Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has now awarded prime contracts to all four participating companies to begin Phase 1 development for the agency’s VTOL X-Plane program. Boeing and Karem Aircraft received contracts this week, to join Aurora Flight Sciences and Sikorsky. While all four have submitted proposals for unmanned vehicles, the technology that is to be developed has equal application to manned VTOL aircraft.
Earlier this month Russian Helicopters delivered the 3,500th helicopter of the Mil Mi-17 series. Assembled at the Kazan Helicopters plant, the machine is one of 151 that India has ordered. However, at the same time, tensions with Ukraine are threatening the supply of engines.
Sandel Avionics received multi-model STC approval from the FAA for its helicopter terrain awareness and warning system, HeliTaws. The approved model list (AML) STC for Part 27 and Part 29 helicopters allows models to be added progressively by updating the AML listing, provided similarity and differences are substantiated. Sandel’s ST3400H Part 27 AML-STC covers the Airbus Helicopters AS350 series, while the Part 29 approval is for Bell 412s. It is working on adding the Bell 206 and 212 series, as well as the Airbus Helicopters EC130.
Bell Helicopter secured orders and purchase commitments for 196 new helicopters from customers during Heli-Expo, which was held last week in Anaheim, Calif. This number includes more than 170 letters of intent for Bell’s circa-$1 million light single helicopter, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X, that was formally unveiled at the show.
The FAA proposes a $90,000 civil penalty against Red Eagle Aviation of Kalispell, Mont., for allegedly operating a Bell 206 helicopter not in compliance with FARs. The agency alleges the company made numerous flights, including at least 80 revenue flights, when it had not performed required periodic overhauls of the helicopter’s tail-rotor hub and main-rotor mast assemblies. Failure to perform the overhauls within the time period specified by the manufacturer meant the helicopter was not airworthy.
Europe is slowly progressing toward the use of simultaneous non-interfering (SNI) approaches for helicopters at airports. This would improve rotorcraft access to busy airports while reducing the environmental impact, promoters of a dedicated research project believe. Further in-flight demonstrations are planned for next year, eight years after the first series of trials.
The annual Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo show is one of the most enjoyable shows that I attend each year. It’s not because the show is all about helicopters, but more about the unique nature of those who have dedicated their lives to the whirlybird industry. Helicopter people are not only intensely committed to all things rotary-winged but at the same time they’re a fun-loving bunch, and this is such a small segment of the aviation industry that there are few degrees of separation between all of the participants.
The FAA issued an airworthiness directive [AD 2014-03-11] on February 19 for Bell 204B helicopters requiring an inspection of the tail-rotor cable assembly for an incorrectly machined body. This AD was prompted by a report from Bell that a defective body on the cable prevents the barrel assembly from fully engaging in the body cavity. The AD, which becomes effective on March 26, is intended to prevent disengagement of the cable from the barrel, failure of the tail-rotor pitch control and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter.
Troubled by an increase in the number of helicopter accidents in the last several years, the FAA has launched the Rotorcraft Safety Initiative (RSI), an effort to curb helicopter fatal accidents.
From Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013, the U.S. helicopter industry experienced 38 fatal helicopter crashes, a 100-percent increase over the same period in 2011-2012. These accidents resulted in 76 fatalities, 95 percent more than the same period the year before and the highest number of fatal accidents since 1994.
The EASA is considering increasing the time in which a pilot is expected to respond to engine failure in a single-engine helicopter, to align certification standards with real-world human performance. The new standard, if adopted, would require helicopters to be designed so that the pilot has more time to respond before a decay in rotor rpm takes the machine into hazardous dynamic territory. A study by Dutch aerospace research center NLR shows that this would add weight and cost.