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First AgustaWestland AW189 takes to the air

Four months after going into production, the first AgustaWestland AW189 8-tonne-class twin-engine helicopter to roll off the line has taken its maiden flight at the company’s Vergiate plant in Italy.

Designed to meet market demand for a versatile, affordable, multirole medium helicopter, the AW189 is optimised for long-range offshore transport and search-and-rescue (SAR) missions. The aircraft used in the maiden flight is destined to be delivered to the UK’s Bristow Helicopters by the end of the year to carry out offshore transport missions in the North Sea. AgustaWestland says that it has already received orders for more than 80 aircraft.

The cabin has a standard 16-seat configuration, but can be changed to a high-density 18-seat or a long-range 12-seat layout. AgustaWestland says the aircraft “is unique in having a 50-minute ‘run-dry’ capable main gear box, exceeding current certification standards and offering unmatched safety and reliability for long range offshore operations”.

The AW189 has a number of features that give it wide operational capabilities, including:

Offshore: All Weather Day and Night, VFR/IFR certified; high cruising speed and very high payload due to a highly efficient rotor system; superior OEI capability; enhanced situational awareness via next-generation avionics.

SAR: Unobstructed cabin accommodates rescue crew, longitudinal and transversal stretchers and mission consoles.

Parapublic: Can be configured with a wide range of advanced sensors, role and communication equipment; flexible cabin space; quickly removable options such as a fast rope system and cargo hook for special forces and utility operations.

Corporate/VIP: Speed and low internal vibration and noise deliver heightened passenger comfort; Auxiliary Power Unit on the ground provides air conditioning without the need to engage rotors; VVIP interiors available.

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Quirky landing pad makes great sales pitch

Here’s a quirky story we liked: An estate agent selling a house in New Canaan, in the US state of Connecticut, has targeted helicopter owners by saying that, while landing an aircraft on residential property in New Canaan is strictly verboten, the estate straddles the state border into Pound Ridge, New York, where you’re welcome to do what you like.

It’s a great sales pitch, but it seems that the area available for landing is a smallish patch of lawn next to the pool which is only suitable for a Robinson R22 or similar. We suppose if you were really serious you could fill in the pool and convert the pool house into a hangar!

The five-bedroom, four-and-two-half bathroom house sits on 3.3 hectares of land and could be your for the price of US$3.7 million. R22 not included.

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Bond gets three EC225s for Thai offshore job

Avincis Fleet & Engineering Director Martin Whittaker (left) and Eurocopter Executive Officer for France and Vice President of Global Business and Services Dominique Maudet. © Eurocopter, Amélie Laurin

Avincis has bought three new Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma helicopters to be used by local subsidiary Bond Helicopters Australia to service its multi-million dollar, five year contract with the PTTEP Australasia Group of Companies, part of Thailand’s national petroleum exploration and production company.

This is Bond’s first major contract in the region and marks the company’s entry into one of the fastest growing offshore markets in the world.

Specifically configured for offshore flight, the EC225 is a high-performance heavy twin-engine helicopter weighing 11 tons and featuring two Turbomeca Makila 2A1 engines delivering 1776 kW of power each, a five-blade rotor and a gearbox that meets the 30-minute dry-run requirements of the latest JAR 29 amendments.

The aircraft has a seating capacity of up to 19 passengers in three configurations: Passenger (two pilots plus 19 passengers); search-and-rescue (two pilots plus four crew with comfort seats plus up to 20 passengers or three stretchers; and Executive/VIP (two pilots plus eight to 12 passengers).

Of special interest to oil and gas operators is the aircraft’s ability to easily change its mission role from passenger transportation to light SAR, thanks to ADELT (Automatically Deployable Emergency Locator Transmitter for Helicopters), an optional pod for additional fuel tanks or luggage compartment, space provision and basic wiring for SAR mission equipment and a cabin floor with integrated rails.

In the case of an emergency, the large windows push out to allow easy egress and thus quick and easy access to integrated life-rafts.

“We are delighted to have secured these aircraft for our new Bond business in Australia,” Avincis CEO James Drummond said in a statement. “This strengthens our strategic relationship with Eurocopter, who are an important partner in Avincis’ future growth.”

On Eurocopter’s side, CEO Guillaume Faury said: “Our long-term relationship with the Avincis Group has been built on a basis of mutual confidence, and I look forward to furthering this partnership with the delivery of three more EC225s.”

These latest additions to Avincis’ global fleet of around 350 aircraft will be support PTTEP’s operations in the Timor Sea. The first two aircraft will be delivered in December 2013, with the third EC225 due to arrive in the second half of 2014.

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QAI and GHC announce Joint Venture

Quality Aviation Instruments Inc (QAI) and Gulf Helicopters Inc (GHC) have announced from Helitech in London that they have entered into a Joint Venture for component repair facilities to be located in Doha, Qatar. The agreement covers component repairs of accessories, avionics and instruments.

“We have a strong customer base in the Middle East and Asia and a dedicated customer service team in the region,” said QAI president Robert Sieber. “This new facility will enable us to expedite service, reduce downtime and reduce costs for our customers. GHC is known for its attention to safety, state-of-the-art facility and fleet of aircraft. GHC has an impeccable reputation that spans more than 40 years. We are excited to be entering into this venture.”

The repair shops will be certified by both the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and are expected to begin operations in late 2013 or early 2014. The new facilities will focus on component repairs for AgustaWestland AW139 along with Bell, Eurocopter and Agusta medium and light platforms.

“Gulf Helicopters is delighted to strengthen our longstanding relationship with Quality Aviation by establishing a joint venture in Qatar, to serve the growing demand in our region,” said Mohamed Al Mohannadi, CEO of Gulf Helicopters.

With the rapidly expanding aviation market in the Middle East and Asia, both parties agreed that component repair shops to support the region make sense. Decreasing both shipping costs and turn times will benefit current and future customers in the region. With Gulf Helicopters’ reputation in the region and QAI’s reputation for excellent quality, turn times and customer service, this Joint Venture is based on the strengths of both organisations.

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The Rusty Award

Nick Dower with members of Russell Aitken's family.

On 19 August 2013, 20 people gathered at Renzo’s bar in Melbourne’s Docklands to celebrate the first occasion of what will be an annual award for mentors.

Established by Helinews owner, Nick Dower, as a way of recognising outstanding mentorship within the industry, The Rusty Award was set up in memory of Russell Aitken who was tragically taken in an accident in Papua New Guinea on 5 July 2012.

Rusty worked as an instructor for several years and guided many pilots through their careers.

Nick Dower presented the award to Russell’s wife, Kelly Aitken, in the presence of family, friends and colleagues. He described Rusty as “a fabulous mentor” and said, “His absence will always be felt. He was one of a kind.”

Close friend, Steve Chiodo, delivered a heartwarming speech expressing gratitude for having had such a dedicated friend, instructor and mentor.

The occasion served as an opportunity for Rusty’s family, friends and work colleagues to meet and exchange stories. Family members said, “After over a year of sadness, it was lovely to celebrate Russell’s life and achievements and learn more about the industry and people that he loved so much.”

The award came one week after Russell’s burial and what would have been his 44th birthday.

If you know someone you think has been a great mentor, nominate them. Applications are currently open for the 2013 Rusty Award.

Email rustyaward@niche.com.au with your name and the company you work for and the name of the person you wish to nominate and why.

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AgustaWestland AW139 enters Swedish SAR role

AgustaWestland has delivered the first of seven AW139 intermediate twin engine helicopters to the Swedish Maritime Administration, for use in search-and-rescue (SAR) operations. The second aircraft is expected to be delivered shortly, with all deliveries to be completed within 2014.

Over 730 AW139s have been ordered by more than 200 customers in about 60 countries – including Australia. The 580-odd helicopters currently in service have logged close to 750,000 flight hours in roles such as SAR, air ambulance, offshore transport, VIP/corporate transport, law enforcement and military transport missions.

AgustaWestland says the SMA’s AW139s are equipped with a range of dedicated mission systems including a Full Ice Protection System (FIPS), which “allows flights into known icing conditions and enabling all weather operations, when other types would be confined to the hangar”.

In Australia, Heliflite has been the exclusive Australian distributor and service centre for Agusta civil helicopters since 1977. The AW139 is a 15-passenger-capable medium helicopter featuring twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turbines which, combined with a state-of-the-art five-bladed main rotor, deliver high cruising speeds in demanding conditions at all weights.

It has a maximum cruising speed of 306km/h (165 kts), a 10.9m/s rate of climb, service ceiling (MCP) of 6096m (20,000ft) and a maximum range of 1,250km (with 1654kg of fuel).

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Mercedes-Benz Eurocopter EC145 heads for China

© Eurocopter – Charles Abarr

China’s Henan New Continental Business Aviation has become the first Asian company to buy a EC145 Mercedes-Benz Style helicopter from Eurocopter.

Designed in collaboration with the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Como, Italy, the twin-engined aircraft is made for high-end, VIP operations. Its interior design, which is said to feature high quality materials, elegant woods and ambient cabin lighting, is inspired by Mercedes-Benz cars. It has a versatile and easily transformable cabin suitable for a broad range of activities.

Henan New Continental plans to use the EC145MB to spearhead the creation of a helicopter fleet that will meet China’s growing demand for VIP and business passenger transport. To this end, the company has also bought an AS350 B3e from Eurocopter’s Ecureuil family.

The latest version of the French company’s popular single-engine workhorse – which has a wide cabin, high cruise speed and low vibration levels for passengers – features a more powerful Turbomeca Arriel 2D engine with a longer life cycle and lower maintenance costs, next-generation FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control), an improved interior design and tail rotor modifications for additional ease of piloting.

“While VIP helicopter transportation in China is relatively young, the customers’ needs are maturing rapidly,” Henan chairman Zhou Suiji said in a statement. “With the EC145 Mercedes-Benz Style helicopter and the AS350 B3e, we will be able to meet and exceed their expectations of comfort and exclusivity.”

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NASA helicopter crash test is a smash hit

NASA has dropped an an old Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter fuselage filled with 15 dummy occupants from a height of about 9m in order to test improved seats and seatbelts and gather data on the odds of surviving a helicopter crash.

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the US city of Hampton, Virginia, used cables to hoist the aircraft into the air and swing it to the ground, “much like a pendulum”. The cables were separated when it was travelling at about 50km/h, and the body hit the ground hard, researchers say.

“We designed this test to simulate a severe but survivable crash under both civilian and military requirements,” said NASA lead test engineer Martin Annett. “It was amazingly complicated with all the dummies, cameras, instrumentation and the collaborators, but it went well.”

There were 13 instrumented crash-test dummies and two un-instrumented manikins inside, 40 cameras mounted inside and outside the fuselage and onboard computers collecting data from 350 instrumentation points.Researchers used a photographic technique called full field photogrammetry to create the helicopter’s black-and-white-speckled paint job.

“High speed cameras filming at 500 images per second tracked each black dot, so we can plot exactly how the fuselage reacted structurally throughout the test,” said NASA test engineer Justin Littell.

NASA says this was the first of two planned tests using fuselages of the CH-46E Sea Knight – an aircraft which has served the US Navy and Marine Corp since the early 1960s. A similar helicopter equipped with additional technology, including high-performance, lightweight composite airframe retrofits, will be used in a crash test around this time next year. Both are part of the Rotary Wing Project in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

NASA says it will use the results of both tests in efforts to improve rotorcraft performance and efficiency. Researchers also want to increase industry knowledge and create more complete computer models that can be used to design better and safer helicopters.

“The ultimate goal of NASA’s rotary wing research is to help make helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing vehicles more serviceable – able to carry more passengers and cargo – quicker, quieter, safer and greener, and lead to more extensive use in the airspace system,” the agency said in a statement.

Researchers say preliminary observations from the test – which was a collabioration between NASA, the US Navy, US Army and Federal Aviation Administration – indicate good data collection, which will take months to analyse.

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Russia to show off combat trainer at MAKS 2013

A new Russian combat training helicopter with a dual-control system that can be used in Mi-28NE Night Hunter pilot training while retaining all the functionality of an attack helicopter will be shown off at the MAKS 2013 International Aviation & Space Salon, which starts tomorrow (August 26).

The Russian Helicopters Mi-28UB performed its maiden demonstration flight on August 9 at the flight test centre in Rostervol, where the aircraft are made.

RH says the major difference between the Mi-28UB and the Mi-28N Night Hunter is a dual hydromechanical flight control system which allows the helicopter to be operated both from the pilot’s cockpit and the flight instructor’s cockpit. In addition, the canopy of the flight instructor’s cockpit has been expanded, and there’s a change to the configuration of the energy-absorbing seats.

“The Mi-28UB helicopter will improve significantly and render more effective training of pilots of Mi-28NE Night Hunter helicopters, which are supplied to the Russian air force, and may be offered for export,” Russian Helicopters says.

MAKS 2013 will be held at the Zhukovsky airfield in Moscow’s suburbs from August 26 to September 1.

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Bell SLS attracting strong interest in Aus/NZ

Bell Helicopter’s new Short Light Single (SLS) helicopter product – which we announced back in June – is attracting a lot of interest in Australia and New Zealand, according to local distributor Hawker Pacific.

The five-seat entry-level helicopter is expected to complete its first flight in 2014 with certification to follow shortly after.

Hawker Pacific says Bell’s advisory-council-led design focuses on costs and useful load, which has contributed to its overwhelming reception.

“There just isn’t another aircraft in the world that is so well-suited to our requirements here, which is why we are extremely excited about its arrival, and so are our customers,” says Tony Jones, Hawker Pacific’s Senior Vice President, Aircraft Sales Group. “While the customer base for light single helicopters is spread right across the globe, there is a healthy appetite in Australia/New Zealand, and with the price point just right, the market is understandably excited.”

The SLS features a high-visibility, fully flat cabin floor with five forward-facing seats. Additional safety enhancing design features will reduce pilot workload, improve situational awareness and deliver superior auto rotation capabilities.

For more information or to place an Expression of Interest (EOI), please contact Hawker Pacific’s Mathew Hardy on +61 (0) 404 886 810 or email mathew.hardy@hawkerpacific.com.

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