The FAA has begun the process that could lead to rewriting the standards for normal- and transport-category helicopters certified under Parts 27 and 29 of the FARs. On Friday, the agency formally issued a request for public comment due on or before May 23. Specifically, the FAA is seeking comments on whether it should revise the maximum weight and passenger-seat capacity for helicopters in both categories and make airworthiness standards “more efficient and adaptable to future technology.”
Bell Helicopter delivered the first Bell 429 light twins to customers in Nigeria last week. They are also the first Bell 429s to be shipped to operators on the African continent. One of the helicopters was handed over to the Nigeria Police Air Wing (NPAW) and the other went to the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The NPAW will use the Bell 429 for general law enforcement, surveillance and force projection, while the NEMA will fly the aircraft for disaster relief and humanitarian support missions.
The reintroduced Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act has little chance of being enacted, according to government information website GovTrack.us. S.208 seeks to force the FAA to impose regulations governing helicopter operations in the Los Angeles area. GovTrack.us estimates that the bill has a 4-percent chance of getting out of committee and a 1-percent chance of being enacted.
Two former Carson Helicopter Services executives, Steven Metheny and Levi Phillips, were indicted by a federal grand jury February 1 for “endangering the safety of flight” by falsifying aircraft documents, including weight-and-balance and performance charts on a Sikorsky S-61N helicopter owned and operated by the company. The helicopter crashed in December 2008 while performing firefighting duties for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Nine of 13 people aboard were killed in the crash, while four others received serious injuries.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is planning to spread the safety recommendations contained in a government/industry rewrite of Part 23 certification rules to next month’s Helicopter Association International (HAI) convention in Las Vegas. “One of the primary focuses that we have had over the past year is to try to look at how we are regulated, and how those regulations just strangle our abilities to get safety-enhancing technologies into the cockpit,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce last week.
Indian light helicopter requirements remain subject to a bureaucratic procurement process. The program to acquire 197 reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters (RSH) is close to being scrapped, but Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has inked a contract for 187 light utility helicopters (LUH). HAL is also proposing the LUH for a new Indian Navy requirement. Meanwhile, HAL continues to develop its light combat helicopter (LCH), which first flew in March 2010.
The EASA has approved Eurocopter’s fix for the tail-rotor problems that have affected the AS350B3e AStar/Ecureuil light single helicopter. Operators will have to perform the modification–essentially removing an additional chin weight and installing a load compensator–within five months, per a recently issued AD. It will “restore the tail rotor dynamic load level,” down to the level found on previous models, such as the B3.
A new airworthiness directive for the MD Helicopters MD500N, MD600N and MD900 requires determining the cure date for each Notar fan blade tension-torsion strap (T-T strap). The purpose is to establish a calendar-time retirement life, mark each T-T strap with the expiration date, create a component record card and revise the airworthiness limitations section of the maintenance manual.
The vital North Sea fleet of EC225 helicopters is expected to remain grounded until April, according to Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling. The aircraft have not flown since October, when gearbox failures on two different machines caused Norwegian and UK officials to prohibit over-water flights until a fix is identified.
The probable cause of the December 2011 crash of an AS350B2 operated by Las Vegas, Nev.-based Sundance Helicopters near the Hoover Dam was the result of faulty maintenance, according to the NTSB. The helicopter had been returned to service earlier on the day of the crash following major maintenance that included an engine change and replacement of main- and tail-rotor actuators.