True Blue Power has added supplemental type certificates (STCs) for its lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries on more models of helicopters than fixed-wing aircraft because of a new partnership with STC specialist Airwolf Aerospace, the companies announced on the eve of 2020 HAI Heli-Expo.
Ohio-based Airwolf (Booth 6020) expects to receive FAA STC approval and kits by the end of first-quarter 2020 to install True Blue Power main-ship Li-ion batteries—TB17, TB20, TB30, TB40, and TB44—on all variants of 10 helicopter models: Airbus H125 (AStar), H130, H135, and H145; Bell 206 and 407; Enstrom 480; and MD369, MD500, and MD600. STC approval and kits for the Bell 204, 205, 212, and UH-1 and Leonardo AW139 are expected to follow later in 2020.
“Of all the customers that we’ve had go after STCs and installations, this has been the largest grouping at one time,” True Blue Power chief pilot Ryan Reid told AIN. “I don’t know if it’s a unique [STC] process, but they seem to have it down.”
Airwolf approached True Blue Power (Booth 5729) at last year’s Heli-Expo about the partnership, Reid said. With the forthcoming STCs, True Blue Power’s main-ship batteries will be on 17 legacy and new helicopter models, including the Bell Jet Ranger X and Robinson R66 for which its batteries are type certificated.
This is not a strategic move by True Blue Power to favor the rotorcraft market over fixed-wing, Reid said. At the moment, demand is driving the Wichita, Kansas, company’s Li-ion batteries onto more helicopters than airplanes. “We’re letting the market come to us and decide what do you want next and who wants to step up and get it done,” he said.
He added that on the fixed-wing side of the market, True Blue Power has more batteries as standard equipment on new models than it does on new rotorcraft.
In general, Reid thinks there is greater acceptance of Li-ion batteries in the aviation industry. They are especially attractive because of the weight savings they offer compared with conventional lead-acid batteries and because of their reliability and relatively low maintenance needs.
“Because of the 505 [alone], we have hundreds of batteries in over 60 countries flying around,” he said. “That’s a testament to the product. And the technology is continuing to be more and more sought after, better understood, and accepted as what’s next for aviation main-ship batteries.”
Airwolf said its True Blue Power STC kits will include the Li-ion battery as well as mounting hardware, wiring harness, and the “Magic Button” digital computer/annunciator/battery warm-up switch. It also plans to seek STC approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, Transport Canada, and Brazil's ANAC.