’ effort with AgustaWestland toward the design of a 5,500-pound light single seems to have made some progress. A “heads of agreement” has been signed, defining the 50-50 joint design and development program. It is now at the preliminary assessment stage, when the two companies study the helicopter’s “technical design and commercial opportunities.” The aircraft, smaller than the AW119, would compete with the Eurocopter EC130T2. Certification is expected in 2016, a Russian Helicopters spokesperson told AIN.
The 7,900-pound Ka-226T twin, which features two coaxial contra-rotating main rotors, is powered by Turbomeca Arrius 2G1s. Although it performed capability demonstrations in preparation for this month’s Olympic games in Sochi, it is still waiting for its Russian certification, which has been consistently postponed. Certification is now scheduled for this year. Some production examples are ready for delivery, according to the manufacturer.
The Ka-62, a medium twin powered by Turbomeca Ardiden 3Gs, was expected to fly last summer, but the milestone has been pushed out to this year. Another two prototypes were scheduled for completion by December last year. Certification of the 12- to 15-seater is slated for late this year, with first delivery following early next year.
The Ka-62 is a redevelopment of a 1980s design. In addition to the engines, new are the five-blade main rotor and Zoerkler (an Austrian supplier) rotor gearboxes. The Transas KBO-62 avionics suite includes a health and usage monitoring system.
The Ka-62’s mtow stands at 14,300 pounds, for a maximum payload of 5,290 pounds. Maximum range is said to be 405 nm and maximum cruise speed 157 knots.
The third prototype of the Mi-38 heavy twin, the first fitted with Klimov TV7-117V engines, made its maiden flight on November 29 at the Mil Moscow helicopter plant. The new Fadec-controlled turboshaft provides 2,800 shp at takeoff or 3,750 shp at an emergency rating. This compares favorably to the 2,500-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127/TSs that were powering the previous prototypes. Production Mi-38s will be fitted with Klimov engines.
The protracted program is now eying certification to Russian AP-29 standards next year. Production will begin in 2015 in Kazan, where the fourth and final prototype of the helicopter is currently being assembled. The fourth prototype will be fitted with a shock-resistant fuel system by Aerazur and enlarged windows. The Mi-38 has a mtow of 34,400 pounds (with internal load) and a passenger capacity of 30.
Scott’s-Bell 47’s (SB47) quest to put a revised edition of the iconic Bell 47 back into production is now a step closer. The Le Sueur, Minn.-based company announced late last year that it had received orders for 38 of its Rolls-Royce RR300-powered 47GT-6 helicopters. Scott’s acquired the type certificate from Bell for the Model 47 in 2009 and in 2013 announced its intention to restart production with a turbine-powered variant. The 47GT-6 has an initial target price of $820,000 and deliveries are anticipated to begin in 2016. The prototype is scheduled to fly in the fourth quarter this year. The 47GT-6 is based on the legacy Bell 47G-3B-2A and features a 3,200-pound max gross weight limit: 1,400 pounds internal and 1,650 pounds external. The 47GT-6 also will feature a modern instrument panel, upgraded interior, composite main rotor blades, LED exterior lighting and newer drive train technologies.
The first two S-76Ds were delivered late last year to offshore operator Bristow. FAA “baseline certification” was awarded in October 2012 and Sikorsky had since worked on an increased mtow (to 11,875 pounds from 11,700) and areas such as cold- and hot-weather operations, VIP options and avionics functionalities. EASA certification of the $13- to $15 million (list price in offshore configuration) medium twin is expected in the second quarter.
The new version features a digital four-axis autopilot and a Thales TopDeck avionics suite. The dual-speed main rotor includes a quiet mode. Each PW210S engine provides 1,077 shp at takeoff and offers 8-percent better fuel efficiency, according to Pratt & Whitney Canada. The S-76D has a range (without reserves) of 442 nm.