The rebranding of Eurocopter as Airbus Helicopters took effect yesterday, putting to bed a 21-year-old brand and aligning the company more closely with the global Airbus name. Airbus Helicopters joins Airbus and Airbus Defence & Space within the new Airbus Group.
Guillaume Faury, President of Airbus Helicopters, says the firm will both benefit from and enrich the Airbus brand: “This rebranding works hand in hand with our ongoing transformation, which is now bolstered by the Airbus brand’s strong foundation in innovation, quality and industrial excellence. Both of these together will serve our ambition of setting the industry standard in terms of safety, mission capability and performance for our operators around the world.”
While the company’s website has changed to www.airbushelicopters.com, the new branding hasn’t yet affected the naming and designations of Airbus Helicopters’ products, and Airbus Helicopter says its staff can still be reached at their Eurocopter email addresses.
Airbus Helicopters is the world’s No.1 helicopter manufacturer with a turnover of 6.3 billion euros and a staff of about 22,000. It says its fleet in service includes about 12,000 helicopters operated by more than 3,000 customers in about 150 countries.
In a sign that there’s still plenty of life in the old girl yet, Sikorsky has completed the first test flight of a modernised ‘T’ variant of the S-61 helicopter – the 52-year-old commercial version of the Sea King.
The company says the aircraft – converted decommissioned legacy S-61s – have undergone a full structural refurbishment, an overhaul of all major dynamic components, and the installation of key upgrades including new composite main rotor blades, a survivability suite and state-of-the-art glass cockpit, as well as all new electrical wiring throughout the aircraft.
The changes come with improved safety and 15 percent greater performance with a lower operating cost.
“Sikorsky’s S-61 helicopter has a 50-year legacy of reliably performing missions for the US and foreign allied militaries,” John Johnson, Sikorsky’s Director of Commercial Customer Support and S-61 Programs, said last year. “With its rugged endurance, spaciousness, and lift capabilities, the modernised S-61 aircraft can be outfitted to meet a wide variety of requirements. It provides superior value for a mid-size multi-mission helicopter.”
Sikorsky has a five-year IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) agreement with the US Department of State (DoS) allowing for the purchase of up to 110 upgraded S-61 helicopters.
Locally, Airflite announced last June that it had been appointed as the S-61 Helicopter Sales Representative in Australia and New Zealand.
Another feature-packed issue has been sent to our dedicated subscribers. Check out the topics covered below, and click here to become a print or digital subscriber yourself!
Russell Aitken – You may recognise the name ‘Russell Aitken’ as the first recipient of the Helinews memorial ‘Rusty Award’ that was created in his honour. In this issue, we feature a retrospective interview with Rusty that captures the spirit of this passionate aviator and mentor.
The Bell 407GX – Every now and then we have the chance to get our hands on a new machine. When the Bell 407GX graced Australia with its presence, Helinews was fortunate enough to test out how this machine handles and discover a bunch of new features.
EMS – The Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter, based out of Canberra on the Monaro Highway, has conducted over 5300 missions and counting. Helinews features a profile of this rescue service, which is dedicated to serving the community.
Tough Mothers – The Cherish Foundation is a cause close to the heart of the Becker family, so when the Tough Mudder event featured on the Sunshine Coast, Mike Becker and his team participated in some fundraising and hair-raising challenges for charity.
IFR – Curious about what goes on during IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) training? Martin Bass ventured into the rigorous world of IFR when he visited Rotor Lift’s Advanced Flying Academy and discovered what it’s like to ‘fly blind’.
Hypoxia – It’s a word familiar to all pilots, but few have experienced hypoxia in a controlled environment. Enter Go2Altitude, a revolutionary training centre that has made hypoxia awareness training more affordable and available to the civilian world.
Multi-licence pilots Part III – Rob Vigors pilots aeroplanes, gliders and helicopters and has spent a lifetime around aircraft. He treats us to a glider pilot’s perspective on the weather and how he has applied this to powered flying.
Advanced flying – Flying over jungle is a daily occurrence for pilots in PNG. Columbia Helicopters’ chief pilot, Ross Robertson, answers some questions about preparing for emergencies while working in this environment.
Instructing corner – Veteran instructor Ron Newman talks us through the ins and outs of forced landing procedures.
Newly licensed pilots – Peter Perry completed his private helicopter licence at the age of 75 and since then has piloted a helicopter to PNG. Peter discusses his love of recreational flying and travelling across this great country by air.
China has flown a new medium-lift utility helicopter, unofficially desgnated the Z-20, with Western analysts calling it a Black Hawk knockoff and Chinese commentators heralding it as another step in China’s march to military superiority.
The aircraft came to light when an image was posted on the Chinese military forum www.cjdby.net on December 23. The Chinese Government subsequently confirmed its existence on the official CCTV news channel.
The Z-20 has a takeoff weight of 10 tonnes and can operate at high altitudes. It is believed to feature advanced noise-reduction technology and be able to operate from China’s new Liaoning aircraft carrier.
“The Z-20 is supposed to fill a long-time void in the helicopter fleet of the People’s Liberation Army. Hopefully, it will fulfill the requirements of the PLA’s ground force and navy,” Wang Ya’nan, deputy editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the People’s Daily newspaper last week.
“Though we now have the advanced WZ-10 and WZ-19 attack helicopters in the army, the absence of a suitable, Chinese-made utility helicopter hampers the army’s ability to transport strike forces and carry out support missions.”
The helicopter’s close resemblance to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter has caused some commentators to dub it the ‘Copy Hawk’ and even surmise that it’s based on Chinese examination of the Black Hawk that crashed during the US Navy SEAL operation to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
But the Chinese don’t agree. Chen Hong, a researcher at the PLA Air Force Command Institute in Beijing, told Beijing News that “although the aircraft’s appearance bears some resemblances to the US’ Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Z-20 is merely a knockoff of its US counterpart”.
For a start, he said, the Z-20 has a larger cabin and different landing gear and tail. More importantly, it also has a five-blade rotor compared with the UH-60’s four blades.
“The addition of a blade will enable the Z-20 to outperform the UH-60 when it comes to lift force, ferry range and payload capacity,” Chen said.
Eurocopter has issued a Safety Information Notice to EC135 operators after being informed of a fuel indication issue on board the helicopter that crashed into a Glasgow pub last month, killing 10 people.
Subsequent fuel system functionality tests performed by the aircraft operator, Bond Air Services, and two other EC135 operators in Europe “have revealed possible similar supply-tank fuel gauging errors on some aircraft”, Eurocopter says in the notice, adding that it is currently undertaking its own in-depth investigation.
“The first analysis shows that the indication of the fuel quantity in the supply tanks could be overestimated,” Eurocopter says. “All crews should be aware that in the worst case a red warning ‘Low Fuel’ could appear without any amber FUEL Caution before.
“The red LOW FUEL 1/2 warnings are generated by an independent switching logic with separate sensors in each supply tank. The red LOW FUEL 1/2 warning lights continue to operate correctly even if the fuel gauging is inaccurate.
“Therefore, after illumination of LOW FUEL warnings the procedure iaw. the Flight Manual must be strictly complied with, notwithstanding of the fuel quantity indication.”
After an initial investigation into the Glasgow crash, the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the Police Scotland helicopter showed “no evidence of major mechanical disruption of either engine” and still had 95 litres of the 400kg of fuel with which it had taken off.
In a statement released yesterday, Bond Air Services said it had temporarily suspended service operations while it conducted checks on its fleet of EC135s.
“The results of these tests were subsequently validated by Eurocopter, and appropriate repairs made before returning the aircraft to service. We also took the decision to increase safety barriers by mandating that all our EC135s should maintain a minimum of 90kg of fuel onboard at all times.
“All our EC135 aircraft are now fully operational and are available for missions with our air ambulance and police customers,” it concluded.
Two Eurocopter EC225s are on their way to Australia for use by Bond Helicopters Australia in Timor Sea offshore crew change operations for PTTEP Australasia, part of Thailand’s national petroleum, exploration and production company.
The aircraft were delivered last week to Waypoint Leasing, which this year established a commercial and marketing partnership for helicopter leasing with Eurocopter and executed a sale and lease-back transaction with Bond.
“We are pleased to receive delivery of the EC225s, the first Eurocopter aircraft in our growing fleet, and to partner with Bond Helicopters Australia, a premier provider of energy support services to one of the fastest growing offshore oil and gas markets in the world,” Waypoint Leasing CEO Ed Washecka said in a statement.
More than 80 EC225s – 11-ton rotorcraft with long-range performance, state-of-the-art equipment and system redundancy – operate for the oil and gas sector in about 12 countries.
As Christmas approaches, we thought it would be a good idea to resurrect this video of daredevil pilot Dan Clark harvesting Christmas trees in the US state of Oregon.
Flying a Bell 206B3 Jetranger, Clark uses inertia and big cojones to get the job done in double-quick time.
Comments on the web indicate that this is not unusual behaviour in Christmas tree country, with Robert Bachelder saying, “The helis are running around like this all day every day during harvest (I have even seen some crazy ones run at night with lights but that is really dangerous).
“The growers usually pay by the pound or by the tree for getting them out of the field so the pilots run at the edge of their abilities to save fuel and increase profit. Obviously it takes a lot of skill and practice, but the guys that run trees are all skilled and usually have thousands of flying hours in their logbooks and/or military flight training.”
Eurocopter’s EC175 helicopter has managed to secure two new world records – the fastest climb to 3000 feet (three minutes and 10 seconds) and the fastest climb to 6000 feet (six minutes and 54 seconds). The just-ratified records were set on 6 February this year at Istres Airforce Base in France with experimental flight test pilot Alain Di-Bianca in the pilot’s seat.
Eurocopter notes that the EC175 is targeting EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certification in early 2014 and is currently submitting the rotorcraft’s flight manual to the agency as part of the certification process.
Its strong performance in February gives Eurocopter high hopes for the future of the new machine. “The EC175 confirmed it is the best-performing, most cost-effective and easiest to fly helicopter in its category,” says Laurent Vautherin, head of the EC175 program.
The EC175 is a medium-sized twin-engine helicopter designed for a full range of missions, including oil and gas airlifts, search and rescue, emergency medical services, public services, VIP and executive transport.
Among other features, it boasts hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at maximum 7.5-tonne take-off weight at 4500 feet at ISA+20°C conditions; one engine inoperative (OEI) hover performance, which ensures safety during hosting for search and rescue missions; and extensive power reserve and heli-deck performance (PC1) at maximum take-off weight in ISA+20°C conditions. It has a recommended cruise speed of 150 knots and a maximum cruise speed exceeding 165 knots.
The EC175’s production schedule is currently being ramped up, with the 15th model now on the final assembly line.
This week Bell Helicopter unveiled the latest upgrade to its Bell 429. The occasion was the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) 2013 conference, held in Las Vegas, Nevada from 22 to 24 October. The main feature of the Bell 429WLG (pictured) is that its landing gear comprises three wheels instead of the traditional skids.
Bell says this helps reduce the drag associated with skids and leads to an increased cruise speed. The company also claims the helicopter is able to land in a larger variety of terrains and conditions compared to its skid-bearing cousins. Wheels also aid in taxiing in limited spaces, such as when positioning closer to fixed-based operators.
“Offering a wheeled landing gear option for the Bell 429 builds on our ongoing efforts to innovate our current products as we introduce new ones,” says Danny Maldonado, Bell Helicopter’s executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Apart from displaying the helicopter publicly for the first time, Bell announced it has already made its first sale of the 429WLG. Argentinean company Rio Iruya expects to take delivery of the helicopter in the first half of next year and intends to use it for corporate and VIP transport. “The development of the wheeled landing gear will benefit me tremendously while manoeuvring through the airports of my city, Buenos Aires, where in many cases helicopters and aeroplanes share the same landing platform,” says Sebastian Eskenazi, president and CEO of Rio Iruya.