Eurocopter continues to search for the root cause of the main gearbox failure that resulted in forced but controlled ditchings by two EC225s last year. Early last month, the manufacturer was still hoping it would be able to recommend a return to flight in February. In a written statement sent to AIN late last week, however, it refers only to an “update on the situation” at the end of February.
Air Methods, the nation’s largest air ambulance provider, ended last year by placing orders for 42 new helicopters, including 20 Bell 407GX singles and 22 Eurocopters (10 EC130T2 and six AS350B3e light singles, and six EC135P2e light twins). All of the helicopters ordered are recently upgraded and improved editions of legacy models and feature new avionics and/or enhanced performance. The Eurocopter order is valued at more than $80 million. Deliveries are scheduled for 2014 and 2015.
Kitchener Aero Avionics has developed and obtained STC approval for a glass cockpit for the Eurocopter EC120 helicopter. It includes the Garmin G500H flight display system with helicopter synthetic vision, an attitude heading reference system and air data computer. Also STC’d in the EC 120 are the Garmin GDL69/69A XM weather datalink, an Avidyne TAS-605 traffic awareness system and a Honeywell KRA-405B radar altimeter. All of these additional systems are controlled by and displayed on the G500H.
In Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die young. To improve his chances of immortality, his mother, Thetis, took Achilles to the River Styx, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, and dipped his body into the water. But Thetis held Achilles by the heel… The rest of the myth is well known. If the mother of the helicopter concept ever dipped it into the River Styx, she probably held it by the main gearbox.
Eurocopter’s ubiquitous light single, the AS350B3e Ecureuil/AStar, is subject to airspeed limits and repetitive inspections as a result of an early-October emergency service bulletin and accompanying airworthiness directive (AD). The helicopter is now limited to 100 knots airspeed at sea level to reduce dynamic loads on the tail rotor. In addition, repetitive inspections must be conducted, with maximum intervals of three flight hours, on the laminated half-bearings.
Early in December, Eurocopter and the EASA published an additional emergency service bulletin and accompanying emergency AD. All AS350/AS355 Ecureuil (AStar and TwinStar) models are affected. Although no evidence of laminated half-bearing deterioration has been found on pre-B3e models, inspections are mandated. However, as the inspection interval is 10 hours, the AD will probably cause less inconvenience than those affecting the B3e.
Eurocopter has signed the first customer for the AS332C1e Super Puma, the “low cost” version of the medium twin. Starlite Aviation, an operator based in Ireland and South Africa, will be the first to fly the new, shorter-fuselage variant. Starlite provides passenger and cargo flights and heavy sling-load operations for, among others, United Nations agencies.
Eurocopter has postponed its expectation for certification of the EC175 medium twin to this summer, citing longer-than-expected development of the Helionix avionics system. Deliveries will start in September instead of “late in 2012,” as initially planned.
Under the codename X6, Eurocopter is reported to be about to launch a new helicopter line that will supersede the AS332/EC225 Super Puma medium-twin series, according to French financial publication Sud Infos. The Marignane, France-based manufacturer reportedly aims to have the new helicopter in service by 2020. The first AS332 Super Puma was delivered in 1981.
Honeywell Aerospace and China’s Avicopter signed a “strategic cooperation framework agreement” to consider equipping the latter company’s helicopters with Honeywell engines and avionics. Rishi Singh, Honeywell’s business and general aviation leader in the Asia-Pacific region, told AIN that his company is slated to provide avionics and engines for Avicopter’s proposed “next-generation single/twin,” which has yet to be given the green light to proceed.