CEO Kurt Robinson said he is focusing on keeping his family’s helicopter company “lean and mean to provide a good product at a competitive price” to bring value to its customers. “We’re going to keep our pencils sharpened,” he told AIN. Robinson Helicopter posted another strong year in 2013, producing 523 helicopters, up from 517 in 2012 and a long climb from the 2010 rate of 162. As was the case in 2012, the piston-powered R44 continues to be the top seller, with 289 produced in 2013; but the $839,000 turbine-single R66, with 192 already delivered, remains the company cash cow.
Robinson Helicopter issued a Service Bulletin (SB-109) requiring retrofit installation of fuel bladders in all R22s through S/N 4620 “as soon as practical,” but no later than the next 2,200-hour overhaul or 12-year inspection. It began installing fuel bladders in new-production R22s early last year beginning with S/N 4622.
Lyon, France-based fuel-leak repair specialist Sunaero (also known as Aerowing in the U.S.) is offering its services to the helicopter industry, pledging significant time savings over conventional detection and repair methods.
Increasingly complex fuel-tank shapes have raised new challenges, Sunaero vice president Thierry Regond told AIN. Small but serious leaks, whether they originate from vibration wear or manufacturing defects, are difficult to locate and can force missions to be scrubbed, as one European country’s police force recently discovered, Regond said.
I remember well that night 17 years ago when TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed off the coast of Long Island, killing all aboard. I was settling down with some friends at my brother’s Manhattan apartment to watch a game between the Red Sox and their arch-rival Yankees when the game broadcast was interrupted by news that an airliner had crashed soon after takeoff from JFK International.
Despite a number of recent fatal accidents involving post-crash fires blamed on the Robinson R44’s vulnerable aluminum fuel tanks, and despite the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) publishing an airworthiness directive demanding replacement with improved flexible bladder versions, many operators have failed to comply.
GKN Aerospace is showcasing emergency flotation and fuel system technologies here at its Heli-Expo booth (No. N2608).
Eaton will supply the Learjet 85’s fuel-tank inerting system, under a contract awarded by Bombardier Aerospace. The fuel-tank inerting system enhances aircraft safety by injecting inert gas into fuel tanks to significantly reduce the potential for ignition sources. Besides supplying the system, Eaton will support Bombardier in the regulatory process to achieve FAA inerting system certification for the Learjet 85.
Dealing with explosive mixtures in the fuel tanks of transport aircraft used to be high on the NTSB’s most-critical list. The subject evolved after the 1996 explosion of the center fuel tank of a TWA Boeing 747 just after departure from JFK Airport.
West Star Aviation (ALN) recently accomplished the “Big Three” on a Falcon 2000 by completing the first 3C Inspection, installing API blended winglets and performing a wing tank dry bay modification. All three operations were accomplished at West Star Aviation’s East Alton, Ill., facility. The 3C inspection is an 18-year calendar inspection that includes opening and inspecting all access points of the exterior structure, including wing fairings and with the wing tank dry bay modification, opening of the fuel tanks.
While on my way to work a couple of weeks ago, I stopped at a gas station and filled up my car. As I headed back onto the parkway, the engine started running rough and less than two miles later it shuddered to a stop. Knowing the eight years of wear and tear I had put on the car, I sighed as I called the tow truck, believing the grasp of mechanical old age was finally putting its inevitable squeeze on my car and wallet.
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