The BA609 tiltrotor that flew at the Paris Air Show put on an impressive display, but potential buyers said they had misgivings about the hybrid design. Several of the operators interviewed deemed the aircraft’s performance “fabulous,” if only in theory.
Rotorcraft » Rotorcraft Aircraft
News and issues regarding all manner of civil and military rotorcraft.
Bell and Agusta continue their development of the BA609 civil tiltrotor, a joint effort that has been ongoing for more than a decade. However, the future of the program may hinge on the joint venture’s ability to control program costs, speed certification and deliveries, as well as the success of the first squadron of military tiltrotors about to deploy to Iraq.
The second Bell 429 took to the skies on August 31, five months after the first test ship flew last winter. It is one of five that will eventually complete a test program that is expected to amass 1,500 hours in the air before the helicopter’s planned certification and initial customer deliveries next year.
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.
Indian-based manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is making progress toward European certification of its Dhruv light-twin helicopter. A tentative schedule calls for European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification early in 2009. Indian deliveries began in 2002.
This summer a Eurocopter EC 155 all-weather demonstrator performed satellite-guided precision approach tests in Lausanne, Switzerland, as part of a research program aimed at developing approach and departure IFR procedures suited to helicopters using the European geostationary navigation overlay service (egnos) Skyguide, the Swiss air navigation service provider, coordinated the program. Swiss medical air rescue agency Rega was also involved.
The Eurocopter EC 145 has received the first certification for night vision goggle- aided civil operations. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certified the capability in May, and the FAA and Transport Canada (TC) are expected to follow suit this fall. The modification is available as original equipment and retrofit.
AgustaWestland has delivered two helicopters–one AW109 Power light twin and one AW139 medium twin–to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. These two aircraft are part of a June 2006 order, which includes two CA109 Powers to be produced by AgustaWestland’s local joint venture with AVIC II. The CA109s are said to be in the final assembly phase at Jiangxi Change Agusta Helicopter facilities.
Air Methods’ products division has been selected by American Eurocopter to provide medical interiors, avionics and airframe accessories for the AS 350 and EC 130. Air Methods says it is capable of 10 to 20 conversions per year. Each conversion has a market value of approximately $500,000. Air Methods has performed almost 40 Eurocopter EMS modifications over the last four years.
The Miami branch of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CPB) Office of Air and Marine has taken delivery of two AgustaWestland AW139s. The helicopters are equipped with multi-payload electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, laser designator combined with EO/IR and multimode weather radar and communication systems. Systems integration was performed by L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas.