Eurocopter performed a demonstration flight today with an “optionally piloted vehicle” (OPV) version of the EC145 light twin helicopter, aiming eventually at unmanned operations such as automated surveillance and cargo with any of its models. Secret flight-testing began early this month at an air force base in Istres, France.
Milestone Aviation Group, the helicopter leasing firm that was co-founded in August 2010 by airplane fractional program pioneer Richard Santulli, has quickly grown to mammoth size. The Dublin, Ireland-based company said its fleet, which ranges from light-twin to heavy helicopters, now includes more than 90 aircraft from AgustaWestland, Bell, Eurocopter and Sikorsky worth more than $1.3 billion.
The number of Eurocopters based in China for both civil and parapublic operators has now reached the 100-aircraft mark. According to Eurocopter, the milestone helicopter–an EC120 light single–was recently delivered to an investor group that will provide “tailored solutions to support the development of helicopter flying clubs.” The company sold 16 turbine helicopters to Chinese commercial and parapublic operators last year, a 54-percent year-over-year increase. It claims a 40-percent share of the market for helicopters in China.
Eurocopter is now offering Sandel Avionics SN4500 primary navigation displays and SA4550 primary attitude displays as optional equipment on the EC135. As such, Sandel’s products are offered in Eurocopter’s blue book as part of the mid-life efficiency package for new-production EC135s. The SA4550 and SN4500 units feature LED-backlit display technology and “intuitive pilot controls.” The primary navigation display also includes Stormscope, traffic and datalink weather interfaces.
Eurocopter’s presence in China goes back more than 40 years to the first sale of an Alouette III helicopter in the country in 1967. But since then, the European manufacturer has set down much deeper roots in China and the new twin-engine EC175 (or Z15, as the Chinese version is known) represents the latest stage in a wide-ranging cooperation with China’s Avicopter (see box) through the Shanghai-based joint venture Eurocopter China.
India’s yet-to-take off helicopter emergency medical services program (HEMS) received a boost earlier this year with a firm contract for seven Eurocopter EC135s by Bangalore-based Aviators Ltd. signed in the presence of visiting French president François Hollande.
Two German police-operated helicopters returning from a training mission collided near the ground in Berlin while landing on March 21. Both were Eurocopter models, one an AS332L1 Super Puma and the other an EC155B1. The pilot of the Super Puma lost ground reference in blowing snow and struck the smaller helicopter, killing the pilot of the EC155. Seven people on the ground were also injured–four seriously–mostly by flying debris. The two helicopters were participating in a police exercise being held near Berlin’s downtown Olympic Stadium.
Eurocopter says it has made significant progress in solving the main gearbox issue that has blighted the EC225 medium twin since last May, reporting that a third test campaign at its headquarters in Marignane, France “is establishing” the cause of crack initiation.
Eurocopter attributes the issue to “a combination of factors” leading to a degradation of the vertical shaft’s fatigue resistance. The helicopter manufacturer has excluded any “abnormal dynamic overload.” Failure of the bevel gear shaft causes a loss of lubrication.
Eurocopter Japan has delivered to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency a Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin medium-twin helicopter retrofitted with a high-speed, real-time satellite transmission system. The helicopter’s satellite communication system enables direct transmission to relay satellites, without interruption by the helicopter’s moving rotor blades. Mitsubishi Electric developed the system, which solves these interference issues when ground-based networks are unavailable.
Two helicopters, understood to be a Eurocopter EC155 and a Eurocopter Super Puma, crashed after a midair during windy snowfall today near the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. One pilot was killed and four people were severely injured, according to local news reports. The two helicopters, along with a third that was not involved in the accident, were participating in a crowd-control training exercise. Accident investigators were on scene at press time.