Posted 4 years 312 days ago ago by jhadmin
2015 promises to be an exciting year in helicopter development, as OEMs push the envelope on advanced technologies to deliver more speed, higher flight ceilings, and improved fuel efficiency. Here are some of the most exciting trends to watch for over the next 12 months, some of which will be seen at Heli-Expo 2015.
AgustaWestland is turning its attention to the AW169 this year. The light intermediate twin AW169 can carry up to 10 passengers in a large unobstructed cabin. It comes with the latest technology: APU mode, advanced dynamic components, an all-electric landing gear, and a touch-screen cockpit.
“The AW169 is a natural complement to operators of AW139s and AW189s, due to the family concept commonalities in comfort, safety, avionics technologies, maintenance, and parts,” said an AgustaWestland spokesperson. Over 120 AW169 helicopters have now been ordered by customers around the world for a wide range of applications including air ambulance, law enforcement, corporate/VIP transport, offshore transport, and utility roles.
AgustaWestland is also working on developing the AW609, which is the world’s first commercial tiltrotor. The AW609's pressurized cabin allows it to fly like a fixed-wing aircraft at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. According to AgustaWestland, the AW609 will travel twice as fast and as far as a conventional helicopter, yet still hover and takeoff/land vertically. The first AW609 customer demonstration flights successfully took place in 2014.
This OEM is committed to achieving FAA certification of the AW609 Tiltrotor in 2017, with customer deliveries soon after. Nearly 60 AW609s have been ordered to date for a variety of roles and missions, including offshore transportation, EMS and patient transfer, search and rescue, VIP, and parapublic operations.
In 2015 and beyond, AgustaWestland will be developing its Next Generation Civil Tiltrotor (NGCTR). This will be a multi-role rotorcraft with a pressurized cabin to permit the NGCTR to cruise comfortably above any bad weather. A flying demonstrator is scheduled to fly before 2020.
In 2014, Airbus Helicopters succeeded in both certifying and bringing to market three new aircraft: the EC145 T2, the EC135 T3/P3, and the EC175. “Their successful entry into service will be the main focus for 2015,” said a company spokesperson.
The EC145 T2 is the latest version of Airbus Helicopter’s BK117/EC145 family. It has received certification from both EASA and the FAA. More than 100 orders have been placed for the EC145 T2, which was developed and manufactured in Donauwörth, Germany. The EC645 military version will enter service late this year.
In December 2014, the first Airbus Helicopters EC135 T3/P3 (an upgraded, high performance version of the EC135 series) was placed into service with Aiut Alpin Dolomites, a rescue service that mainly operates in the mountain ranges of northeastern Italy. Airbus Helicopters told Rotorcraft Pro that high altitude operation was foremost on the mind of the OEM’s engineers when they set out to enhance the aircraft’s performance.
The first two EC175s were delivered in December 2014 to Belgium-based Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen (NHV) for oil and gas missions in the North Sea. The EC175 comes with the new Helionix avionics suite, which is designed to deliver increased safety through reduced pilot workload, enhanced situational awareness, improved flight envelope protection, and system redundancy.
At Heli Expo 2015, Airbus Helicopters will unveil the X4, its next generation 5-6 ton twin-engine helicopter with a 12-passenger cabin. According to the company, the first flight of the prototype is planned to take place by the summer of 2015.
Bell Helicopter is focusing on three new aircraft programs this year. They are the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X (replacing the Jet Ranger); the super-medium class Bell 525 Relentless, and the Bell V-280 Valor flying tiltrotor Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD).
The short light single Bell 505 will be “the most cost-competitive, capable helicopter in its class,” says Matthew Hasik, Bell’s SVP of commercial programs. The 505 Jet Ranger X is a multi-mission helicopter with a fully flat floor, increased cabin volume, and clamshell doors. Hasik explains, “It can support a wide variety of operations categories, including the utility segment, corporate and private owners, and training schools.”
The new super-medium Bell 525 Relentless will be the first commercial helicopter to include fly-by-wire technology, which is popular in the fixed-wing market. Hasik said, “Incorporating a fly-by-wire digital flight control system will enable us to achieve higher levels of safety and increased pilot situational awareness, performance, and reliability.”
On the military side, the next-generation V-280 Valor is Bell’s entry in a race against the combined forces of Sikorsky-Boeing to define and build the U.S. military’s next generation of vertical lift platforms. Derived from the V-22 Osprey, “the speed, range, and payload of the V-280 will revolutionize U.S. military battle planning and doctrine the way the V-22 did for the Marines and U.S. special operations forces,” said Steve Mathias, Bell’s manager of business development for the JMRTD / future vertical lift. “The Bell V-280 tiltrotor provides the best of both worlds: a helicopter’s low-speed agility with a fixed-wing’s high-speed performance,” he said.
Composite Helicopters International
For Composite Helicopters International, 2015 is all about its composite materials-based rotorcraft. Company Director and Chief Designer Peter Maloney bills this rotorcraft as “the world's first helicopter with a monocoque [self-supporting] fuselage fabricated entirely from Carbon-Kevlar composite materials.” According to Maloney, the Carbon-Kevlar fuselage includes the cabin, center section, tail boom, and empennage.
The composite helicopter’s composite materials allow its fuselage to be cast using infusion and resin transfer molding processes, without any need for a supporting internal frame. As a result, this helicopter is built from the “outside-in,” starting with the fuselage’s shell, which is rivet and bolt free. The bulkheads and floor panels are put into the fuselage through the cabin doors.
“This design and construction technique creates a simple and easy way to build a helicopter,” says Maloney. “By replacing the traditional steel tubular or aluminum structure found on other helicopters with a lighter, yet stronger and stiffer structural shell, Composite Helicopters International's designers were able to incorporate secondary and tertiary crushable structures into their fuselage to provide a high level of energy absorption.”
Composite Helicopters will be displaying two composite helicopters at Heli-Expo 2015. One will be configured as an executive five-seat model with an RR300 engine. The other will be a utility six-seat model set up to receive an LTS101 engine.
Marenco Swisshelicopter’s sole focus this year is on the development of its SKYe SH09
multipurpose light single-engine helicopter. The company is currently working on getting this aircraft EASA Type Certification.
“We achieved some important milestones in the past 12 months, from roll-out of the first prototype, participating at HeliExpo 2014 in Anaheim with this machine, and then performing the SH09's first flight on October 2, 2014,” said Mathias Sénès, Marenco Swisshelicopter’s chief commercial officer. The SKYe SH09 has a fast cruise speed of 260 km/h (140 knots), a range in excess of 800km (430 nautical miles) using its standard fuel tanks, and a quiet cabin due to the helicopter’s shrouded tail assembly/main rotor design.
The SKYe SH09 incorporates impressive capabilities into a light single-engine model. They include seating for 5-8 people, rear clamshell doors to support the easy loading of goods and stretchers, and ‘hot and high’ engine performance. “The SH09's large volume cabin and flat floor meet the need for multipurpose platforms that can quickly change their mission configurations, while the high-visibility cockpit gives the pilots extra visibility and passengers a memorable flight experience,” said Sénès.
The fact that the SKYe SH09 is a new rotorcraft built upon 21st century design and technology is central to its appeal. “We bring a modern design started from a clean sheet of paper at a time where the OEMs have focused on light to heavy twins and left this segment of the market untouched with products that date back to the 1970s,” Sénès said. “What potential customers need to know in 2015 is that the SKYe SH09 is in the air and we are now taking orders.”
MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) is focused on two projects for 2015. The first is an enhanced flight deck for the company’s twin-engine 902/Explorer civil aircraft, which MDHI is developing with Universal Avionics. The second project is promoting the company’s fleet of armed customizable single-engine helicopters, which are being offered on a quick delivery basis to military/defense customers.
“Our partnership with Universal Avionics in the development of the Next Generation flight deck is a standout because it brings together two undisputed industry leaders to deliver the most sophisticated avionics suite in the most reliable, safest-to-operate light-twin on the market,” said MDHI CEO Lynn Tilton. The 902/Explorer series with the UA flight deck can be custom-configured for VIP transport, EMS/rescue or law enforcement missions.
On the military side, MDHI’s armed MD 530F Cayuse Warrior, MD 530G and MD 540A Scout Attack helicopters offer capability combined with relatively quick availability. “In many cases, waiting 18-24 months or more for armed helicopters puts soldiers and democracies at unnecessary risk,” Tilton said. “With our armed MD 530F Cayuse Warrior, for example, we will deliver a close air combat-capable aircraft that also provides training, scout, escort, and ISR capabilities in less than six months.” The MD 530G and MD 540A will follow within the year to deliver increases in useful load, endurance, and lethality as well as advanced avionics and navigation technologies.
Robinson Helicopter Company
Robinson Helicopter Company is riding high on the FAA’s approval of its float option for the five-person R66. The Turbine Marine is an R66 pop-out float option that uses the same pop-out float tubes as the R44 Clipper float option. Having such floats onboard provides the R66 with an extra measure of safety when flying over water. The total package weighs about 65 lbs.
Meant for emergency water landings, the R66 floats are activated by a lever on the pilot’s collective. Using pressurized helium – which is stored in a tank under the R66's right rear seat – the floats inflate in 2-3 seconds for fast situations.
The R66 floats are approved for water takeoffs at reduced operating weights, and for use in training or limited water-based operations. They are stowed in low-profile protective covers beside the landing gear skids for minimal drag and interference with cabin entry and exit.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
2015 promises to be a very busy year for Sikorsky’s military helicopter division. “In my 25 years with the company, this is the most engineering that we’ve ever had going on,” said Chris Van Buiten, the vice president of technology and innovation at Sikorsky, where he runs the Sikorsky Innovations group
One of the company’s standouts this year is the CH-53K King Stallion. Built upon the legendary CH-53E, the CH-53K has twice the carrying capacity, thanks to its composite rotor blades, three 7,500 shp (5,590 kW) engines, and improved aerodynamics. “It also has a glass cockpit, fly-by-wire technology, and enough extra cabin space to load a Humvee,” said Van Buiten.
2015 will also see Sikorsky working on its S-97 Raider, the company-funded counter-rotating/pusher prop scout/attack helicopter derived from the company’s X2 Technology Demonstrator. Its first flight is expected early this year, and Van Buiten claims the Raider can fly twice as fast and far higher than conventional helicopters.
Also this year, Sikorsky is pushing ahead with the SB>1 Defiant flying prototype, the company’s joint venture with Boeing under the U.S Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) Air Vehicle Program; again using X2 technology. The company is also busy readying its S-92 for the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program.
On the civilian side, Sikorsky has asked the FAA to increase the S-92's maximum gross weight rating from 26,500 to 27,700 lbs. “We have managed to make a number of weight-reducing enhancements that have resulted in this extra 1,200 lbs payload capacity,” said Dan Hunter, director of commercial programs at Sikorsky. “This increase will be a big help for operators flying the S-92 at its full 19 passenger complement.”
Sikorsky is also seeking EOSA and Transport Canada approval for its FAA-approved automated rig approach software. Originally certified by the FAA for the S-92, the company is also planning to bring this same capability to the smaller S-76D.