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    Bell Helicopters Lays Off 300+ Personnel

    Bell Helicopter has implemented a reduction in its workforce which has impacted more than 300 employees across the company with the concentration of job losses at its Fort Worth facilities.

    The layoffs included management and non-management positions who are both union-represented and non-unionized.

    In a statement the company said:

    The realities of Bell Helicopter’s business continue to change. The reductions in U.S. defense budgets are real and sequestration has made the future for defense spending more uncertain than ever. As anticipated, the V-22 Multi-Year II contract reduces the build rate on Bell Helicopter’s biggest program by nearly half, which will negatively affect the level of work in our Fort Worth manufacturing centers.

    As a global company, Bell Helicopter must ensure our resources are aligned with business realities and customer demand, while continuing to make investments to remain responsive and cost competitive.

    We continue to drive costs out of the business with actions like our facilities consolidation, commercial programs cost-out efforts, business systems modernization, the voluntary separation program offered last year in Fort Worth and in Amarillo a few weeks ago, and – unfortunately – this current reduction in force.

    Staffing decisions like this are always difficult – but it is necessary to ensure that Bell Helicopter remains a viable business in the future.​

  • #2
    Sikorsky Aircraft and LORD Corporation Successfully Test Hub Mounted Vibration Suppressors

    Sikorsky Aircraft and LORD Corporation today announced the successful completion of flight demonstration testing of the Hub Mounted Vibration Suppressor (HMVS), a new technology aimed to reduce vibration on helicopters. The demonstration was part of an effort to address the challenge of crew fatigue and reduced equipment reliability and readiness that are caused by helicopter vibration. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.

    Sikorsky and Lord made the announcement during the American Helicopter Society's 70th Annual Forum and Technology Display in Montreal. The two companies collaborated on the HMVS flight demonstration at the U.S. Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) at Fort Eustis, Virginia, in March. The flight test, completed in March 2014, was performed as part of the Active Rotor Component Demonstration (ARCD) program.

    The ARCD HMVS flight test was a joint effort among AATD, Sikorsky Aircraft and LORD Corporation. Flight testing on AATD's UH-60A BLACK HAWK helicopter included progression from a hover to 150 kts, auto-rotations and 60-degree angle-of-bank turns. Successful testing in the maneuvering conditions proved the HMVS technology suppressed vibration even in the most dynamic flight conditions.

    The HMVS cancels the largest vibratory loads near the source of the vibration, which is the main rotor hub, thus keeping the loads from propagating into the airframe. In preliminary flight testing, the HMVS was found to reduce vibration significantly, with a 30 percent weight reduction.

    "This new technology is truly in the spirit of Igor Sikorsky for the way that the team took an exciting innovation from bench testing through successful flight testing," said Mark Miller, Vice President of Research & Engineering. "The HMVS reduced helicopter empty weight and dramatically reduced vibrations. We would expect both crew endurance and aircraft reliability to increase substantially under this new technology."

    "Lord is proud to be part of this significant technical achievement, and we are excited to continue to discuss the benefits of this new technology," said Lane Miller, LORD Corporation's Vice President of Research and Technology.


    • #3
      Kaman Opens New UK Tooling Facility

      A recent visit by Rt. Hon. Vince Cable, the U.K. Secretary of State for Business, is the first in a series of high-profile events at Kaman’s new $4.2M (£2.5M) U.K.-based tooling and manufacturing facility. “Kaman’s expansion and continued success is one of the encouraging signs of growth in Burnley,” said Business Secretary Cable after touring the facility. “We are now seeing businesses having the confidence to invest and create highly skilled jobs from the local workforce. We'll continue to work in partnership with business as part of the government’s industrial strategy.”

      Next up - a Grand Opening event at the 34,000 square-foot (3,160 square meters) Tooling Center of Excellence in Burnley, Lancashire, U.K. on Thursday, May 29th. This purpose-built facility was designed and equipped to meet the increased size requirements of modern aircraft structures assembly tooling, including a new 20 meter 5 axis CNC milling machine capable of machining the largest aerospace tools, and a 6 meter coordinate measuring machine used for advanced and complex high-precision digital inspection.

      The Tooling Center of Excellence will also be one of the few in the U.K. equipped with a state-of-the-art design suite for enhanced design and manufacturing. The new facility will considerably increase the capacity of Kaman Tooling, already a world-leading supplier of mold and assembly tooling, along with ground support and handling equipment. The opening of the new facility will create a number of new jobs in the next two years as Kaman continues its relocation from its former U.K. location at Darwen to Burnley’s Innovation Park.

      “The site will continue to expand, and will increase to 64,000 square feet (5,950 square meters) in 2015, creating up to 50 new jobs,” said Mark Podmore, managing director of Kaman Tooling Ltd., part of the Aerosystems Division of Kaman Aerospace.

      With the technologically advanced facility, Kaman Tooling’s customers will benefit from quick turnaround time, efficient operations, from large size machining and inspection equipment, and an overall significantly improved process.


      • #4
        AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters Shelve 2.5t Project

        AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters have shelved plans to jointly develop a 2.5t rotorcraft, a senior executive from the Moscow-headquartered manufacturer has revealed.

        Alexander Mikheev, general director of Russian Helicopters, says the decision was taken earlier this year not to proceed with the project – barely six months after the pair signed a heads of agreement for the programme at the 2013 MAKS air show.

        "At the end of March we took a joint decision on not continuing to develop this project. The competitiveness [in this segment] is quite high, and we have decided not to proceed. We will now focus on other classes [of helicopter] and other projects," says Mikheev, speaking through an interpreter.

        A HeliVert assembled AW139

        The companies continue to collaborate through their Moscow Tomilino-based HeliVert joint venture, producing the AW139 intermediate twin (below) for the Russian and CIS market, and discussions are under way to potentially deepen their relationship.

        "We have got further plans, not only with regard to the development of helicopters, but with regard to strategic partnership in the future," says Mikheev. The talks have been "quite preliminary" so far, however, he adds.

        Local media reports have hinted at a potential deal between Rostec – Russian Helicopters' parent – and AgustaWestland, which could see the Italian firm offered around a 25% stake in its joint-venture partner.​


        • #5
          Enstrom Expands Plant as Helicopter Exports Take Off

          Menominee, Mich.-based helicopter maker Enstrom doubled its workforce over the last year and recently completed a major plant expansion and remodel as it ramps up export sales of its 480B light turbine single and begins assembly and prepares for the first flight of its new TH180 piston trainer. The company employs more than 200 people, 30 of them engineers.

          Enstrom executives said that, on the strength of new sales to Venezuela and Japan, they expect to boost production from 32 aircraft this year to nearly 50 next year, with the majority consisting of the $1.17 million 480B. The plant expansion gives the company capacity to produce 100 helicopters annually.

          CEO Tracy Biegler said Enstrom expects to receive the first Lycoming IO-390 engine for the TH180 this summer and make first flight by year-end. He expects the TH180 certification program will be relatively short and uncomplicated since the aircraft shares a common type certificate and critical components with the company’s other helicopter models.


          • #6
            Enstrom Continues Transformation

            For a minute, I think I am in the wrong place.

            The Enstrom Helicopter headquarters I visited in Menominee, Mich., more than a decade ago was a ramshackle collection of small, rundown hangars and older low-ceiling buildings. The dated offices had furnishings stuck in the 1960s. There were plenty of empty parking spaces, few employees and the company was perennially beset by rumors of its impending demise.

            Today, Enstrom is none of that. Last month workmen finished an $8 million plant and office remodeling and 77,000-sq-ft expansion that doubled the space under roof and you can’t find an empty parking spot. Inside, the factory floor is buzzing to the sound of air guns and power tools and people move about in an orderly, upbeat fashion but urgently advancing new helicopters down the assembly line.

            Enstrom’s acquisition by China’s Chongqing Helicopter Investment Company financed expansion of its Menominee, Mich. plant, where it plans to produce 35 helicopters this year​

            The company has been on the upswing since 2009, propelled by a series of foreign military sales of its 480B turbine single, an aircraft known for its simple and rugged systems and good handling characteristics. It lost out in the competition for a primary training contract with the U.S. Army in 1992, but in recent years has found a home in Japan, Venezuela and Thailand, among other locales. This year, Enstrom plans to deliver 31 of them as well as four of its legacy piston models, the F-28 and 280. Total production likely will top 45 helicopters next year. Over the last five years, Enstrom’s employment has grown to 225 from 60 and the company is still hiring, stalled only by a shortage of qualified applicants. For the last three years it has turned a profit.

            New Owner, New Model

            Late last year, the company was sold to China’s Chongqing Helicopter Investment Company (CQHIC), part of a $530 million aviation arm of a $4.27 billion state-owned industrial conglomerate. The CQHIC purchase pumped new working and investment capital into the company, helping Enstrom finance its plant expansion and launch its new TH180 piston trainer, unveiled earlier this year at Heli-Expo in Anaheim. CQHIC (soon to be renamed Chongqing General Aviation Group to reflect its broader ambitions for helicopters and airplanes) should also help Enstrom in accessing the potentially lucrative Chinese market. CQHIC executives sit on Enstrom’s board, but are not involved in day-to-day operations.

            The TH180 is slated to make its first flight in early fall and Enstrom is already cutting metal for it. Enstrom plans to use the common type certificate held by all its other models to speed the TH180’s development. Powered by the naturally aspirated Lycoming IO-390, the TH180 is expected to be able to use unleaded aviation fuels–when they are approved for the engine–and deliver relatively lower direct operating costs on fuel burns of less than 12 gallons per hour.

            Enstrom thinks the time is right for a new piston trainer, particularly in the U.S. Robinson is focusing more of its resources on larger helicopters and Sikorsky seems uncertain of what to make of its Schweizer acquisition, announcing plans late last year to re-open production of that brand’s piston helicopters only temporarily while promising to improve product support. Enstrom intends that the TH180 will hit the market next year largely without competition. “There will always be a need for piston trainers,” said Orlando Alaniz, Enstrom’s director of sales and marketing.

            These are heady days at Enstrom, perhaps its best times yet, after staggering along for decades, largely undercapitalized by a colorful collection of absentee owners with varying degrees of business aptitude. As good as things are, however, the company faces challenges on a number of fronts.

            “We have competition [for the 480B] coming up in the near future that is going to be difficult,” acknowledged CEO Tracy Biegler.

            Biegler took over as CEO earlier this year after more than a decade with the company and was largely responsible for finding new export markets for the 480B, particularly in South America and the Pacific Rim. Biegler’s immediate challenge is to wring cost out of the 480B through a combination of outsourcing and more efficient manufacturing practices. Enstrom currently manufactures 90 percent of the parts used in its helicopters in-house, including cabins, windshields and main rotor blades. That has helped the company maintain overall quality standards and quick turns for customers needing replacement parts, but is not always the most economical method of manufacture.

            However, Biegler understands that outsourcing is a balancing act. “My philosophy is that, while we will be outsourcing, we want to be able to maintain the capability to produce it here if we have to. I don’t want to be so dependent on outsourcing that we can’t react to the customer,” he said.

            Enstrom plans to use the TH180 not only to make inroads in the primary training market and increase overall sales but also as a template to revamp its engineering and manufacturing practices company-wide for all of its models. “This company is going from a low rate to a high-rate production facility and there are growing pains that go with that,” Biegler said. “There is nothing wrong with growth, but to grow you have to change.”


            • #7
              Airbus Helicopters Inc. Announces New Financing Plans for Law Enforcement and Public Agency Aircraft Upgrades

              Airbus Helicopters has announced that Government Capital Corp. will provide tax-exempt financing for mission equipment technology upgrades and required major maintenance for law enforcement and government-owned AS350-series helicopters. Government Capital, based in Southlake, Texas, has extensive experience providing financing to public agencies.

              In addition, Precision Aviation Services, of Peachtree City, Ga., AHI’s newest service center, will work with Government Capital and public agencies to provide aircraft systems and avionics upgrades, conduct AS350 12-year airframe inspections and install new mission equipment to enhance the performance of the older helicopters in use with public agencies.

              “Many of our law enforcement customers continue to operate their aircraft beyond 10 years, and we wanted to identify a new way for public agencies to pay for important mission equipment upgrades without breaking the budget,” said Ed Van Winkle, AHI Sales Manager for Airborne Law Enforcement. “This innovative program will revolutionize how law enforcement agencies pay for major aircraft upgrades and inspections.”

              “This new financing program allows a law enforcement agency the simplicity of bundling their needs into one tax-exempt financing agreement,” said DC Greer, Vice President of Government Capital. “This allows the agency to spread payments over a period of time, creating affordability and maintaining the critical services performed by the agency.”

              “Precision Aviation Services (PAS) is pleased to be working with Airbus Helicopters Inc. and Government Capital on this industry-leading initiative” said Adrienne Robinson, Vice President Business Development for Precision Aviation Group (PAG). “Enabling law enforcement agencies to effectively manage their operating budgets is a key to performing upgrades to keep aircraft in optimal condition. Managing maintenance costs, especially on larger inspections and maintenance items can be challenging. When agencies upgrade their equipment and have the latest technologies in thermal imagers, searchlights, tactical radios, NVG cockpits and systems such as the Garmin G500H, HELI-SAS and EGPWS, not only can they meet or exceed their operation requirements, but they also address safety and fatigue of aircraft pilots and crew.”

              Airbus Helicopters’ AS350-series is the most widely used helicopter by U.S. law enforcement agencies with more than 220 in use across the country. Built and certified by Airbus Helicopters Inc. in Columbus, Miss., this cost-effective helicopter offers modern safety features, high cruise speed and range, and the ability to conduct a wide range of missions. AHI leads the U.S. market in sales of new helicopters to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, maintaining a 56 percent market share over the last decade.


              • #8
                Bell Establishes European Headquarters in Prague

                Bell Helicopter has set its eyes on the European market and has decided to make Prague its headquarters in Europe. The company, a subsidiary of aviation conglomerate Textron, has acquired an existing facility at Václav Havel Airport Prague and has rebranded it as Bell Helicopter's customization, completion and delivery center for all helicopters that it sells in Europe.

                “The European market is the second largest-helicopter market in the world. Our position in that market is underrepresented. So we have a strategic focus to grow in Europe, and we are making investments in our people, our products and our facilities,” John L. Garrison Jr, the president and CEO of Bell Helicopter, told the Prague Post during the official relaunch and rebranding of the facility.

                Bell 407's over the Czech Republic, now home to Bell's European Headquarters

                While markets like China and India are rapidly expanding, Garrison said he expects that in 20 years Europe will still be the second-largest market. “It is too large a market for Bell Helicopter to ignore,” he said.

                Bell looked at several options before choosing Prague. The city's central location was one factor, as the company is targeting both Eastern and Western Europe.

                Available know-how was another factor. “The Czech Republic has a history of aviation and technical competency in aviation, and so you have the ability to attract the other element of business success, which is great people. We believe we will the ability to attract the engineering talent, the technical talent, the technician talent. And also there is a great university system, and we have the ability to work with universities to develop talent,” Garrison said.

                Some 30 people are now employed at the completion center. “I'll be very disappointed if that number doesn't increase dramatically, to two- or threefold over the next couple of years,” Garrison said. While there is now an expat in senior management, the goal is to have a 100 percent indigenous workforce.

                Garrison also pointed out that there is currently a very business friendly government environment. “They are focused on growing export-related products,” he said, adding that this was also a factor in selecting Prague.

                Bell's Prague completion centre

                The new facility is not a helicopter factory. “The base aircraft, the green aircraft, is assembled in Mirabel, Canada. The rotors and drives come from Fort Worth, Texas. From there the green aircraft, unpainted and unfinished will come here to Prague and be customized as no two helicopters that are the same. Typical variations include different avionics packages, different interiors and different external paintwork. All of that shall be done here,” Garrison said.

                “Some of the customizations can be quite comprehensive, so we will build that capability here for our European customers. In customizing rotorcraft there is a lot of value added at the end of the process,” he said.

                While there are several Czech aviation companies that make parts, right now they are not part of the picture. “Over time, we will see if we can develop indigenous Czech supporting infrastructure, but right now it will be the customization work,” he said.

                Bell has already had success since it turned its focus to Europe. “Two years ago we had only two Bell 429s in Europe now we have over 40 429s flying. We've tripled the number of 407 GXs,” Garrison said. Places where Bell has had success include the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine, Slovenia and Turkey. “We've had success selling to the Turkish national police and forestry departments. They are highly configured airborne law enforcement type aircraft,” he said.

                Garrison further stated: "The Prague headquarters is far from being Bell's first presence in Europe. The company has been here for 50 years and has had a warehouse and distribution center in Amsterdam for 40 years."


                • #9

                  Korea to Develop Small Helicopter by 2022

                  Korea will develop small helicopters in a joint project with a multinational company by 2022, in a move to generate a new growth engine, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) said Tuesday.

                  KAI, the country's sole aircraft developer and manufacturer, plans to select one of four global helicopter makers in September to jointly develop the helicopters. It plans to develop a light civil helicopter by 2020 and a light armed helicopter by 2022.

                  Ha Sung-yong KAI president and CEO​

                  KAI "has been in talks with Agusta Westland in Italy, Airbus Helicopter in France, and Bell and Sikorsky in the U.S. We will consider investment capability, technology transfer and marketing ability … to pick one of them as our partner," KAI President and Chief Executive Ha Sung-yong said in a briefing on Friday.

                  His comments and other information released during the briefing were embargoed until Tuesday.

                  The Korean aircraft company has worked with two multinational partners. It joined hands with Lockheed Martin from the U.S. to develop the T-50 supersonic training jet in 2002. Its second multinational partner was Eurocopter, now called Airbus Helicopter, to develop the mid-sized Surion helicopter in 2012.

                  KAI, which spends about 3 percent of its annual sales in research and development activities, spent a combined 3.5 trillion won ($3.4 billion) to develop the T-50 trainer and the Surion helicopter.

                  Surion helicopters (Airbus Pumas built under licence in Korea) being assembled at KAI's plant in Sacheon, in southern Korea

                  As for the possibility of Airbus Helicopter being chosen again as KAI's development partner, Ha said the U.S. firm was initially "demanding" in terms of exports of the small helicopters. But it recently gave "more leeway" to KAI in exports. He didn't elaborate.

                  No doubt, Korea badly needs to join hands with an established and leading player to sell Korean-made helicopters in global markets. Joint development is also aimed at reducing development risks.

                  Korean Air also joined the bid to win the 33 trillion won small helicopter project but failed. "KAI has good reasons to beat out Korean Air as the airline lacks in experience, skilled engineers and production facilities," Ha said.

                  The country's flag carrier has supplied airplane parts to Airbus and Boeing in the past decades. But it does not have a record of building helicopters. Korean Air to declined comment.

                  Asia's fourth-biggest economy has heavily relied on the shipbuilding, automobile and semiconductor industries in recent decades.

                  Given its great growth potential, the president said, "We believe the aerospace industry has great potential to be a new growth driver for the country."

                  The aerospace industry is expected to grow into a $750 billion market by 2020 from a $460 billion market in 2011. Korea aims to increase its global market share to 3 percent, or $20 billion, from 0.5 percent, or $2.7 billion, during the same period, KAI said, citing global research data from Forecast International, Aero Strategy, Gartner and Clarkson.

                  By 2020, the shipbuilding and semiconductor industries are forecast to be a $110 billion and $300 billion market, respectively, the data showed.

                  Illustrations of KAI's proposed light armed helicopter (top) and light civil helicopter

                  Helped by the new helicopters, KAI is targeting to increase the ratio of non-military aircrafts to total sales of 46 percent by 2020 from 33 percent in 2013. It also hopes to earn 19 percent of its sales from overseas sales up from 12 percent.

                  KAI has set a sales target for 2020 at 10 trillion won, a sharp jump from 2 trillion won last year.

                  To help achieve those ambitious goals, KAI has been successful in exporting its products such as the KT-1 basic trainer and T-50 advanced trainer. As of June 30, the company exported $2.6 billion worth of the aircrafts to five emerging countries ― Indonesia, Turkey, Peru, Iraq and the Philippines since 2001.

                  In addition, he said, "We are now in talks with the U.S., Peru and the Republic of Botswana in South Africa to sell the T-50 trainer." Peru has bought the KT-1 trainer and it is in talks to buy the T-50 trainer.

                  KAI is also making efforts to sell the Surion helicopter to countries such as Indonesia and Peru. It expects to sell 300 Surion helicopters, grabbing a 30 percent share of the global midsize-helicopter market by 2025.

                  KAI's expansion plans do not stop there. KAI aims to sell up to 1,000 light civil and light armed helicopters, including exports of 600 helicopters, after the development project is completed.

                  In the domestic market, a KAI-led consortium looks set to win an 8.5 trillion order in November to develop a fighter jet for Korea by 2025. KAI expects to jointly develop the fighter jet with Lockheed Martin and the Indonesian government.

                  "Once the production begins around 2025, the output contracts will reach 9.6 trillion won in total," KAI said.

                  KAI had an order backlog worth 11.1 trillion won at the end of last year. It targets to win orders valued at 7.7 trillion won for the year.


                  • #10

                    G1000H Now Certified for Enstrom 480B

                    Enstrom is pleased to announce that the Federal Aviation Administration has certified the Garmin G1000H all-glass, integrated flight deck for installation in its 480B helicopter model. The new configuration will be designated the 480B-G.

                    The G1000H

                    “This program is a significant milestone for Enstrom as we continue with future developments in our product line offerings” said Tracy Biegler, Enstrom president and CEO. “Every department in the company pulled together to make this happen. My congratulations to Garmin and Enstrom teams in accomplishing this huge task.”


                    • #11

                      Airbus Cuts Back on Innovations

                      Is the honeymoon over for Airbus Helicopters and big innovation? Despite the news that the company will build a successor to the X3 compound demonstrator by 2019, Guillaume Faury (who was appointed CEO 16 months ago) seems to have a more cautious approach than his predecessor, Lutz Bertling, and some signs suggest the OEM will scale-back its forays into brave new territory.

                      First, the X4, successor to the EC155/Dauphin, will be equipped with the Helionix suite rather than the radically new man-machine interface originally envisioned for it. “The X4 medium twin, to be unveiled next year at the Heli-Expo show, will share its avionics and autopilot with the EC175 and EC145T2,” Faury said in July. Bertling used to emphasize that flying the X4 would be markedly different from flying any other helicopter, with a lot more assistance for the pilot. In fact, in 2011 he said that someone sitting down in one of the front seats would miss something: the cockpit. The ergonomically innovative cockpit he envisioned, complete with touchscreens, other advanced displays and fly-by-wire controls, would have appeared in a second version of the X4.

                      The Airbus X4

                      The full extent of these plans is history now that Airbus is working on only one version of the X4 rather than the two variants that were to be made available in 2017 and 2020. The second version will simply benefit from regular avionics upgrades to its Helionix avionics suite. As for the fly-by-wire controls, a Sagem spokesman could not confirm whether his company is still developing them.

                      Faury declined to concede that the revised plans for the X4’s cockpit represent a downscaling of his company’s technology ambitions.

                      Electric Back-up Motor Shelved

                      But it has shelved another innovative project. The electric backup motor that was tested in 2011 on an AS350 Ecureuil single has not received the go-ahead for development. Faury said Airbus Helicopters has deemed the technology immature and it will not lead to a product in the short term. “We could not find the right tradeoff among weight, price and performance,” he said, primarily, AIN understands, because today’s batteries are too heavy.

                      As demonstrated three years ago, such a motor would have made autorotation a surer maneuver in the event of engine failure. The motor would not have served as a second engine, but for a few seconds after engine failure it would have maintained a constant rpm and it would have helped during the flare and touchdown. Airbus officials had indicated since 2011 that a launch of the system as a product was imminent.

                      Research and development spending increased sharply over the last five years. It reached €306 million ($416 million) last year, up from €200 million ($272 million) in 2010 but a modest expansion over 2012’s €297 million ($404 million). Faury took over from Bertling in May last year.


                      • #12

                        First 480B-G Delivered

                        Enstrom Helicopter Corp. has delivered the first model 480B-G to Rick Boswell of New Hampshire. The 480B-G is equipped with the Garmin G1000H glass cockpit.

                        “I’m a tech junkie,” says Boswell. “When I heard about the Garmin G1000H, I had to have it. Partner it with the Enstrom 480B, and it’s my perfect helicopter.”

                        Enstrom has delivered the first model 480B-G to Rick Boswell of New Hampshire​

                        Certification of the 480B-G was completed in July 2014, making the 480B-G the only helicopter in its class offering this sophisticated electronic equipment.

                        A History with Enstrom

                        “I learned to fly helicopters in an Enstrom,” said Boswell. “On my first day of training, I knew this was the right aircraft for me.” Boswell was instrumental in upgrading the avionics in his previous 480B as well.

                        Roger Sharkey of Sharkey’s Helicopters served as Boswell’s instructor. “The 480B has always been a phenomenal ship, rugged and reliable,” said Sharkey. “They have taken the unbeatable reliability of an Enstrom helicopter and paired it with the best avionics suite available today, bar none. This is the future.”

                        The entire Enstrom team welcomed Boswell and Sharkey at their manufacturing facility in Menominee, Michigan. “The fine team at Enstrom worked hard to make the 480B-G a reality, and we are excited that you are the first customer for this unparalleled aircraft,” said Tracy Biegler, Enstrom’s president and CEO.

                        Rick Meets His Ship

                        After his initial flight, Rick’s comment was, “Spectacular! There’s a lot to learn, but after some study time and a few hours flying, it’ll be second nature.” He is also thrilled with the paint scheme, which he chose to honor the Blue Angels.

                        “Rick says the Enstrom 480B is one of the best-kept secrets in the aviation world,” said Orlando Alaniz, director of sales and marketing at Enstrom. “That got my attention, and the 480B-G demonstrates we are working to change that.”

                        Garmin G1000H panel on the Enstrom 480B-G delivered to Rick Boswell​

                        Garmin Equipped

                        “We are thrilled to be a part of the 480B-G program and proud of our strong partnership with Enstrom,” said Chris Bauer, aviation OEM sales manager at Garmin. “Both of our products are known for safety and reliability, making the G1000H a great fit for the 480B-G. The industry-leading situational awareness features of the G1000H provide Enstrom 480B-G customers great value.”

                        The 480B-G is the third helicopter model certified for the G1000H and has a stacked configuration. “This configuration just made sense in our aircraft” said Eric Gjesdahl, an avionics design engineer at Enstrom. “It mimics the current 480B configuration, allowing seamless transitions. It also makes the screens equally accessible from both seats, which is important in training.”


                        • #13

                          Turbomeca Advances

                          Turbomeca continues to make progress with a number of its current helicopter engine developments while also working towards the launch of a family of next-generation rotorcraft powerplants.

                          The top priority for the Bordes, southwest France-based manufacturer, however, is work on the Arrius 2R turboshaft that will power Bell Helicopter’s 505 Jet Ranger X.

                          Cyril Poetsch, vice-president programmes at Turbomeca, says the new 504shp (376kW) engine is “really in the spotlight” for the company because it is the first time it has worked together with the US airframer on a programme.

                          The engine is “perfectly on track”, he says, with the first flight-test unit delivered to Bell’s Mirabel, Canada facility in late August.

                          “The next step for us is the ramp-up,” says Poetsch. “We are preparing for production and most of all we are focusing on reliability at entry into service of this new engine. We want a perfectly smooth and flawless engine.”

                          Changes over earlier Arrius powerplants include a new gearbox and the addition of the control system from the more powerful Arriel 2D/E models.

                          Development of the 2R has been particularly rapid, he adds. The first test engine was handed over just 18 months after the signature of the contract between the partners.

                          Although several iterative developments of existing engines are also in the pipeline – notably the Ardiden 3C for the Avicopter AC352 and 3G model for the Kamov Ka-62, as well as the Arrius 2B2+, which powers the Airbus Helicopters EC135 T3 – the next big step is the 1,100shp Arrano 1A, which will be the second engine on the latter airframer’s X4 – a medium-class helicopter to replace the venerable Dauphin family.

                          Three engines are currently in the ground-test phase, says Poetsch, allowing Turbomeca to “demonstrate the performance of this engine”.

                          On the Arrano 1A, he says: “We are confident that we can reach what we have announced, especially on the fuel consumption. We have demonstrated a 10-15% increase in performance on specific fuel consumption compared with the competitor in this range.”

                          That competitor is the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210, which is the lead engine on the X4.

                          Technologies for the Arrano have been drawn from Turbomeca’s Tech 800 demonstrator programme. Key improvements include a new compressor, enhanced combustion chamber and a single-stage hot section turbine.

                          “Really, we have increased by a step the performance, the fuel consumption and the power-to-weight ratio,” says Poetsch.

                          Turbomeca hopes to ship the first flight-test engines by the of 2015 or early 2016. Although it the Arrano will enter service later than the PW210-equipped X4, Poetsch feels the fuel-burn advantage will give it an edge. “It is better to come to the market at the proper time with the best engine than to do so [without] the best engine.”

                          In parallel with the short-term activity, however, Turbomeca is planning to launch later this decade a new family of turboshafts in the 2,000-3,000shp range. These could be ready to enter the development phase in around two to three years, says Poetsch, depending on market requirements.

                          The new engines would be suited to both super-medium and heavy types, says Poetsch. Speculation has already centred on Airbus Helicopters’ plans to replace its Super Puma family, with work believed to have commenced on a programme known as the X6, an 11t rotorcraft to debut in around 2017.

                          In the interim, however, the Marignane-based manufacturer will introduce an extended-range variant of the type called the EC225e.

                          This features the Makila 2B powerplant, the latest iteration of Turbomeca’s 2,000shp-plus engine. Power has been increased by around 7% over the previous A2A model, thanks to changes to the combustion chamber and materials used in the hot section.

                          The first flight-test engine was delivered to Airbus Helicopters in July, says Poetsch.


                          • #14

                            AW Awarded €400m Contract with BAIC of China

                            AgustaWestland is pleased to announce that Beijing Automotive Industrial Corporation (BAIC) of China has signed a multi-year contract for the purchase of 50 AgustaWestland helicopters of various models, including AW139, AW169 and AW189. Deliveries are scheduled to start in mid-2015 and continue through to 2019. The contract, that includes training, spare parts and technical support is valued around €400 million, excluding customer selected options and mission equipment. The contract was signed today in Rome by BGAC Chairman Xu Heyi and Finmeccanica CEO and MD Mauro Moretti in the presence of China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

                            Finmeccanica's headquarters in Rome

                            The contract follows the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the companies in June this year and lays the foundation of a strategic partnership to serve the development of the growing Chinese para-public helicopter market. This will include a range of applications such as law enforcement, rescue, emergency medical service, firefighting and disaster relief. The partnership will evolve further with plans to provide local support, training and aircraft customization services.

                            More than 60 AgustaWestland helicopters had been sold to Chinese customers prior to this latest contract to satisfy a range of mission requirements, including law enforcement, rescue, disaster relief, firefighting, public utility, patrol, environmental monitoring, harbour pilot shuttle, VIP and passenger transport duties. With this contract, in the last 12 months AgustaWestland has signed orders in the Country for over 70 helicopters of various types, confirming its successful position in this important growth market.

                            The contract includes various types of helicopters, ranging from the single engine AW119Kx to the AW189 super medium helicopter. All products share the same commitment to quality, innovation and effectiveness. The order is also another endorsement of AgustaWestland Family of new generation helicopters. The AW139, AW169 and AW189 possess the same high performance flight characteristics and safety features as well as sharing a common cockpit layout, design philosophy and maintenance concept.

                            BAIC is a the fourth largest state owned automotive company in China., and is entering the aviation business through its subsidiary Beijing General Aviation Co. Ltd. (BGAC). BAIC has achieved revenues of US$43.3 billion last year and was ranked 248 in the latest list of Fortune 500 companies.


                            • #15

                              Russian Helicopters Snubs Motor Sich

                              In a further snub by Russia towards the Ukraine, Russian Helicopters has communicated that they shall no longer purchase Ukranian-built APU's for use in the Mi-8 series helicopters. It is thought that this policy will be extended to all of Russian Helicopters' products.

                              Ukraine's Motor Sich has for many years supplied Russia with their AI-9V auxiliary power units which were installed in both the Mi-8 and Mi-17 series helicopters as well as additional Russian types.

                              The Ukrainian-built Motor Sich AI-9V auxiliary power unit will no longer be used by Russian Helicopters

                              In an announcement which made reference to foreign component suppliers, Russian Helicopters CEO Alexander Mikheev said: "We understand the importance of being as independent as possible from foreign-made components in the machines we deliver under the State Defence Order, and are focusing on this area of activity." It is believed however that Russian Helicopters will apply what is effectively a ban on Ukranian-made components, to other product lines also.

                              In addition to highlighting a 'need' to cut out foreign suppliers, Russian Helicopters referred to the ditching of Motor Sich's units as part of an 'upgrade' for the Mi-8AMTSh-V citing the Russian-built TA-14 APU, built by Aerosila, as possessing better performance than the Motor Sich APU.


                              • #16

                                Turbomeca to Close North Carolina Plant

                                French helicopter-engine maker Turbomeca announced Wednesday it is closing its plant in Monroe, cutting 112 jobs in a year-long phase out.

                                Turbomeca opened in Union County in 2008, establishing its first US manufacturing plant. City and county incentives totaling about $2 million helped persuade the company to move to Monroe at a time when local and state officials were trying to encourage aeronautics businesses to come to North Carolina. It was announced then that North Carolina would also contribute $3 million in grants, and offer the opportunity for an additional $1.7 million in training and tax credits.

                                The company said in a statement that while the plant helped increase its worldwide parts production capacity, demand for the parts has since tapered.

                                “At the time the market forecast for new engine production was significantly higher than it is today,” the company said.

                                “As a result, Turbomeca has been forced to reevaluate the company's industrial footprint...”

                                The company still has a US facility in Dallas/Fort Worth.

                                Editorial Comment:
                                Mixed signals! On the one hand Airbus' media department are telling us about their growing slice of the North American market sustained by the unwaning popularity of the AStar series and boosted by growing affection for the EC135 and other Airbus twins such as the EC145 and Lakota. Then here we are being told that their parts demand is 'tapering'. Which is it?


                                • #17

                                  HAL Flies Third LCH Prototype

                                  Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has conducted the maiden flight of the third test aircraft in the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) programme, with the company confident of attaining initial operational capability by September 2015.

                                  The aircraft, designated TD-3, flew a 20 minute flight on 12 November from the airfield adjacent to HAL’s Bengluru factory, says the manufacturer in a statement.

                                  HAL has flown its third LCH prototype designated as TD-3

                                  TD-3 joins TD-1 and TD-2 in the test programme for the new helicopter. The previous two examples have accumulated 285 flying hours in 388 flights since the maiden flight of TD-1 in March 2010.

                                  “Escorted by a Dhruv helicopter, the entire flight was flawless,” says HAL chairman RK Tyagi.

                                  HAL's third LCH prototype will test the type's weapons systems

                                  “It will be an effective weapon platform to deliver precision strikes at high altitude and we are confident it will meet the requirements of the IAF. We are making all efforts to achieve IOC by September next year.”

                                  Test aircraft TD-3 and TD-4 will help accelerate the test programme for the type. The two types will be especially active in cold and hot weather trials, and will also be used to test weapons employment.

                                  HAL expects to produce 179 examples for the Indian military.

                                  HAL prototypes TD-1 and TD-2

                                  In 2011, HAL said that deliveries of the LCH would commence in 2013-2014, but it gives no reasons for the apparent delay in the programme.

                                  With a maximum take-off weight of 5.8t, the LCH is a development of HAL's Dhruv advanced light helicopter. France's Turbomeca helped develop the helicopter's twin Shakti engines.

                                  Key features include low observable characteristics, a glass cockpit, armour protection, crashworthiness and the ability to operate at night. Mission systems include a helmet-mounted sight, electronic warfare system, directional infrared countermeasure/laser transmitter, a datalink and an infrared suppressor.

                                  The helicopter's armament includes a 20mm cannon in a chin turret, as well as rockets and missiles. According to HAL, the helicopter will be able to carry missiles for a variety of missions, including air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-radiation.



                                  • #18

                                    Pratt & Whitney Seek Government Approval for Further Trade with China

                                    Pratt and Whitney Aero Engines is asking the Conservative government to approve the sale of helicopter engines to China, just two years after it was accused of illegally supplying technology that allowed the Chinese military to develop its first attack helicopter.

                                    International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Foreign Affair Minister John Baird are to decide whether to give the okay to Pratt and Whitney Canada to sell the engines. The company wants approval for the export of the equipment as quickly as possible.

                                    Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Caitlin Workman said in an email that the department could not comment on the engine export issue “for reasons of commercial confidentiality.” Officials with Pratt and Whitney Canada could not provide comment either.

                                    But Industry Minister James Moore told aerospace company representatives on Wednesday that China is a key market for Canadian exports of aerospace products. He noted the recently announced deal, worth more than $1 billion, involving a Chinese airline’s purchase of regional jets from Bombardier of Montreal.

                                    In the Pratt and Whitney case, it is unclear which firm in China would be purchasing the engines.

                                    Pratt and Whitney Canada pleaded guilty in 2012 to two counts of violating U.S. export laws after providing U.S. technology that allowed China to develop its first attack helicopter. Its parent firm, the U.S.-based United Technologies Corporation, was required to pay $75 million in penalties for that and for other export violations in which it was involved.

                                    The U.S. also imposed a partial freeze on export licences for Pratt and Whitney, an aircraft engine manufacturer based in Longueuil, Que.

                                    But as senior U.S. politicians were calling for tougher sanctions against the firm, Canadian officials concluded the company would emerge unscathed from the scandal, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

                                    Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, and ranking Republican member John McCain demanded more be done, with the Pentagon looking at preventing the company from bidding on future U.S. military contracts.

                                    No individual managers or employees of the Canadian firm, the senators noted, were held accountable for what they termed “criminal misconduct” that might have caused significant harm to America’s security.

                                    But the U.S. government did not invoke further sanctions on the firm.

                                    Documents obtained by the Citizen showed that officials at Public Works and the Department of National Defence concluded that even the original sanctions taken by the U.S. against Pratt and Whitney Canada would have little effect on the company’s business.

                                    Public Works official Pascal Girard noted in September 2012 that the Pratt and Whitney conviction would not affect the company’s ability to bid on Canadian government contracts.

                                    In addition, the sanctions did “not affect current or future U.S. military, NATO, and other major non-NATO contracts, coalition efforts, or the commercial activities of Pratt and Whitney.”

                                    Security analysts revealed in 2007 that China’s Z-10 Zhisheng attack helicopter was being powered by Pratt and Whitney engines. In response, the firm said it had done nothing wrong and the sale had been approved by the Canadian government.

                                    Company spokesman Jean-Daniel Hamelin said at the time that the firm was a supplier for a Chinese helicopter that was supposed to have both civilian and military variants.

                                    But five years later, the company admitted it broke U.S. law. According to court documents, Pratt and Whitney Canada knew from the start of the Z-10 project in 2000 that the Chinese were developing an attack helicopter and that supplying it with U.S.-origin components would be illegal.


                                    • #19

                                      Kaman Awarded Contract Extension with Bell

                                      Kaman Aerosystems (Kaman), a division of Kaman Aerospace Group, announced today that it has been awarded an extension to its current contract with Bell Helicopter to manufacture skin and skin to core components for several of Bell’s commercial helicopter models. This three-year follow on contract has an expected value in excess of $24 million. The components will continue to be manufactured at Kaman’s facility in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

                                      “This program, which began in 2010, has evolved as the scope has grown and we are delighted to continue our relationship with Bell Helicopter,” stated Tim Bates, General Manager, Kaman Composite Structures - Connecticut Division.

                                      Kaman is a leading supplier of integrated aerostructures, including metallic and composite structural assemblies and metallic parts for OEM and Tier I aerospace companies engaged in commercial and military aircraft and aeroengine programs. The Company provides complete aerostructure solutions including design, tooling, manufacturing, testing, and support.


                                      • #20

                                        Mi-171A2 First Flight

                                        Russian Helicopters (part of State Corporation Rostec) has launched flight tests on the first prototype of the multirole Mi-171A2 helicopter. During its first flight its main systems were tested and found to be in excellent working order, according to commander and test pilot 1st class Salavat Sadriev.

                                        The first prototype of the Mi-171A2 was designed for tests on its in-flight operability and safety when using the KBO-17 avionics suite, including its interoperability with the new VK-2500PS-03 engines, and to test the new powerplant. The first Mi-171A2 prototype has been subjected to ground runs, which passed off smoothly and led to the first successful tests in hover mode in October 2014. The new helicopter's rotor system and engine were tested by the special 'flying laboratory' - Mi-171LL.

                                        The Mi-171A2 has completed it s first test flight

                                        The KBO-17 avionics suite is built by Radioelectronic Technologies to a 'glass cockpit' design, and includes all-weather digital TV and thermal imaging cameras, delivering external visibility day or night, with the video output given on a high-resolution multifunction display. The high degree of automation has made it possible to cut crew numbers from three to two people. The on-board maintenance systems built in to the KBO-17 make it possible to monitor the condition of the helicopter's main systems and components, storing this data in its memory.

                                        The first round of tests on the 'flying laboratory' delivered a 20% increase in cruising and maximum speeds, increased main rotor thrust (by more than 800 kilograms), reduced vibration from the standard vibration dampener. The maximum speed was confirmed as being 280 km/hour.

                                        Improved performance is a feature of the new model

                                        A range of alterations in construction, including new main and tail rotors, smoother vertical and horizontal fins, will be incorporated into the second prototype of the Mi-171A2. The second test prototype will be equipped with an additional range of equipment options: an external sling for up to 5 tonnes and weight measurement system; air-conditioning system, energy absorbing passenger seats for 24 people, and anti-dust equipment that cleans air to 97%. This model is currently being assembled and equipped at the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant.

                                        The Mi-171A2 was developed by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, part of Russian Helicopters. Many of the solutions developed during design work on the Mi-171A2 have been incorporated into other helicopters in the Mi-8/17 family, which has long helped ensure they meet the latest international standards.

                                        The 171A2 uses composite blades

                                        The Mi-171A2 is one of the most eagerly awaited developments in Russian helicopter building. The helicopter represents the future of the world-famous Mi-8/17 helicopter, with significant changes to its design and on-board equipment that improve its flight capabilities and reduce operational costs. The main differences between the Mi-171A2 and previous models are:

                                        - New, more powerful and more economic Klimov VK-2500PS-03 engines, boasting BARK-6V-7C digital regulation and control systems;

                                        - New main rotor boasting composite blades, improved aerodynamics and X-type antitorque;

                                        - Fundamentally new radio-electronic systems integrating pilot and navigation suite with open-architecture KBO-17, developed at the Ulyanovsk Instrument Design Bureau, part of Radioelectronic Technologies.

                                        The Mi-171A2 can be operated at any time of day or night, including in difficult weather conditions, can work in hover mode and with automatic stabilisation, and can also fly on special trajectories.



                                        • #21

                                          EC645 First Flight

                                          In June of 2013, the German Army ordered from Airbus Helicopters 15 new multirole helicopters for its KSK Special Forces Command. Last week, representatives from the German military watched as the EC645 T2 successfully completed its first flight at the company’s facility in Donauwörth, Bavaria.

                                          “This first flight is a milestone in the EC645 T2 program and we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate this event with our customer,” said Ralf Barnscheidt, head of the company’s German Military Support Center.

                                          Airbus Helicopters' EC645 T2 has completed its first flight

                                          The lightweight helicopter is the military version of the civil EC145 T2 that went into service in July of this year. It features a Helionix digital avionics suite with full night vision and a four-axis autopilot.

                                          The helicopter, which can be strategically airlifted in an Airbus A400M and quickly prepared for missions upon arrival in theater, closes a gap for German Special Forces Command because of its multirole capability. It can be used for a range of military operations including transportation, reconnaissance, search and rescue, fire support, and evacuation of wounded soldiers.

                                          Delivery is slated to start at the end of 2015, said Airbus Helicopters spokesman Claas Belling.

                                          “We are waiting for certification and military testing so there are still a number of question marks behind everything, and it doesn’t just depend on us, but it will happen at the end of 2015, that’s for sure,” he said.

                                          Thailand is the second country to commit to the EC645 T2, having signed a deal for five aircraft to be operated by the Royal Thai Navy. But Belling said that Airbus is in talks about export activities with several other countries.

                                          “Many of them are waiting for the first flights to see how it performs with the German Special Forces, and we have every reason to hope that it will be a success,” he said.


                                          • #22

                                            Westland Name to be Consigned to Scrap Heap

                                            A sad way to start 2016.

                                            The name of Yeovil's famous helicopter manufacturer has been synonymous with the town for more than 100 years. After celebrating the manufacturer's centenary celebrations it has now been revealed that the famous Westland name will be dropped forever. In a statement released today, AgustaWestland's parent company Finmeccanica announced it was moving towards a 'one company' operation and would consolidate all its subsidiaries beneath one united name.

                                            The changes, which will take effect from January 1 2016, will see Finmeccanica operate as a single company operating in aerospace, defence and security, organised into four sectors and seven divisions.

                                            The changes, which will take effect from January 1 2016, will see Finmeccanica operate as a single company operating in aerospace, defence and security, organised into four sectors and seven divisions.

                                            The move is the result of a divisionalisation process, launched by CEO and general manager Mauro Moretti in June 2014.

                                            Finmeccanica will have a new governance and operating model replacing the previous model of a holding company of separately controlled businesses.

                                            Mr Moretti said: "We are extremely proud of the work we have done, which has allowed us to introduce the new organisational and operational model of the group within the established timeframe.

                                            "The divisionalisation will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Finmeccanica's activities, reducing management costs by maximising economies of scale and synergies. As a unified entity, Finmeccanica consolidates its competitive position in the increasingly complex global aerospace, defence and security market, bringing to bear leadership in technology and products, leadership that is strengthened by being part of a single large international industrial group."

                                            As the historic name is lost, local figures have accepted the news with sadness.

                                            AgustaWestland's archivist David Gibbings, who received an MBE in 2013 for his work in preserving aviation heritage, said many would be sad to see the name go.

                                            He said: "It's called progress I suppose. There's not much more to say than that. We can easily get very upset at the loss of a historic name. There aren't many companies which have lasted so long with the same name but it's their company and their entitled to do as they want.

                                            "It's sad to see it go but all these companies are moving about and changing. It's just globalisation. I hope they'll find some way of preserving it in the postal address of the premises. I think everyone is very sad about the loss of the name of Westland."

                                            Local historian Jack Sweet said he thought the loss of the name was a "great shame".

                                            He said: "That name has been with us for 100 years. It will seem such a great shame to lose it. I think it might be right to say that it's the only aerospace company still using the same name 100 years on but then again these things happen. It means a lot to a lot of people and has been very important in marking the company out as a leading manufacturer in the industry."

                                            Finmeccanica confirmed the name would be dropped from the company but said the AgustaWestland brand will continue to be used on Finmeccanica helicopters.


                                            • Savoia
                                              Savoia commented
                                              Editing a comment
                                              I'm sure the British government put up a formidable fight in an effort to have the name retained .. NOT !!