It’s a sad fact of economic life that there is often opportunity in tragedy, and while some helicopter industry leaders aren’t necessarily looking to cash in on the worldwide terrorism scare, they have approached the U.S. government with a proposal that would make thousands of commercial helicopters available in times of national crisis.
Despite the fact that the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A engines are installed on the first BA609 prototype tiltrotor, Bell is letting the development schedule of that aircraft slip, with its previously planned first flight moving from last month to sometime this summer. Assembly of a further pair of prototypes has also slowed dramatically.
A U.S. Customs MD 600N helicopter was damaged last month during the seizure of a half-ton of marijuana when a group threw rocks at the aircraft. The incident took place at the climax of a raid on a group of 13 men as they tried to smuggle the contraband using a raft to cross the Rio Grande River near McAllen, Texas.
MD Helicopters of Mesa, Ariz., said five MD 600Ns have exhibited cracks in the tailcone attachment area, and that an inspection bulletin is forthcoming to operators of the 53 aircraft currently flying. Concern over the cracks surfaced following the discovery of damage to the Notar-system tailcone attachment structure during a routine inspection of the MD 600N operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department.
Bogus and illegally manufactured parts have long been a danger in aviation, but arrests and convictions of the peddlers are generally rare. However, a federal court in Los Angeles has convicted a father and son for falsifying the records for a set of salvaged rotor blades that ended up on a Bell 47 that crashed in New Zealand in 1995, killing the two occupants.
Now that former city attorney James Hahn has been elected mayor of Los Angeles, helicopter operators using Van Nuys (Calif.) Airport might be getting a little nervous. Responding to community complaints about helicopter noise at the busy general aviation airport just north of Los Angeles, Hahn campaigned advocating an agenda that included, in part, a proposal to institute a 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Working in its own quiet low-key way, Schweizer Aircraft has revealed its new 300CBi. An enhanced upgrade of the company’s strong-selling 300CB, the new 300CBi features a fuel-injected 180-hp Lycoming HIO-360-C1A engine. Schweizer maintains that throttle correlation is noticeably more precise and engine response is smoother and more immediate than with its predecessor’s carburetor-equipped Lycoming engine.
A Boeing Vertol BV-107 operated by Columbia Helicopters of Portland, Ore., crashed in August during a maintenance check flight in southern Montana, killing all three men aboard. Dead are pilot Rich Hernandez, 37; copilot Santi Arovitx, 28; and crew chief Kip Krigbaum, 45. The big twin-rotor helo, a civil derivative of the military’s CH-46, went down for as yet unexplained reasons about 9:30 a.m.
Once again, an emergency AD (No. 2002-23-51) has mandated no further flight of the roughly 360 Bell 407 helicopters currently in service. The November 13 AD was prompted by two reported failures of the stud from a swashplate drivelink assembly. One or both swashplate drivelink cup washers may have been installed incorrectly.
The successful helicopter airline is the rotorcraft world’s equivalent of the lost continent of Atlantis. There are legends of its having once existed but as the years stretch into the distance, the chances of its ever having been real seem to fade away. You can almost count on one hand the number of scheduled helicopter operations putting black ink into their books and have fingers left over.