The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) published a further “special bulletin” late last week in its investigation into the controlled ditching of a Bond-operated EC225 medium twin in May in the North Sea, confirming an earlier hint by Eurocopter that the emergency lubrication system gave the pilots a false failure warning.
Eurocopter plans to design a fly-by-wire (FBW) control system for light helicopters, according to a job offer the company published yesterday. The manufacturer is looking for an engineer who would initially be tasked with writing specifications for the FBW system, which seems to indicate the entry into service of such a rotorcraft would take place after that of the still-under-wraps X4. A Dauphin medium-twin replacement, the fly-by-wire X4 is planned to enter into service in 2020.
The diesel engine demonstrator aiming to replace turboshafts in light helicopters, which could cut fuel burn by about 30 percent, is said to be on track for installation and ground tests on a Eurocopter EC120 in the first quarter of 2014. Some components have been tested in laboratories and critical design reviews conducted last week were successful, according to project officer Sébastien Dubois.
The FAA has issued an airworthiness directive for the Eurocopter EC155B, EC155B1, SA365N1, AS365N2 and AS365N3 requiring visual inspection of the tail-rotor hub for a crack and removal if one is found. The AD is prompted by reports of cracks on two tail-rotor hubs. These actions are intended to prevent the tail rotor from jamming, which could lead to reduced control or loss of control of the helicopter.
Russian operator UTAir has secured a seven-year loan from British bank HSBC, on a security of French insurance agency Coface. It has thus become “the first Russian airline receiving insurance wrap from an international export agency for purchasing helicopters,” claims UTAir. The contract is for 19 Eurocopter AS350/AS355 Ecureuil/AStar singles.
Eurocopter, which is nearing completion of a new development center in Donauwörth, Germany, that will house 900 engineers, has begun building another development center in Marignane, France. Employees currently based in Ottobrunn will move to the new German facility next spring. In Marignane, the project includes the construction of a “Helicopter Zero” building, with test benches integrating various helicopter systems to be delivered in April. New construction will start in July, with the goal of accommodating 1,000 people in “plateau” concurrent engineering.
Having acquired a Eurocopter full EC135 flight simulator from Thales, French helicopter operator SAF Hélicoptères inaugurated its “training academy” on June 15, bringing access to flight simulators to pilots of light helicopters. The €5 million ($6.3 million) training center, located near Albertville in the French Alps, will be available to pilots from other operators next year. SAF anticipates running the simulator 2,000 hours annually.
Eurocopter hopes to establish a completion center for Ecureuil light helicopters in Tianjin, China, by next year to accelerate deliveries for Chinese customers.
The Eurocopter EC225 medium twin now has a traffic collision avoidance system (Tcas) II integrated into its autopilot, eliminating the need for pilot input in emergency avoidance maneuvers. The first such standard-equipped EC225 was delivered earlier this year. Offshore operator Bristow previously STC’d a Tcas II installation on the AS332 Super Puma; Eurocopter claims to go one step further, with more integration.
The FAA is proposing an Airworthiness Directive for the Eurocopter AS332C, AS332L and AS332L1. It is based on reports of electro-valve power supply disruptions while the helicopter is on the ground. It causes the landing gear to retract and the helicopter nose to drop, resulting in damage to the forward section of the helicopter’s underside. The AD would require modifying the main landing-gear control panel 33G, connector 100G and wiring.