Although popular with police, EMS and offshore operators in Europe and Asia since its introduction in 1999, the Airbus Helicopters (née Eurocopter) EC155 has been slow to catch on in the U.S. market. Customers panned the initial model for its unreliability and inadequate engine power. Those issues were largely addressed with an improved variant, the EC155B1, which entered production in 2002 and introduced uprated engines.
Canadian health and safety investigators charged Ontario’s troubled air ambulance service, Ornge, with 17 violations of the Canadian Labor Code related to the nighttime crash of a Sikorsky S-76A on May 31 last year near its base in rural northern Mosonee that killed its four-man crew. The helicopter went down shortly after takeoff en route to a patient pick-up.
Now air charter buyers can use their smartphones to grab the next available helicopter seat bound for the Hamptons. The new Blade app lets customers book a seat on an existing flight or charter a whole helicopter and then use the app to help fill the seats. The app is backed by New York City’s Liberty Helicopters. Flights booked on Blade take off from NYC’s East Side Heliport and land in South Hampton, East Hampton and Montauk, with return flights to Midtown’s West Side Heliport.
EASA has certified a redesigned vertical bevel gear shaft for the Airbus Helicopters EC225, which was grounded for nine months in 2012 and 2013 after a series of in-flight failures. Manufacture of the redesigned gear shaft is under way for production aircraft and retrofits, with first installations (for both applications) planned for this year’s second half.
The new design provides corrosion resistance, compensates for residual stress and eliminates stress hot spots, eliminating all three factors that, combined, caused two unexpected vertical shaft failures.
The North Sea offshore industry held a brainstorming session in late April to examine the issues it faces with helicopter flights to and from oil and gas platforms. Although the organizers emphasized that most actions in the February CAA review (known as CAP 1145) relate to accident prevention, mitigation measures–such as emergency breathing systems (EBS) and passenger size restriction–cause the more urgent problems and accounted for a significant part of the discussion.
Following a number of recent helicopter accidents, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) last month issued a notice of proposed rule-making aimed at improving the safety of helicopter external sling load and winching and rappelling operations. Winching and rappelling is generally associated with emergencies and, as a result, carries greater inherent risk than other helicopter operations, says the CASA. Such operations are also time-sensitive and are often conducted under challenging environmental conditions.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada last week published a final report on the January 2012 crash of an Airbus Helicopters AS350B3 operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The pilot was killed after the engine failed while the helicopter was hovering at an altitude of 80 feet above the ground.
As of the middle of May, the FAA had yet to determine if it will renew its mandatory VFR helicopter route along the north shore of New York’s Long Island. The controversial North Shore Route was established for voluntary compliance in 2008 as a response to residential noise complaints and political prodding from elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y), who pressed then Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the FAA to make it mandatory.
The AgustaWestland AW609 civil tiltrotor passed another milestone on the road to certification by completing autorotation testing at AgustaWestland’s Arlington, Texas facility over the course of 10 flight hours in March and early April. Test aircraft Number 1 made more than 70 power-off conversions from airplane to helicopter mode.
The pilot of an Airbus Helicopters AS350 was killed when his aircraft rolled over on its side as he attempted to reposition it near the Grand Canyon West Airport in Arizona on May 18. The helicopter was being operated by Papillion Grand Canyon Helicopters at the time of the accident. The Hualapai Indian Tribe operates the airport.