Just a few years ago Eurocopter scored a major coup at an HAI Heli-Expo show, amazing the crowds by introducing a new helicopter as a completely certified aircraft instead of a promise-laden prototype encumbered with the usual waits for first flight, inflated claims of launch customers and delays in FAA approval. Instead, Eurocopter presented its EC 130 as a done deal.
While praising the efforts of his predecessor, Bell Helicopter’s freshly appointed CEO has been offering his own vision of the future for the beleaguered rotorcraft giant. What emerges is a daring strategy that essentially bets the company on the success of the embattled V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor and, later, the BA609 civil tiltrotor programs.
Searchers scouring the ground near the impact site of an Agusta A109K2 operated for Salt Lake City’s Latter Day Saints Hospital have found the part suspected in the tail-rotor failure and the helicopter’s subsequent crash on June 7. Killed in the accident was pilot Brent Cowley. Flight nurse Denise Ward and paramedic Brian Allred suffered minor injuries.
Sikorsky S-76, Grand Rapids, Mich., May 29, 2008–The Aero Med Spectrum Health S-76 was taking off from the helipad on the roof of the Spectrum Health Hospital when the tail rotor struck a radio tower; the helicopter crashed
on the roof and was destroyed by fire. No one was injured.
Eurocopter has successfully flown a production-capable testbed helicopter using fly-by-light systems to drive its primary flight controls. Known under the awkward cognomen of the active control technology demonstrator/flying helicopter simulator (ACT/FHS), the remarkable rotorcraft is a Eurocopter EC 135 airframe fitted with the new laser light control system.
Bell 206L LongRanger, Nikolai, Alaska, March 4, 2008–The pilot of the LongRanger was maneuvering while his passenger was filming a dogsled race when, he said, a gust of wind caused a loss of tail-rotor effectiveness. The helicopter started to turn to the right, and the pilot reduced collective pitch and followed the turn to regain control. He was losing altitude and approaching the ground.
Summer means fire season, and Columbia Helicopters’ tandem-rotor Chinooks and Vertols have already been dispatched to their bases, primarily throughout the Western U.S., under contracts with the U.S. Forest Service.
Eurocopter is flight-testing low-noise approach, takeoff and cruise flight procedures with an EC 135 light twin. The trials are also serving to develop a software program for noise footprint prediction. Similar tests were conducted with an EC 130 last year.
A proposed airworthiness directive for the Sikorsky S-76 would require inspections of the tail rotor vertical stabilizer aft spar assembly every 50 hours after an assembly has 1,000 hours time-in-service. It would also require track and balance of the tail rotor within 30 days and every 200 hours thereafter. The AD would affect an estimated 216 S-76A/B/Cs on the U.S. registry.
A Sikorsky S-76A crashed onto a helipad at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., during an FAA check ride on May 29, seriously injuring the pilot and the FAA inspector aboard. The helicopter was operated by Aero Med Spectrum Health.