Heli-Expo 2016 Photo Report
News from HAI Heli-Expo 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky (1-3 March 2016):
Airbus Helicopters H215
Airbus Helicopters had on show the newly designated H215, formerly the AS332C1e (i.e. an enhanced, short fuselage Super Puma) and AS332L1e (the long fuselage version), to be built in Romania and aimed at aerial work, disaster relief and other missions. The replacement of elderly SA330Js, S-61s and Mil Mi-8s being distinct targets.
The Finnish Border Guard recently took delivery of its first H215, OH-HVP, with the second to follow in Apri 2016l. It has been suggested that a major current sales target is California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), which has issued a tender for 15 helicopters.
Airbus Helicopters AS350 / H125
Probably one of the oddest special mission modifications on show was this AS350B3 fitted for environmental research.
The so called Helicopter Observation Platform (HOP), N350UM, is owned by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and operated by Helicopter Express. The aircraft was exhibited by Donaldson Aerospace & Defense as it is equipped with a Donaldson Inlet Barrier Filtration (IBF) system.
Meanwhile Vector Aerospace and Robertson Fuel Systems were exhibiting their soon to be certified (by FAA and EASA) Crash Resistant Fuel System (CRFS) for the AS350 AStar and EC130B4.
This direct replacement tank features a number of safety enhancements, including the introduction of modern fuel retention technology and the relocation of certain critical components to further enhance safety and ease of maintenance. Vector worked closely with Onboard Systems to ensure that the tank remained compatible with Onboard’s cargo swing options.
For more on the value of this modification see our article: Crashworthiness and a Fiery Frisco US HEMS Accident
Airbus Helicopters H130
Canadian operator Phoenix Heli-Flight took delivery of a spectacularly painted H130 at the show.
Airbus Helicopters H160 and H175
While Airbus did not exhibit aircraft or mock-ups of the H160 and H175 this year they did offer attendees a virtual reality experience with both.
Meanwhile it has been reported that Airbus Helicopters are planning a new lean production philosophy for the H160. ‘Major Component Assemblies’ will be produced in different locations before final assembly and flight test at Marignane in France.
Production aircraft will have their tail booms produced Albacete, Spain, and main rotor blades would be produced at La Courneuve, near Paris. The central and front fuselages will be produced and pre-equipped by Airbus at its Donauworth facility in southern Germany. They will be mated together in Marignane with the main dynamic components that are also produced there.
This could see the 36 week assembly process for the AS365 drop to 18 weeks for the H160, when the production line opens in 2017.
UPDATE 10 October 2016: The H160 has now achieved 250 hours in flight test.
Bell 505 Jet Ranger X
Two Bell B505s were on display.
The B505 first flew with a single, right hand side, horizontal stabiliser.
The type has now a rather less elegant solution.
The Bell 505 features a Garmin G1000H avionic suite.
Bell 525 Relentless
Bell also brought B525 Flight Test Vehicle 2 (FTV2) to the show. The second aircraft first flew on 21 Dec 2015. The 525 utilises fly-by-wire (FBW) controls.
A third aircraft is due to join the flight test programme in the coming month, to be followed by two pre-production aircraft (one oil & gas and one Search and Rescue [SAR]).
Bell V280 Valor
Bell brought a mock-up of their proposed tilt-rotor to replace the Sikorsky Black Hawk family, the V280 Valor. It is due to fly in September 2016. The V280 designation represents the target of cruise at 280 Knots. Unlike the V-22 Osprey and the AW609 the engines do not tilt, reducing downward hot efflux. There is also a straight cross-shaft reducing the number of gearboxes to 4.
Finmeccanica AW609 Programme Manager, Clive Scott said of the loss of a prototype tilt rotor N609AG on 30 Oct 2015:
We have a very good understanding of the events and have a view of the most probable causes. That is what’s leading us to say we are expecting to resume flight tests.
The flight tests had been voluntarily suspended after the accident in order to fully support the investigation.
Ground runs of the third prototype are due to commence shortly. Build of long lead-time components for the initial production aircraft has commenced with the first aircraft delivery due in 2018.
A year ago Bristow Group signed a cooperation deal on development of the offshore oil and gas variant of the AW609. This year Era signed a deal to focus on a medical HEMS variant. Rather than target ‘routine’ local HEMS operations, Era is focusing on high net-worth individuals who live or holiday in remote areas, with limited infrastructure, distance away from hospitals, but with “high expectations for health care”.
Finmeccanica displayed the AW009 light single.
It is the rebranded SW-4, originally developed by PZL-Swidnik. The design first flew in 1996 and has undergone several refinements since Finmeccanica acquired a majority stake in the Polish company in 2009. These include new Genesys avionics (common to the larger AW109 Trekker), improved hydraulics and a reduced level of vibration due to a new mass vibration absorber. Other modifications include changes to its handling characteristics.
Finmeccanica aim to keep the Rolls-Royce M250-C20R/2 powered, 5 seat, 1.8t AW009 priced below $2 million. The SW-4 had previously been tested as part of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Rotary Wing Unmanned Aerial System (RWUAS) Capability Concept Demonstration (CCD).
Finmeccanica AW119 Kola and AW109 Trekker
Finmeccanica displayed their 2.9t single-engined AW119Kx Koala in HEMS configuration.
The first flight of the twin engine 3.2t skid equipped AW109 Trekker was made at Cascina Costa in Italy on the first day of the show. The AW109 Trekker derivative is aimed at training, utility and aerial work applications. The aircraft features the same cabin as the AW109 Grand and Genesys avionics, but costs “meaningfully” less.
Since it was certified last year, deliveries of the new 4.5t AW169 have started to ramp up, and one was on show in HEMS configuration.
Production is currently only in Italy. FAA certification is expected this year. Deliveries from a second production line, at Finmeccanica’s plant in Philadelphia, begin in 2017.
The first AW169 entered service in January 2016 with Linfox in Australia in VIP configuration. Delivery of the first of six ordered by UK based Specialist Aviation Services occurred in February 2016. That aircraft will enter service for Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, replacing an MD902, following installation of an advanced medical interior by SAS at their Staverton site.
Leasing company LCI, has placed an AW169 with German operator Heliservice International. This will be among the first AW169s employed in support of its offshore operations and will be used for offshore windfarm support on contract to Siemens. In the Middle East Falcon Aviation Services has also ordered the type for offshore (and VIP) use.
Work is proceeding on developing a search-and-rescue variant with Swiss operator Rega, and it will feature a full icing protection system (FIPS).
Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawks
For a type whose prototype first flew on 17 October 1974, the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is no stranger to Heli-Expo. This year however three civil UH-60s were on show, and due to a quirk in FAR21.25, Sikorsky is not the Type Certificate Holder for any of them. That’s because this regulation covers the “Issue of type certificate: Restricted category aircraft” for “special purposes”. In this case allowing the use of ex-military aircraft for use in tasks such as fire-fighting, forestry etc.
No doubt the loss of 9 people in the crash of S-61N N612AZ in 2008 during fire-fighting operations (NTSB Report) will be a factor that will make the crashworthiness features of the UH-60A attractive in these operations.
UPDATE 30 March 2016: Also see: The Black Hawk’s Second Life which reports that over 110 have been sold by the Us DoD and Black Hawks are being auctioned for as little as $200k.
UPDATE 25 March 2018: Black Hawks for hire
Arista Aviation displayed N522AA, formerly 81-23552, a 1981 UH-60A. Arista appear to be still in the restricted TC application process.
Timberline Helicopters have Restricted Category Type Certificate #R00052SE, granted on 26 Feb 2016 after a 10 month application process, and displayed N434TH, formerly 80-23434.
UPDATE 25 July 2016: Video of a construction project using a Timberline UH-60.
BHI² / BHI Squared (a joint venture of Brainerd Helicopters and Brown Helicopter) exhibited N60XP (carrying former military markings 86-24610). This is the fourth of what they have termed the C-Hawk under Restricted Category Type Certificate #R0012DE granted in April 2015.
N60XP is being used to test a pair of Robertson Fuel Systems Conformal Auxiliary Fuel System (CAFS). An FAA STC is expected by the end of 2016 for the tanks (each carries 100 US Gallons). Also see this interview.
Sikorsky had two S-76Ds on show, one in a VIP fit and one in a offshore configuration.
Sikorsky’s website shows 8, 10 and 12 seat configurations (4 aft + 4 forward, 3 + 3 + 4 and 4 + 4 + 4 arrangements). One limitation with the three row configurations is seen below.
At the first Heli-Expo since their purchase by Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky exhibited an S-92A destined for Era. Era’s first Gross Weight Expansion (GWE) S‐92A entered revenue service in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in October 2015. The GWE increases the maximum take‐off weight from 26,500 to 27,700 lbs (12t to 12.6t).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sZa_bYb0lWg VIH Aerospace is looking at their current S-92A Auxiliary Fuel Tank system, which can fit one or two tanks into the S-92A cabin, to determine how to incorporate a third tank (along with a and new Fuel Management Display). With three tanks the seating capacity drops to 11 (4 forward and 7 aft) but this configuration will be essential for longer range drilling campaigns (Aerossurance discussed two 300nm+ range projects during the show).
Each tank holds 150 US gallons (190 litres) and weights 290lb (132 kg) each, empty. A two tank systems costs just under US$1 million. Today 36 S-92As (in oil & gas and SAR roles) have VIH tanks. Sikorsky also made a presentation to Bristow in recognition of an evacuation of hundreds of workers from six oil platforms in the North Sea on 31 December 2015. Bristow used…:
…nine Sikorsky S-92 aircraft to airlift 400 offshore workers safely from platforms in the [ConocoPhillips] Eldfisk [sic – actually Ekofisk] and [BP] Valhall fields in extreme weather conditions, after a 360-foot-long barge set loose by stormy weather and high seas drifted toward the oil installations and threatened their operations. The barge, which was being used to transport cargo, was returning to Norway from Tunisia when the tow line broke. …Bristow transported nearly 800 workers on 40 flights over three days.
It is reported the threat was taken so seriously an air strike with F-16s against the barge was actually considered.
Survitec Lifejackets and CA-EBS
We have previously discussed at length the rapid development, certification and introduction of the Survitec Mk50 Passenger Lifejacket with a Compressed Air EBS (CA-EBS), following a UK CAA edict in the CAP1145 report published 20 February 2014. Not only has the jacket been selected as the standard for the UK sector but they have an impressive number of sales successes on three other continents to date.
Survitec are just about to gain UK CAA certification of the Mk51 crew jacket with CA-EBS. It is a single chamber jacket with a slightly smaller CA-EBS bottle (both features to improve crew comfort and reduce fatigue). It uses a divers mouth piece and has a separate nose-clip.
Members of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) provided safety advice for Heli-Expo participants at 14 different workshops, a safety symposium and a regional partners briefing session. A number of organisations also signed a recommitment to the IHST ideals.
Louisville was a first for Heli-Expo and a possibly nervous one considering the oil price slide and the possibility of inclement weather. During Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando, Louisville was also hit by a severe snow storm, so attendees were lucky to have some fairly decent conditions this year. International travel was not particularly difficult with plenty of connection options (though a Trump campaign visit on 1 March did cause a local taxi shortage).
The number of exhibitors seems to have held up well and visitor numbers were relatively high on the first two days, but are likely to be down on the 20,000 seen in 2015.
Next year the show returns to Dallas (7-9 March 2017) and then to Las Vegas (26 February – 1 March 2018).
All photos © Aerossurance.
See our 2015 photo report and ‘Super Medium’ special.
Vertical Magazine have also published their photos online.
UPDATE 2 March 2018: Heli-Expo 2018 Photo Report