Eurocopter is considering introducing fiber placement for helicopter composite fuselage manufacturing as a way to replace manual lay-up and reduce costs by an estimated 20 to 25 percent. A research project has yielded the first EC 155 rear section (tailcone and fenestron vertical tail) made by fiber placement. Engineers are testing the part at the firm’s Marignane, France research and development facilities.
Bell Helicopter’s MAPL (modular affordable product line) tail-fan demonstrator took to the air at the OEM’s new XworX research center in Arlington, Texas, in July. A Bell 407 fitted with the 40-inch-diameter fenestron-like device lifted into a hover, performed several low-speed maneuvers, including pedal turns, and landed.
Last December’s agreement between Eurocopter and China for the codevelopment of a new medium-size helicopter, the EC 175 (known in China as the Z-15), marks a step change that raises Sino-European cooperation on helicopters to a new level.
Some two years after the Eurocopter EC 145 entered service, it seems customers have forgotten the problems that delayed the program and caused early operational difficulties. Instead, European helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) providers focus on the positive: they say they like the spacious cabin, significant payload, low noise and the extensive certified equipment.
After spending five years flying Eurocopter’s EC 130B4 Ecureuil “EcoStar,” Dave Chevalier, president of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, still thinks it’s the best choice for pleasing his air tourists and mitigating noise complaints, but he has candid criticisms about elements of the model’s operating costs and performance.
Maverick Helicopter Tours, which specializes in aerial tours of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, has bought 14 more Eurocopter EC 130 turbine helicopters. The new aircraft will bring Maverick’s EC 130 fleet to 35. Maverick cited as one of the helicopter’s attractive features the safety and relative quietness of the fenestron tail rotor.
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