In a move that will bring its total fleet to 95 rotorcraft, aeromedical transport giant Rocky Mountain Helicopter has signed to buy 10 Eurocopter EC 130B4s. The helicopter is essentially an enlarged AS 350 Astar, a rotorcraft long popular with the aeromed market, thanks to its relatively roomy cabin, low operating costs and good high-altitude performance.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. the American subsidiary of Eurocopter picked up some more business. In response to emergency funding initiatives under the Homeland Defense Act with respect to border security, the U.S. Border Patrol has signed a contract with Grand Prairie, Texas-based American Eurocopter for the “immediate” delivery of 13 AS 350B3 helicopters.
The fatal crash on September 20 of an American Eurocopter AStar operated by Las Vegas air-tour operator Sundance Helicopters killed all six of the rotorcraft’s passengers, as well as the helicopter’s pilot, Takashi Mezaki, 45. The single-turbine helicopter crashed and burst into flames in the Grand Canyon near Meadview, Ariz., about the same vicinity where another AStar–flown by Papillon Air Tours–crashed on Aug. 10, 2001, killing six people.
Air ambulance operator Guardian Flight has purchased its first helicopter, a Soloy-modified Eurocopter AS 350BA, on display here at the Soloy Aviation Solutions booth (No. 713). The Soloy SD1 modification replaces the AS 350’s original Turbomeca Arriel engine with a Honeywell LTS101-600A-3A. Guardian Flight is headquartered in Fairbanks, Alaska, with satellite bases in Ketchikan, Dutch Harbor and Sitka.
Soloy has received the 100th LTS101 turboshaft from Honeywell for the Olympia, Wash. company’s Eurocopter AS 350 engine conversion program. Soloy Aviation Solutions and Honeywell inked a pact for AStar AS 350BA and AS 350B2 re-
engining in 2004.
Eurocopter AStar AS 350B3, Apache Junction, Ariz., Dec. 14, 2004–Eurocopter N971AE was destroyed when it crashed while landing in a Safeway supermarket parking lot. A flight nurse was killed and the commercial pilot and a medical crewmember were seriously injured. The Air-Evac II flight was landing to pick up a patient. The police and fire department had cleared the area and told the pilot about obstructions.
The year since Heli-Expo 2004 has not been a bad one for the helicopter industry, all things considered. The industry put on a confident face at Heli-Expo in March last year, with companies logging a record number of deals at the show. Bell announced its intention to claw back market share from Eurocopter and within 48 hours had taken walk-up orders for 11 copies of the just-launched IFR version of its 427 light twin.
Chelton Flight Systems has received FAA STC approval to install its FlightLogic synthetic-vision EFIS in several models of the Eurocopter AS 350 AStar and AS 355 TwinStar and the Bell 407.
Eurocopter AS 350BA AStar, Princeville, Hawaii, March 8, 2007–Four people were killed and the Heli-USA Airways AStar was substantially damaged following loss of control while it was landing at Princeville Airport. VMC had prevailed for the 45-minute air-tour flight.
Avionics makers highlighted a number of intriguing technologies for helicopters at last month’s Heli-Expo in Orlando, Fla., none more buzz-worthy than the synthetic-vision system (SVS) concepts unveiled by Thales and Honeywell.