Kaman Aerosystems is planning to begin delivery this spring of the first of its newly produced K-Max K-1200 heavy external-lift helicopters. The first K-Max will be shipped in April, with the second in May. Both are headed to Lectern Aviation in China and will be used for firefighting operations for the China Department of Forestry.
The first deliveries will mark a return for a helicopter that has been out of production for more than a decade. The K-Max was certified in 1994, but Kaman ceased production in 2003 after delivering 38 of the distinctive intermeshing-rotor model.
Kaman (Booth 9756) in 2015 announced plans to resume production of the helicopter, saying it had continued to receive requests for the K-Max and demand had reached the point to support the return of production.
In January, Kaman delivered the first airframe from the re-opened production line in Jacksonville, Fla., to its plant in Bloomfield, Conn., where it is undergoing final assembly and flight test. The second was to follow over the next several weeks.
“Delivery of the first K-Max aircraft to our customer is scheduled to take place during the second quarter of this year, following completion of the remaining assembly and testing at our Bloomfield facility,” said Drake Klotzman, Air Vehicles & MRO (AVMRO) division general manager, in announcing the delivery of the first airframe. “Producing the initial airframe is an important milestone for the program.”
Klotzman said assembly, certification, inspections and flight test would continue over the next several weeks. While the aircraft does not need to be re-certified, Kaman is undergoing the certification process for its production line since it had been quiet for a number of years.
“Our experienced employees are working diligently to complete the first aircraft in order to have deliveries to customers begin this spring with multiple deliveries to follow during 2017,” Klotzman added.
In announcing the decision to restart production, Kaman expected an initial new production run of 10. Terry Fogarty, director of business development for K-Max helicopter programs, said the initial run remains at 10, and a decision would be made in 2017 about the size of the second run. The first 10 will be delivered throughout 2017 and 2018.
The company has been positive about the interest it had received in the helicopter since the announcement, and Fogarty said it is picking up as the company nears the first delivery. In addition to Lectern, Kaman also had named initial customers Rotex Helicopter of Switzerland and Helicopter Express of Chamblee, Ga.
Kaman founder and former CEO Charles H. Kaman led development of the original single-engine, single-seat K-Max, which features a intermeshing main rotor system that is designed to optimize external-lift operations. Powered by a Honeywell T53-17 turboshaft flat-rated to 1,500 shp (takeoff), the helicopter is designed to carry 6,000 pounds externally. The aircraft have been used in firefighting, logging, construction and other missions requiring repetitive aerial lift capabilities.
In addition, the U.S. Marine Corps has maintained two unmanned K-Max helicopters developed with Lockheed Martin. They flew for the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014, delivering 4.5 million pounds of cargo.
The company added that efforts have continued to explore unmanned platforms, including for firefighting and medevac. The newly produced helicopters will be manned, but can be retrofitted for unmanned purposes, according to Kaman.