Milestone Aviation Group, the helicopter leasing firm headed by NetJets founder Richard Santulli, closed a new $300 million credit facility yesterday. The company will use these proceeds to acquire and lease helicopters–including Sikorsky S-92s, Eurocopter EC225s and AgustaWestland AW189s and AW139s–valued at $400 million to affiliates of Bristow Group. The credit facility is the largest ever for a helicopter lessor, the company said.
The first of some 80 EC225 helicopters subject to a series of airworthiness directives to address main gearbox lubrication issues will start resuming flight operations by the end of July, Eurocopter confirmed.
Eurocopter demonstrated new automated landing procedures relying on Egnos (Europe’s Waas equivalent) satellite guidance. Part of Europe’s Clean Sky research project, the tests were performed on an EC155 medium twin. They showed significant reductions in the helicopter’s perceived sound footprint, the company said. The noise-abatement flightpaths were compatible with IFR operations and can be tailored to local requirements.
The German defense ministry ordered 15 Eurocopter EC645T2 light utility helicopters worth €194 million. They will be used by the Kommando Spezialkraefte, Germany’s Special Forces Command. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in late 2015 and run through mid-2017.
The French Army is expected to confirm an option for 34 more Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) versions of the NH Industries NH-90 helicopter, when the 2013 French defense spending program is published shortly. The French have already bought 34 TTHs, as well as 27 NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFHs).
The EASA has approved the interim solution Eurocopter devised to address concerns about main-gearbox lubrication on the EC225 after two controlled ditchings last year.
The manufacturer is using vibration monitoring, inspections and part modification to prevent the possibility of an undetected crack leading to in-flight rupture of the bevel gear vertical shaft–a part that is critical to main gearbox lubrication.
The FAA proposes a new airworthiness directive for the Eurocopter EC135P1, EC135P2, EC135P2+, EC135T1, EC135T2 and EC135T2+. It requires analyzing the main gearbox (MGB) oil for indications of metal chips or pieces, reviewing the MGB log or equivalent record, and inspecting certain teeth in the MGB after two chip indications.
Eurocopter has received orders from China’s State Grid General Aviation Company for two AS350B3e AStar/Ecureuils and one EC225. They will be used to support the country’s electric grid development and for other airlift missions. The B3e light singles will be delivered late this year. Handover of the EC225 is scheduled for 2015. Eurocopter has also signed contracts with Japan’s National Police Agency for one EC155B1, one AS365N3+ and two EC135P2es to replace aging aircraft. Deliveries are scheduled over the 2014-2015 period.
Eurocopter performed a demonstration flight of an “optionally piloted vehicle” (OPV) version of the EC145 in late April, with the goal of eventually employing any of its models in unmanned operations such as automated surveillance and cargo hauling. Secret flight-testing began two weeks earlier at Istres air force base in France. The project’s coordination team is based at Eurocopter’s research and development center in Donauwörth, Germany, where the first flights, with a monitoring pilot, took place.
Helipartner Thailand and Eurocopter’s South East Asia affiliate signed an agreement on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show for 10 AS350B3e light-single helicopters for delivery from 2013 to 2015. “After our first AS350B3e delivery in May and its successful leasing in Indonesia, we are delighted to expand our fleet with this new order and pursue our leasing market development with the helicopter type,” said Tisanu Ratanarat, CEO of Helipartner Thailand.