What's New in Helicopters?

March 3, 2014
A look at new products and services presented at Heli-Expo 2014

HELI-EXPO 2014, held Feb. 24 to 27, in Anaheim, CA, hosted 20,000 industry professionals, with more than 700 competitive exhibitors, more than 60 helicopters on display, and more than 50 educational opportunities, including education courses, seminars, workshops, and forums. Here is a look at some of the helicopters introduced.

Airbus Helicopters

"Under our new name, Airbus Helicopters [formerly Eurocopter], we have redefined our priorities. We are committed to new standards with respect to customer satisfaction, quality and safety, and competitiveness," said Airbus Helicopters President Guillaume Faury. “We’re implementing these priorities by placing our efforts on product reliability and availability, the reduction of lead times and production costs, and integrating the Airbus Group’s standards of quality – all while setting new standards in the helicopter industry in the key domain of aviation safety.”

It presented the upgraded version of its proven EC225 Super Puma: the EC225e. This new model responds to operators’ requirements for extended-range missions – particularly in support of deep-water oil and gas airlift duties. 

Airbus Helicopters’ next-generation EC175, which received European certification in January, will be represented at Heli-Expo with the display of a high-fidelity full-scale mockup in the corporate configuration. To support the EC175’s service entry, dedicated resources will be available to customers, including spare parts inventories and on-site technical assistance. In Grand Prairie, TX, Airbus Helicopters  will provide Gulf of Mexico operators with 24/7 technical support, AOG (aircraft on ground) service response, rapid spare parts distribution and other services for the EC175 and the complete Airbus Helicopters product line.

By the time EC175 deliveries begin later this year, the initial pilots will have received training on a flight navigation procedure training (FNPT) and Level D full-flight simulator – both located in Marignane and operational in spring and summer 2014, respectively. As the fleet expands, other EC175 full-flight simulators will be deployed in close proximity to regions where customers are introducing the aircraft into service.

Also exhibited at Heli-Expo was the new EC145 T2, to be certified and delivered in 2014. It is equipped for the first time with Airbus Helicopters’ signature Fenestron shrouded tail rotor, as well as upgraded main and tail rotor gear boxes. Operators will have access to a service portfolio that includes training and operations, system and software maintenance, and turnkey solutions. An EC145 T2 full-flight simulator will be deployed at Donäuworth, Germany in 2015.

The AS332 C1e, represented the company’s approach to offering standardized helicopter versions that respond to multi-role mission needs. This enables a streamlined production process for reduced delivery lead times while incorporating modern avionics and system improvements. Features of the AS332 C1e include the glass cockpit, four-axis autopilot and associated automatic flight control system from the EC225 Super Puma, which provides flight envelope protection, unrivalled precision and stability in even the harshest operating conditions.

Vision 1000: It also announced its intention for all new aircraft produced by the company to be equipped with a cockpit image and flight data recorder.

For the past several years, Airbus Helicopters has equipped all of its AS350 model helicopters with the Vision 1000 as a factory-installed piece of equipment, resulting in more than 200 aircraft each year.

Developed jointly by Airbus Helicopters and Appareo Systems, the Vision 1000 is a cockpit imaging and flight data monitoring (FDM) device wrapped into one. In addition to capturing audio and high-resolution cockpit imagery, it records critical flight data, providing a complete picture of what occurred during every moment of each flight. Lightweight and easy to install, it is designed to function in any type of aircraft. The data is stored on a crash-hardened memory module and a removable secure digital (SD) card.

“Airbus Helicopters has provided their customers with a great first step toward safer operations by making the Vision 1000 a part of their fleet,” said Appareo chairman and CEO Barry Batcheller. “The next step for operators is to use the data provided by the Vision 1000 in a comprehensive FDM program, such as Appareo’s turnkey ALERTS system.”

Online services: Airbus Helicopters is deploying five new online services in 2014 and significantly expanding the global coverage of its existing online e-Spares ordering solution so as to cover 80 percent of its global customer base in 2015.

WebMIS, the cloud-based helicopter maintenance information system developed in partnership with global aviation software provider Ramco Systems, will be available on Keycopter in 2014. WebMIS is now being integrated by the first user: the Blueway Nordic helicopter group for its Dancopter AS and Blueway Offshore Norge AS operations. The WebMIS information system tracks maintenance and logistics operations in real-time online, thereby increasing fleet availability, saving time and money, and enhancing the availability of spares, tools and personnel – all without capital expenditure.

Its new O.R.I.O.N interactive viewer allows customers to easily consult all the latest technical documentation online and directly access regularly updated work cards. This key service will be progressively deployed for the entire helicopter range throughout 2014, beginning today with the EC130.

The company’s business intelligence service enables operators to identify areas of possible improvement by using their own data mapped against helicopter fleet-wide data. New Keycopter offerings also include an e-Customer Request portal and e-Warranty. An additional service coming soon is the electronic Technical Log Book (e-TLB), which enables highly efficient real-time communication between flight operations and maintenance to reduce aircraft-on-ground situations and improve helicopter availability.

Another new offering is a catalogue of 150 upgrade solutions based on Service Bulletins and Supplemental Type Certificates. The standardization of such services (including kits preparation and double certification) allows shorter lead times, higher competitiveness and higher maintenance efficiency. The standardized upgrades are now available via e-Ordering on Keycopter. Additionally, an easy-to-use automatic quotation and research tool for off-the-shelf kits will go live in the first quarter of 2015. This evolution of the Keycopter e-Ordering process will enable customers to receive a quotation in a matter of minutes in an interactive manner.

Addressing market expectations for availability commitments is Airbus Helicopters’ Performance-Based Services (PBS) offer. The company proposes four different comprehensive support packages including full logistics, maintenance and airworthiness management targeted at different customer missions and needs. The company signed a PBS contract for Lithuania’s Air Force at the end of 2013 – a six-year daily helicopter availability commitment – which ensures a successful entry into service for the operator’s Search and Rescue fleet.

For more about Airbus Helicopters visit www.airbushelicopters.com.

Bell Helicopter

The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X places safety, efficiency and reliability at the forefront. It features a fully-integrated glass flight deck for reduced pilot workload, superb crew visibility for maximum situational awareness, and the Garmin G1000H for critical flight information at a glance. A Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine with dual channel FADEC and high inertia rotor system ensures the aircraft features the ideal combination of speed, range and useful load that delivers best-in-class performance. The five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter leverages Bell Helicopter’s proven technology and nearly 50 years of experience defining the SLS market with the original Bell JetRanger. With a cruise speed of 125 knots, range of 360 nautical miles and useful load of 1,500 pounds, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is designed to be the safest and easiest aircraft to fly in the SLS category while still remaining affordably priced.

 “It’s an exciting time to be at Bell Helicopter, working side-by-side with our customers to create the next generation of vertical lift,” John Garrison, CEO of Bell Helicopter, said. “Throughout our entire planning and development process, we are engaging our customers.  They are providing us with actionable insights about how we can improve our products and what they will need for their missions in the coming years. This input has been invaluable in ensuring we deliver the products our customers need to be successful.”

Customers have responded favorably to the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X, scheduled for first flight late this year. Bell Helicopter has also begun signing letters of intent for the new aircraft at the HAI Heli-Expo. Customers can visit http://www.bell505.com to select specific models and see pricing options before ordering their aircraft directly online. 

The Bell 525 is the world’s first fly-by-wire commercial helicopter, able to operate in austere environments safely and reliably with decreased pilot workload. Developed with continuous customer input, the Bell 525 offers unparalleled situational awareness and enhanced safety and reliability with the first touch screen glass flight deck designed for helicopters. The Bell 525 also features a Garmin G5000H fully-integrated glass flight deck and Bell's (Lift Assist Tail Boom Design) LATD technology for improved hover performance. The Relentless can comfortably accommodate 16 passengers and two crew members. It has a cruise speed of 155 knots and a range of 500 nautical miles. With a highly reconfigurable main cabin, the Bell 525 Relentless is adaptable to several mission needs, including corporate/VIP, firefighting, energy, helicopter air ambulance, and search and rescue.

Bell Helicopter announced the formation of a registered company in Japan, Bell Helicopter Co., Ltd. To support the company’s efforts in the region, Richard Thornley will assume the role of managing director of Bell Helicopter in Japan. In this new position, Thornley is responsible for marketing and sales and support activities within Japan as Bell Helicopter continues to broaden its presence in this key global market.

The new local office in Tokyo, Japan, will perform the sales and marketing efforts for new aircraft in the commercial and civil government sectors in Japan. Longer-term, it will also be responsible for supporting Bell Helicopter’s aftermarket support efforts including supporting the authorized Customer Service Facilities (CSFs) in Japan.

For more information visit www.bellhelicopter.com

MD Helicopters

MD Helicopters Inc. (MDHI) released details of its new MD 530G armed aerial scout helicopter. The MD 530G is the latest in a lineage that spans more than 50 years of scout attack evolution. The journey began in 1963 with the introduction of the legendary OH-6A by Hughes Aircraft Division. In 1985, the performance continued with the certification of the heralded MD 530F, the world’s most proven scout for “hot and high” performance. Born from the combat-proven MD 530F airframe, the MD 530G is the next model in a line of purpose driven scout attack helicopters.

“Just as the evolution of the modern day warrior advances by way of technology, materials and innovation, so, too, does the progression of the armed aerial scout,” said Ms. Lynn Tilton, chief executive officer of MDHI. “The 530G builds on the combat proven success of the 530F, adding heightened gross take-off weight capacity, modern weapons control and an extensive selection of weapons configurations. The result of such innovation is an incarnation that delivers combat mission versatility, extreme firepower and agile performance beyond any armed scout in the market.”

The MD 530G platform provides growth in capabilities for the battle-proven airframe that will enable military customers to meet mission requirements in austere environments. With cruise speeds in excess of 130 kts, the MD 530G is designed for agile deployment with any rotary wing unit, such as UH-60 Blackhawk assault force. The aircraft features increased capacity landing gear supporting the 3,750 MGTOW (max gross takeoff weight). This allows the operator to utilize the increased useful load for
additional range, endurance and weapons.

“This impressive aircraft will continue the OH-6A legacy of a reliable, low cost, quick response armed aerial scout, equipped with modern weapons capabilities,” said Ms. Tilton. “The MD 530G will provide the operator the ability to find, fix and finish enemy targets on the ever evolving battlefield.”

The MD 530G will provide expanded armed aerial mission capabilities for military markets. The aircraft will be built upon the MD 530-series airframe, the demonstrated leader with the highest mission availability rates in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. This airframe maintains reliability, low operating cost, quick response and a modern stores management system (SMS) with extreme firepower.

With completion of the new aircraft projected for the 2nd quarter of 2014, MDHI is already taking orders for the MD 530G. MDHI is expected to deliver the first aircraft during the 3rd quarter of 2014. 

MDHI has partnered with Helicopters de Bolivia to establish a service center in Santa Cruz; its opening is to coincide with the delivery of two MD 530F aircraft that will be operated by the Bolivian National Police to provide additional airborne security for the Ministry of the Interior. Delivery is scheduled for the second quarter of 2014. 

The MD 530F helicopters delivered to Bolivia will be equipped with the latest technologies to support both safe flight operations and police missions. The aircraft will be utilized during the upcoming G77 World Security conference in Santa Cruz.   

Equipped with the 650 shp Rolls-Royce 250-C30 engine and longer main-rotor blades, the MD 530F performs exceptionally well in hot and high conditions. The MD 530F has increased control with its tailboom extended eight inches, and benefits from lengthened tail rotor blades, which provide increased thrust and directional control at high altitudes. The MD 530F's multiple operational capabilities enable greater mission versatility and performance. This dependable aircraft has greater take-off power and significantly higher hover ceiling levels than its competitors, with hover in ground effect capability of 16,000 feet ISA. The MD 530F also retains the family characteristics of speed, agility, low direct operating costs and the ability to operate with ease in confined spaces. 

For more information visit www.mdhelicopters.com.

Sikorsky Aircraft

Sikorsky Aircraft’s Matrix Technology autonomy research program has progressed to the second phase of flight test activities with the installation of advanced sensors that will allow the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA) to conduct real-time perception work. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.

SARA – an S-76 commercial helicopter outfitted with fly-by-wire controls – will be able to demonstrate autonomic site-selection and landing with this new sensor equipment. This is a key objective of the program as it proceeds toward higher levels of enhanced autonomy to include optionally piloted and fully dedicated autonomous vehicles. As a flying test lab, SARA will enable rapid flight testing of software and hardware, including multi-spectral sensors, previously integrated in the systems integration labs at Sikorsky’s headquarters. When not in flight, SARA can be configured as its own simulator to develop and test autonomy software and hardware.

With the launch of Phase 2, the SARA demonstrator was modified with a datalink and multi-spectral sensor package that allows it to demonstrate perception and sensor-in-the-loop flight.

“Reliability and precision control were the key objections of Phase 1. With the launch of Phase 2, SARA’s ‘got eyes’ ” said Igor Cherepinsky, Chief Engineer for Sikorsky’s Autonomy Program. “The sensors allow her to fly at full speed, avoid obstacles, select landing zones, and do other tasks that are perceptually intensive. All of these are objectives of the Matrix Technology program as we move toward evolving SARA’s abilities to understand and see the world in all sorts of conditions.”

SARA flew its first flight on July 26, 2013. The Matrix program completed Phase 1 in late 2013, during which the demonstrator flew a full autonomous mission that demonstrated it can take off from an airport, fly a pattern, and return to the airport. The flight was done without sensors in the loop.

For more information visit www.sikorsky.com.

Veterans’ Appreciation

On Wednesday, Feb. 26, during Heli-Expo 2014, all attendees who are current or former members of any military force from around the world were called to a special veterans’ appreciation at Helicopter Foundation International’s Heritage of Helicopters display. 

HAI President Matt Zuccaro took a moment to recognize all the active-duty, reserve, and veteran members of the military for their service to their countries. The group then formed for a photo by the heritage helicopters. 

For more on Heli-Expo visit www.rotor.com.