Spirits were high and attendance reached a healthy 15,243 at Heli-Expo’10, held February 21 to 23 in Houston. The number of exhibitors, 596, was higher than last year, and this year’s attendance was the third highest in Heli-Expo history, underscoring the helicopter industry’s assertion that the diversity of the markets it serves has moderated the effects of the recession.
The U.S. Navy last week issued a comprehensive 27-page request for information (RFI) for the next VXX helicopter that will possibly begin to replace the
current fleet of “Marine One” Sikorsky VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters in the 2017-2023 time frame. Responding parties have until March 3 to submit a letter of interest and April 19 to submit their final responses to the Naval Air Systems Command.
A preview of what future AgustaWestland helicopters’ cockpits will look like was seen in the AW149 mockup exhibited at the Paris airshow last June.
The new approach promises to reduce costs, both in the development phase and in the life cycles of aircraft. The higher degree of cockpit commonality among AgustaWestland models promises to save money on pilot training and enhance fleet flexibility.
Both product support and research and development have taken hits in the helicopter industry as cash flow and current sales shrink, while future orders are clouded by important changes and growing uncertainty in key customer sectors.
Limited funding for the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 presidential helicopter, which is based on the triple-engine AgustaWestland AW101, made it into the final FY2010 U.S. defense appropriations bill, reviving the model’s chances of one day flying U.S. presidents. At direction of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Pentagon had terminated the program on May 15 last year.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) plans to order 22 new Chinooks, in its latest response to widespread criticism over the shortage of heavy helicopter lift to support British troops in Afghanistan. Last September, the RAF announced for its existing fleet of 38 Chinooks a $650 million upgrade program named Project Julius that consists of a cockpit upgrade and more powerful engines.
Limited funding for the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 presidential helicopter, which is based on the three-engine AgustaWestland AW101, has made it into the final FY2010 U.S. defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3326), reviving the machine’s chances of one day flying the President. At the direction of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Pentagon terminated the program on May 15 last year.
With little fanfare on Saturday, the Senate approved and President Obama subsequently signed the final FY2010 U.S. defense appropriations bill. The $636.3 billion bill includes limited funding for the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 presidential helicopter, which is based on the triple-engine AgustaWestland AW101.
In September the UK defense ministry announced a contract to upgrade the Royal Air Force’s 46-strong Boeing Chinook support helicopter force. Known as Project Julius, and driven partly by the extraordinary demands of sustained operations in Afghanistan, the program consists of re-engining and a cockpit upgrade.
The future of the VH-71 presidential helicopter program neared the wire last month as Congress worked to pass a final 2010 defense appropriations bill that the President would sign before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. If the bill is not signed into law by then, Congress would need to pass a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the Department of Defense. As AIN went to press, the bill had not yet become law.