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.
The AgustaWestland/Bell/Lockheed Martin VH-71 made its first flight July 3 in Yeovil, UK. The 40-minute flight reached speeds of 135 knots and was reportedly uneventful, but there are likely challenges ahead for the program. The U.S. Navy is developing the VH-71 as a replacement for the 30-year-old Sikorsky VH-3Ds and somewhat newer N-60 “Whitehawks” that transport the President and other high-ranking government officials.
Sikorsky Aircraft has successfully ground tested fly-by-wire (FBW) technology that will debut on 28 H-92s slated for delivery in 2009 to Canadian military forces. The H-92 is the military variant of the S-92. Sikorsky partnered with BAE Systems to develop the FBW system.
Boeing is confident that its HH-47 rotorcraft will be reconfirmed as the winner of the
potential $10 billion U.S. Air Force combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) competition. But even without adding the 141 helicopters required for CSAR, the evergreen Chinook looks set for at least two more decades of production for the U.S. Army and international customers.
AgustaWestland has announced orders for six AW139s in Australia. The Queensland Government and CHC, in New South Wales, have each purchased three of the medium twin helicopters. They will operate them in emergency medical and rescue services. The helicopter manufacturer has also won a contract from the Japan National Police Agency to supply five AW109 Power light twins for law-enforcement missions.
A 16-month, $16 million (including options) contract to service new Statoil Snøehvit production platforms in the Barents Sea has been awarded to Norsk Helikopter.
Services will begin in October, with Norsk providing one de-iced Super Puma to carry passengers and a SAR-equipped Super Puma Mk 2 on 24-hour offshore search-and-rescue standby. Both helicopters will be based at Hammerfest, in northern Norway.
L-3 Communications Integrated Systems has won the contract for a head-of-state widebody executive/VIP interior. A spokesman declined to reveal the name of the customer or the aircraft type, but said work has already begun on some of the interior components. The airplane is scheduled to arrive at the company’s Texas State Technical College Airport facilities in Waco early next year.
The S-92 medium-twin helicopter has become the first rotorcraft to be certified by the new European Aviation Safety Agency. Transport Canada certification is expected later this year summer and full icing certification later this year.
A deluge of orders for new helicopters during HAI’s Heli-Expo, held in Las Vegas last month, surprised even seasoned industry watchers on the floor. By the end of the show’s second day, an estimated 110 airframes, conservatively worth $600 million, had been spoken for by domestic and international customers.