Israel’s Urban Aeronautics is ground-testing its unmanned Mule fancraft, an unconventional rotorcraft featuring two shrouded main rotors in tandem configuration that should one day have a manned version for rescue missions in cities. The first untethered flight of the Mule, originally scheduled to take place in the spring, has been postponed until September or October.
All 16 people aboard a Eurocopter AS 332L2 Super Puma operated by Bond Offshore Helicopters died when the medium twin hit the surface of the North Sea on April 1, after what the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) called a catastrophic failure of the main gearbox.
McDonnell Douglas MD 600, San Clemente, Calif., Feb. 19, 2009– The U.S. Customs and Border Protection MD 600 autorotated to a forced landing on the beach after the crew heard a loud “bang” and warning lights came on. A main rotor blade severed the tail boom. Examination of the engine showed that both engine chip detector plugs were contaminated with metal particles. The No. 4 turbine wheel was damaged.
Eurocopter is working on a compound helicopter with a single main rotor, a fixed wing with two propellers in puller configuration and no tail rotor, probably in response to Sikorsky’s X2 and Bell/Agusta Aerospace’s BA609 Tiltrotor, which are attempts to create a faster rotorcraft. The Marignane, France-based helicopter manufacturer in May last year filed a patent application at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Just two days after the second Rolls-Royce RR300-powered Robinson R66 made its first flight in February, Robinson Helicopter CEO Frank Rob- inson still had little good to say about small turbine-powered helicopters.
Hughes 369A, Moulton, Ala., May 13, 2007–The NTSB blamed the crash of the 369 on the separation of its main rotor blade from its tension torsion bar, but
the Board could not determine a reason for the separation. The pilot had recently bought the helicopter and an annual inspection was done just before the sale.
A main rotor blade was replaced and
Northwest Helicopters (Booth No. 2989) has developed carbon-fiber main rotor blades for the Bell UH-1H, 205 and 212. STC approval is expected by the end of 2009. Northwest said the blades will have longer life limits, improved high/hot performance, decreased fuel flow and dual trim tabs for a smoother ride. First year production of UH-1H blades already is sold out, according to the company.
The second Robinson R66 made its first flight on February 18 and a third is under construction at the company’s headquarters in nearby Torrance, Calif. All Heli-Expo’09 attendees are invited to the Robinson factory on Tuesday for facility tours beginning at noon followed by a preview of the R66 at 3 p.m.
Eurocopter AS 350B2, Hiram, Ga., May 21, 2008–The NTSB attributed the buckling of the AS 350’s tail boom to failure of the starflex arm during engine run-up due to inadequate maintenance inspection. After the pilot started the engine at Caffery Heliport and advanced the power to flight rpm, the helicopter shook violently.
Bell 206B JetRanger, Longview, Wash., Oct. 10, 2008–The Northwest Helicopters JetRanger lost power while hauling tree limbs. The pilot attempted a power-out forced landing at the bottom of a steep ravine covered with 30-foot conifer trees. The pilot was seriously injured and the helicopter was substantially damaged.