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.
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.
Tail-rotor cracking has prompted the FAA to issue an Airworthiness Directive for Bell helicopters. The AD affects approximately 400 Bells, including the 204B, 205A, 205A-1, 205B, 210, 212, 412, 412CF and 412EP. More than 380 of these machines are listed on the U.S. registry. The AD prescribes shortened inspection and maintenance intervals for the tail rotors on these helicopters.
In aviation, like most other industries, success breeds regulation. The bigger an industry becomes, the more the government perceives the need to regulate it, often citing reasons such as safety, unfair competition and environmental protection. Yet, in typical Darwinian fashion, most industries adapt–or die. In aviation, hush kits quiet noisier jet engines, airplanes are made RVSM compatible and helicopters are flown neighborly.
Helicopter manufacturers are exploring a number of technologies to reduce noise, both that perceived from the ground and inside the cabin. European manufacturers are working on several demonstration programs to reduce noise by changing the helicopter’s airframe dynamics.
In the aeronautical mountain range, a few peaks are still unclimbed. Some goals, once thought impossible, are an everyday fact. Jet propulsion, supersonic flight, a practical helicopter and the miracles of manned and unmanned spaceflight all whiz past our bemused faces while we scarcely register a raised eyebrow.
CybAero president Peter Muhlrad said users can pack the Vantage unmanned helicopter in a Chevy Suburban and have it aloft in 20 minutes with no specialized pilot training. Swing open its detachable nose and swap out the payload, and the three-blade unmanned helicopter can accept hardware for missions ranging from aerial mapping to search and rescue.
Helicopter pioneer Frank Piasecki, who died two weeks ago at age 88, leaves behind a lasting legacy in the rotorcraft world. Piasecki is well known for developing the Army’s CH-47 Chinook and the Navy’s CH-46 Sea Knight twin-rotor helicopters, which are both now built by Boeing’s rotorcraft division in eastern Pennsylvania.
Eurocopter has reported progress on two major programs on which it cooperates in Asia: the civil EC 175, in China, and the military Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH), in South Korea–both seven-metric-ton-class helicopters.