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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Fire Scout clears 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan

An MQ-8B Fire Scout approaches the USS Halyburton (FFG 40) flight deck.

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has clocked up over 5,000 flight hours since deploying to Afghanistan in 2011 to provide real-time targeting support and video to allied military forces on the ground.

Based on a Schweizer Aircraft commercial airframe, the helicopter – or “Transformational Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle”, as Northrop Grumman puts it – has the ability to autonomously take off and land on any aviation-capable warship and at both prepared and unprepared landing zones in a war zone.

The FAA-certified Fire Scout aircraft uses turbine power fed by standard NATO heavy fuel, and boasts commonality of over 50 percent of the mechanical parts.

“Fire Scout’s versatility makes it an ideal intelligence-gathering asset for military units on the front line, both on land and at sea,” said US Naval Air Systems Command program manager Captain Patrick Smith. “This is a great accomplishment for the entire team and we have leveraged many lessons learned while we develop a more capable Fire Scout system.”

Northrop Grumman is under contract to the US Navy to deliver the first eight of 30 vastly improved Endurance Upgrade Fire Scouts by next year. These MQ-8C models will have twice the endurance and three times the payload capability.

It hasn’t all been a smooth ride for the Fire Scout. Last year, News.com.au reported that the MQ-8B failed 10 of 10 test missions – due to a variety of factors such as a broken antenna – and nearly self-destructed when an operator accidentally pressed the spacebar with a wire from his headset.

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Call for Rusty Award nominations

Twelve months ago Helinews owner Nick Dower started the ‘Rusty Award’ as an acknowledgement of outstanding mentorship to airmen/women. The award was created in memory of Russell Aitken, who was tragically taken in a helicopter accident in Papua New Guinea in July 2012.

Russell ‘Rusty’ Aitken was an instructor and mentor to many pilots including Nick and Helinews Editor Chrissy Hogarth. Our summer issue will cover the award ceremony and feature a ‘Passion or Purpose’ story on the man.

We would now like to call for nominations for the 2013 ‘Rusty Award’. If you would like to nominate someone you believe to be an outstanding mentor in the industry, please email us at rustyaward@niche.com.au and include in your email the name of the person you are nominating, your name and position, and the reasons why you believe this person should receive the award.

The winners will be publicly announced and a ceremony will take place in 2014.

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SA heli evacuates crew from bulk carrier: photos

Picture: Bianca Bezuidenhout, Wilderness NSRI volunteer.

South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute has released photographs of the helicopter rescue of 19 crew members of the bulk carrier Kiani Satu, which ran aground yesterday at Walker Bay, between Knysna and Sedgefield on the country’s south coast.

A Sikorsky S-76 helicopter operated by the Titan Helicopter Group airlifted the crew members to shore in relays.

The ship, sailing from Cape Town to Gabon with a full load of rice, ran into motor mechanical problems on 7 August. The NSRI said she had washed side-on to the shore and came to rest hard aground after her anchor dragged. A tug boat was not able to hold her off against rough sea swells of 5m and strong gusting to 45 knot onshore winds. After the ship’s captain decided to abandon ship, it was thought that safest rescue option was to deploy the helicopter and hoist the crew off the ship while NSRI rescue boats stood by to assist if necessary.

“The rescue helicopter hoisted NSRI helicopter rescue swimmers on to the ship’s deck, where they instructed crew on the procedure to be hoisted into the helicopter by winch hoist using under-arm harnesses,” said NSRI Knysna station commander Graeme Harding. “Once they were safely airlifted to the beach, because of the terrain, they were then ferried by our NSRI sea rescue vehicles to a parking area in the Goukamma Nature Reserve where the Nature Conservation office was taken over as a rescue operations control point.”

Harding said the Ukrainian and Filipino crew were then handed into the care of Police Sea Borderline and transported to Mossel Bay for visa control processing and accommodation.

SEE MORE PHOTOS …

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Belgium gets first Navy-variant Eurocopter NH90

Eurocopter NH90 NFH. © Charles Abarr

The Belgian Armed Forces have taken delivery of their first Eurocopter NH90 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter), a variant of which is flow by the Australian Army and Navy as the MRH-90 Taipan.

The Belgian aircraft is the first built at Eurocopter’s factory in Donauwörth, Germany.

Eurocopter says Belgium is the fifth country to put the European-developed NH90 NFH version into service, joining France, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway. The aircraft is rated at Full Operational Capability (FOC), meaning it can be used for the full range of Belgium naval missions, such as Search and Rescue (SAR) or military missions at sea.

Belgium has ordered eight NH90s in total, including four NFH naval versions to replace the Belgian Navy’s Sea King helicopters. Training of flight and maintenance crews will begin next month, with the helicopters going operational next year.

The NH90 features a redundant fly-by-wire system, a full composite corrosion-free airframe, two powerful engines, a fully integrated weapon system as well as a wide, easily reconfigurable cabin. It can operate from a shore base or a frigate up to sea state 5.

“The NH90 NFH is operationally proven, and Belgium will benefit from this helicopter’s already validated performance, reliability and versatility,” said Michel Polychroniadis, Director of the NH90 Programme at Eurocopter. “The Belgium acceptance teams and flight crews have been impressed by the NH90 NFH’s flight stability and its capabilities, providing a preview of the operational enhancements that will be provided.”

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Land the damn helicopter!

President’s Message by US-based Helicopter Association International (HAI) President Matt Zuccaro

So, how is your day going? Mine was not that great. I spent it reading National Transportation Safety Board helicopter accident reports. I don’t know about you, but my level of frustration is at an all-time high.

There were no surprises. No one has yet invented a new way to crash helicopters. The reports noted the usual suspects — fuel exhaustion, continued flight in marginal weather resulting in inadvertent IMC and, in the minority, mechanical failures. To round it out, there was a pilot under the influence of both prescription and over-the-counter medications with no reporting to the FAA.

In many accidents, there is prior knowledge that all is not well. With fuel exhaustion, most pilots are aware of low fuel and the uncertainty of reaching fuel. In weather-related incidents, pilots know they are in less-than-desirable weather conditions, with difficulty maintaining visual flight rules. Accidents caused by mechanical failures involve alerts by warning systems and abnormal noises or vibrations. In a medical incapacitation or under-the-influence case, the pilot is usually aware of his substandard performance and diminished abilities.

With the above in mind and assuming an acceptable landing site is available, why don’t pilots exercise one of the most unique and valuable capabilities of vertical flight — namely, land the damn helicopter! In a high percentage of crashes, this simple act would break the chain of events and prevent the accident.

I once spoke to a pilot who had survived an accident and asked why he hadn’t used his option to make a precautionary landing. He indicated he had not given it direct consideration and had focused instead on destination and mission completion. He admitted, though, that in the past he had worried about the scrutiny he would incur for making a precautionary landing. This didn’t surprise me. In my early days of flying, I, too, pondered the same issues at times, although luckily I don’t any more.

Pilots normally associate precautionary landings with the police showing up, their company incurring logistical and legal costs, upset passengers refusing to fly with them again, the FAA wanting an explanation, the press asking questions, and peers expressing opinions on their abilities.

READ ON …

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Bell 412EPI gets all-clear for elevated helipads

Bell’s 412EPI helicopter, the newly upgraded version of the 412EP, is now compliant with single pilot Category “A” operations for elevated helipads.

This compiance means “almost no mission or operating environment is beyond reach for the 412EPI”, says Tony Jones, Senior Vice President, Aircraft Sales and Flight Services Group for Hawker Pacific, Bell Helicopter’s appointed distributor for Australia and New Zealand.

“The new certification further adds to the aircraft’s incredible appeal and capability as a special mission, offshore and emergency medical services (EMS) aircraft,” he adds.

Hawker Pacific is to bring a new 412EPI demonstrator to Australia in August to coincide with the 2013 ASA+FNA Aeromedical Conference to be held in Melbourne on August 28-30. It will be available for demonstration flights.

The 412EPI, unveiled at Heli Expo 2013 in Las Vegas, improves on the 412EP with the Bell BasiX Pro fully integrated glass flight deck – which features four 10.4in high-resolution LCD primary/multi-function flight information display units – and incorporates Pratt & Whitney’s PT6T-9 Twin Pac engines with the BLR Strake and FastFin System. The aircraft, Bell says, has a 15 percent increase in Shaft Horse Power (SHP), enabling improved performance and single-engine capabilities.

The avionics suite also includes high-resolution digital maps, electronic charts and approach plates, ADS-B transponder and optional HTAWS and XM satellite links.

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Good flying, or plain insane? You decide …

We came across this video on Oakley’s YouTube channel, and thought it was too good – and insane – not to share.

It shows pro skater Bob Burnquist doing tricks at his personal half-pipe and MegaRamp at his home, which he calls “Dreamland”, in Southern California.

Great stuff if you’re a skater … but where it gets interesting for helicopter fans is at the 6:25 mark, when Burnquist calls in a helicopter and drops from the skid onto his ramp and back again. Then, if you can believe it, the pilot gets into the act by doing some skate tricks of his own.

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Spain gets first all-female medical helicopter crew

Spain’s first all-female medical helicopter crew has been formed at the Malpartida medical base in the western city of Cácares.

The four-person crew is made up of pilot Beatriz Parera, medic Gloria Palacios and Salobrar Sánchez and Rocio Ramos from the Extremadura Health Service, and uses a Eurocopter EC135.

“The gender of the crew doesn’t matter,” Parera says. “What matters is the way the crew and the health professionals work together to ensure successful missions.”

The service is operated by INAER Spain, which operates 27 medical aircraft in the country. The company says that last year it completed 8,228 medical emergency missions and treated 6,658 patients suffering from conditions including trauma, heart attacks, strokes and sepsis, as well as providing neonatal care and transport.

INAER is part of the Avincis Group, which operates two companies in Australia – Australian Helicopters and Bond Helicopters Australia.

Australian Helicopters is based in Queensland and delivers multiple-sector services on an immediate-response basis to state and federal government clients and agencies from Brisbane and eight bases between Torres Strait and Adelaide. Included in its fleet of 19 helicopters are nine multi-engine IFR helicopters for operations over water.

Bond was established to provide energy support services to one of the world’s fastest growing offshore oil and gas markets. The company recently won its first major contract and will start providing services in November this year.

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Royal Navy photo winners announced

Photographer PO(Phot) Mez Merrill. Maritime Air Prize – awarded for the best photograph of one or more Royal Navy helicopters.

This image of a Royal Navy SeaKing Mk4 helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron landing at a forward operating base during an exercise in northern Norway is one of the winners of the annual Peregrine Trophy awards held in London this month.

The awards recognise the efforts of RN photographers who deploy with British warships and commando units worldwide. The photographers join up as any other rating into a particular trade such as logistics, engineering or warfare specialists before applying to be accepted into the elite photographic branch. The select few then work with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines on deployments worldwide, taking pictures of maritime operations, personnel at work and demonstrating all aspects of service life.

This year the Peregrine Trophy awards were judged by Daily Telegraph Picture Editor Matthew Fearn, Royal College of Art Professor Naren Barfield, the BBC World Service’s Anthony Massey and Kathy Andrews, and Ministry of Defence Picture Editor Neil Hall.

There are some awesome helicopter-related images among the winners. Click on the photos below to see the gallery.

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