Business/VIP helicopter owners are increasingly demanding more cabin comfort and equipment. Helicopter manufacturers enjoying a booming market for their products are thus endeavoring to make their interiors look more like those of business jets.
American Eurocopter has received an FAA aircraft production certificate to manufacture its U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter and EC 145 commercial variant at the company’s plant in Columbus, Miss. The first helicopter produced under the certificate was delivered to the Army on August 27.
Customers flying to Eurocopter’s Donauwörth training center and customer service facility in Germany now benefit from a helicopter-dedicated airspace layout, the first of its kind in Europe, according to the local Eurocopter flight operations team. The new flight procedures allow operations in almost all weather conditions.
Since mid-March, approaches at the airport have been GPS-based, allowing flights in IMC.
The Eurocopter EC 145 has received the first certification for night vision goggle- aided civil operations. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certified the capability in May, and the FAA and Transport Canada (TC) are expected to follow suit this fall. The modification is available as original equipment and retrofit.
Eurocopter this summer unveiled two modernized facilities at Donauwörth, its main German industrial site. Its blade shop saw a complete re-engineering aimed at reducing lead times and optimizing the production process. Consequently, its production and repair capacities have increased by 40 percent. Design, engineering, production process and quality control and customer service are now housed in one building.
Air Methods’ products division has been selected by American Eurocopter to provide medical interiors, avionics and airframe accessories for the AS 350 and EC 130. Air Methods says it is capable of 10 to 20 conversions per year. Each conversion has a market value of approximately $500,000. Air Methods has performed almost 40 Eurocopter EMS modifications over the last four years.
While broadcasting a police chase on July 27 over Phoenix, a pair of Eurocopter AS350-B2 helicopters collided when their pilots apparently lost sight of each other, killing both pilot/reporters and their cameramen. The dead were identified as KNXV Channel 15 pilot/reporter Craig Smith and his cameraman, Rick Krolak, and KTVK Channel 3 pilot/reporter Scott Bowerbank and his cameraman, Jim Cox.
Eurocopter will make its EC 145 available with certified night-vision goggle (NVG) capability in Europe, Canada and the U.S. The NVG configuration will be available for new helicopters and as a retrofit for those already in service. Eurocopter said it plans to extend NVG capability to the EC 135 next and to other models “on customer request.”
Eurocopter logged orders for 114 civil and military helicopters worth E1.2 billion at this year’s Paris Air Show and says it is on track to sell 700 helicopters this year. This summer the company also logged more orders from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which bought eight additional American Eurocopter AS 350B3 AStars in July.
Frank Robinson, the 74-year-old firm-handed founder, chairman and president of Robinson Helicopter, says that as long as he’s sitting behind the big desk he’ll do exactly what he pleases. What pleases him? “Keeping it simple,” he explained, “and when I retire or die, whoever takes my place, hopefully, keeps that long-standing philosophy of mine alive.”