Three people (the pilot and two passengers) aboard a Bell 206 died January 27 near Silt, Colo., when their power line patrol helicopter crashed after striking a wire at about 11:20 a.m. Rifle, Colo.-based DBS Helicopters operated the aircraft.
The rarefied offshore energy market continues to be the prime driver for development of new civil helicopters, but the training and entry-level market is also heating up, with Bell and others announcing or hinting at new models. Various studies predict that worldwide civil helicopter production will double between now and 2020 in terms of overall sales value as OEMs focus on delivering larger and more expensive helicopters.
The cost of converting the UK’s fleet of 25 AW101 Merlin Mk3 transport helicopters for future use as Mk4s by the Royal Marines Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) will be £330 million ($545 million). British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the amount during a visit to AgustaWestland’s Yeovil factory, where much of the work will be done. He also announced that the Anglo-Italian company is receiving a five-year follow-on integrated operational support (IOS) contract worth £430 million ($710 million) for the British Army’s Apache AH.1 fleet.
A U.S. Congressional panel has agreed to the Pentagon’s plan to quickly deliver six Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq. They will be delivered in the summer, and will be leased from the U.S. Army to allow training to begin with Iraqi army aviation. The helicopters are AH-64Ds upgraded to a partial AH-64E configuration. The notification to Congress was lodged on January 23, and was followed by another four days later covering the $4.8 billion purchase of 24 new-build AH-64E Apache Guardians to be delivered over a three-year period.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is stepping up efforts to improve helicopter operational safety after adding this to its Most Wanted list of goals for increased awareness and advocacy.
In a January 14 statement, the NTSB said that between January 2003 and May 2013 there were 1,470 helicopter accidents, resulting in 477 fatalities and 274 serious injuries. The Board is concerned that helicopter accidents will continue to happen unless a concerted effort is made to improve the safety of rotary-wing operations.
Russian Helicopters is asking the Russian government for an extra RUB1.15 billion ($34 million) to complete the development of the Ka-62 medium twin. According to Russian newspaper Izvestya, this will come in addition to the $59 million already invested in the helicopter program.
The Army also plans to upgrade analog UH-60L models to the same capability of M models rather than purchase all M models. Last summer, it formed the new UH-60L Digital Product Directorate to lead the effort.
France’s DGA defense procurement agency, the French navy and systems integrator DCNS proved the “functional integration” of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a naval ship’s combat system for the first time in Europe, according to DCNS. Following sea trials in mid-December, the DGA issued a permit to DCNS to fly the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 aircraft used in the testing, the company said.
China’s newest military helicopter made its first flight on December 23 at a location in “northeastern China,” a site presumed to be the Harbin facility. The aircraft, believed to be designated Z-20, is in the “10-tonne” class, and is thought to be a collaborative effort among Harbin, Changhe and the 602 Institute.
In an end-of-year statement, Russian Helicopters confirmed that the Mil Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopter has finally been accepted into service. The company also listed deliveries for 2013.