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It’s official: Eurocopter is now Airbus Helicopters

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, 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.


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Flight shows there’s still life in the old S-61

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.


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China flies new ‘Z-20’ military helicopter

I spy: An enlarged portion of the original Z-20 image posted on

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 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.

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Eurocopter issues EC135 safety notice

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.

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Two Eurocopter EC225s heading Bond’s way

© Eurocopter - Patrick Penna

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.

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Pilot harvests Christmas trees the crazy way

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.”

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Eurocopter EC175 sets two climb records

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.

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Bell Helicopter introduces the Bell 429WLG

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.

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Nicole Fuller wins $22,000 Connected Home prize

Congratulations to Nicola Fuller of Sydney, who has won Niche Media’s huge Connected Home subscription promotion consisting of 22 amazing prizes worth a grand total of $22,000!

Nicola has been subscribing to Architectural Review Asia Pacific since beginning her architecture studies five years ago in Melbourne. Nicola has now moved to Sydney, where she is working with a leading architectural firm.

“This was a complete surprise,” Nicola said. “I am thrilled to have won such an amazing prize. I love receiving Architectural Review in the mail every few months, helping me stay in touch with new architectural developments across the Asia Pacific region.”

Nicola’s prize pack consists of: an Apple iMac 27in 2.9GHz, Apple iPad with Retina Display 64GB Wi-Fi and an Apple TV from Pentagon Digital; an @TV Plus, ScreenCast AV 4 Wireless AV-to-HDTV Adapter and WeMo Switch + Motion from Belkin; a Brother MFC-J4510DW all-in-one colour inkjet printer; a Bose VideoWave II entertainment system (with TV); a Denon Cocoon Home wireless speaker; DIR-865L Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Cloud Router, DWA-182 Wireless AC1200 Dual Band USB Adapter, DCS-932L mydlink Wireless N Day/Night Network Camera and DNS-320L ShareCenter 2-Bay Cloud Network Storage Enclosure from D-Link; a Pioneer XDJ-AERO-W Wi-Fi enabled all-in-one DJ system; a Sonos system consisting of a PLAY:3 wireless all-in-one multi-room speaker, a Sonos BRIDGE and a 12-month music subscription to MOG; a SWANN NVR4-7000 4-channel HD security system; a TCL E5000 Series 39in Full HD SMART 3DTV; a My Book Live 3TB drive and WD TV Live Streaming Media Player from WD; and a Yamaha YHT-499AU home-theatre system.

Plus the team from JackB are going to go to Nicola’s home, install it all and give her helpdesk support for a full year.

Enjoy the prizes, Nicola! And many thanks to all our sponsors.

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The Earth Wins – the film that helos made

The first IMAX film to be shot entirely from the air has hit the giant screen. Helinews Editor Christina Hogarth speaks to Jerry Grayson and Sara Hine from Helifilms about their environmentally charged, 45-minute movie, The Earth Wins.

Helifilms, a production company established in the UK in 1989 by Sara Hine and Jerry Grayson, specialises in aerial filming using the latest high-definition gyro-stabilised camera technologies. In 2002, the company opened an office in Melbourne, Australia, followed by offices in Los Angeles in the US and Cape Town, South Africa.

Their work ranges from feature films to live sporting broadcasts, documentaries, and footage for museums and science centres across the world. Black Hawk Down, the James Bond franchise, District 9, Domino, Déjà Vu, The Island, We Are Marshall, Waist Deep and Transformers are just some of the films that feature their work.

The team consists of experienced aerial crews of directors, film pilots, producers, production coordinators, directors of photography, camera operators, technicians and helicopter engineers. Hine explains, “Cross-hiring helicopters allows us to focus solely on our specialisation in film. The film cameras that we use are almost the same price as a helicopter, but require slightly less maintenance.”

Now both a helicopter pilot and director, Grayson started out flying in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm where he spent eight years and was awarded the prestigious Air Force Cross by Queen Elizabeth II for outstanding gallantry in Search and Rescue.

He left the Navy in 1980 to focus on aerial film work and rapidly earned the accolade of being one of the world’s leading helicopter film pilots.

Grayson’s first exposure to the giant screen was conducting aerial filming for the IMAX concert film Rolling Stones Live at the Max, a film that broke new ground by being the first 90-minute feature and the first concert film for IMAX theatres.

He describes filming for IMAX as a completely different process to filming for the TV or cinema; the main difference being that the giant screen canvas is so huge that you cannot afford to have very much camera movement. It would be too overwhelming. Instead of the fast editing pace used in feature films and music videos, IMAX films require long shots, so that the viewer can take in the image.

“Filming for IMAX requires very gentle camera movements and very gentle helicopter movements because, as with all giant screen films, the action should be taking place within the frame rather than having to move the frame in order to achieve some action,” says Grayson.


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