The first customer delivery of the Sikorsky S-76D was imminent as this was being written last month, with the first example to be handed over to an offshore operator in the Gulf of Mexico. EASA certification is expected toward the end of the year.
Rotorcraft » Rotorcraft Aircraft
News and issues regarding all manner of civil and military rotorcraft.
The use of NVGs in civil helicopters is still in its infancy, so obtaining approval for night operations, including those with night-vision goggles (NVGs), remains a lengthy and tricky process, according to European helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) operators. During a conference at Helitech, a number of HEMS operators shared their experiences obtaining such approvals and discussed challenges that regulators should mediate to ease the burden on operators.
Heli-One, the maintenance subsidiary of operator CHC, has won a contract to modify two second-hand Eurocopter AS332L1 Super Pumas for all-weather search-and-rescue operations in the Arctic region. Norway-based Lufttransport AS will operate them from Svalbard, midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, starting next spring. There, at 78 degrees north, one of the main challenges is around-the-clock darkness in winter, the two companies emphasized.
Blue Sky Network’s portable HawkEyeLink Bluetooth interface is now able to transmit electronic forms such as a flight plan, a passenger manifest or a maintenance request. HawkEyeLink enables Blue Sky Network’s D1000 Iridium/GSM transceiver (originally designed for the operator to track its helicopters) to connect to iOS devices (iPhone and iPad). The new capability allows users to download forms to the iOS device at the operator’s base via Wi-Fi, and then complete and transmit them in flight.
ExecuJet Europe has plans to launch commercial helicopter charter operations from the company’s London Cambridge FBO later this year, the company announced at Helitech in September. ExecuJet Europe expects to receive a helicopter air operator certificate (AOC) from the UK Civil Aviation Authority next month.
It will not operate its own helicopters but rather use those it has under management contracts. The company’s managed fleet already includes two Eurocopter EC155s based at Cambridge Airport, with another two contracts in the final stages of negotiation.
Oxford-based A2B Heli Maintenance is expanding the portfolio of helicopter types it works on. It plans to add Bell and AgustaWestland types to the current Sikorsky S-76 and Eurocopter EC120, AS350/355, EC135, AS365, EC155 and BO105. A2B, which holds EASA Part 145 approval, offers a range of services, from line maintenance to pre-buy survey and training.
Director Andy Bloxham expects to service 10 to 15 aircraft per yearas the three-year-old company becomes established. Under its airworthiness management activity, it already oversees 21 helicopters. A2B has seven employees.
HeliMedia was at Helitech displaying its video mission box (VMB), a portable unit able to transmit live video over more than 100 nm thanks to microwave technology. For example, an Italian operator, Helica, has connected it to a full-HD 1080p camera.
Inside the helicopter, the VMB replaces one seat, using existing mounting points. It is easily transferrable from one aircraft to another, explained Steve Watson, business development manager of the Cheltenham, UK-based company. With two technicians the process takes approximately two hours, he estimated.
Certification of the EC145T2, an upgraded version of Eurocopter’s light twin, is now expected next spring rather than this year, as originally planned. Program leader Manfred Merk attributed the delay to longer-than-expected aerodynamic and avionics development work.
“It took us one month to solve a problem that was appearing in sideways flight,” Merk said. The helicopter was shaking, a certification red flag, so the engineers recontoured the edge of the vertical tail fin and the mod proved successful.
The European helicopter industry must educate operators about the benefits of Sesar, the European Union’s next-generation air traffic management (ATM) systems and procedures, if it is to derive any benefits from the system, according to several speakers at a conference on “The future of the rotorcraft sector” at Helitech.
AgustaWestland expects its AW189 and AW169 medium twins to achieve certification by the end of next year.