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HAI Heli-Expo news roundup

An AW139 helicopter.Helicopter Association International (HAI) held its expo between February 29 and March 3 in Louisville, Kentucky. Here is a roundup of Heli-Expo news.

Finmeccanica announced during new contracts for 26 helicopters (€80 mn) with customers in China and Japan. These contracts will strength the presence of the company in the Asian Emergency Medical Service (EMS) market.

Finmeccanica Helicopter’s AW109 TREKKER made its first flight on March 2nd in Cascisna Costa, Italy. Trekker is a skid version of the AW109S Grand which also integrates advanced single pilot Genesys avionics. Certification is expected by the end of the year. Trekker will be assembled in Philadelphia.

Finmeccanica and Era Group signed an MOU to develop an EMS version of the AW609.

Finmeccanica revealed its new 009 helicopter, an upgraded SW-4. With a new engine, a new avionic suite, along with a new hydraulic system and reduced vibration levels, the 009 is planned to be certified to FAA standards mid-2016 and sell for around $1.2 to $1.5mn.

Finmeccanica’s AW169 is expected to received FAA certification in mid-2016 and the company has already received 150 orders, framework agreements and options for this aircraft according to Stefano Bortoli, senior VP sales and strategic sourcing. EMS operators make up the main body of the current orders followed by VIP operators.

Mitch Snyder, Bell Helicopter CEO, said during the company’s press conference that he plans to maintain high R&D spending and revamp advanced innovation through the company’s XworX structure. Moreover he said his company is looking to modernize its portfolio studying both clean sheet designs and product upgrades.

In addition to its 80+ letters of intent which Bell has already started to convert into firm orders, the Bell 525 flight test and certification process is still on track to achieve the FAA certification in 2017. The current two prototypes will be joined by three more aircraft to perform flight test by the end of the year. Aircraft three is to join as soon as before the end of March.

Still performing flight testing to achieve certification during the 1st half 2016 (485 flight hours in Feb.), David Smith, Bell 505 Program Manager, plans a high production ramp up to satisfy the 345 LOI already received by the company.

Bell Helicopter signed a letter of intent for ten 525 Relentless super-medium helicopters with Chinese firm Guangxi Diwang Group on March 1. The Guangxi Diwang Group is a commercial development and real estate investor and will utilize the Bell 525s for search and rescue missions, and also for tourism.

According to Glenn Isbell, executive VP of Bell Customer Support and Services, Bell’s new Customer Advantage Plans differ from other service plans in their comprehensiveness. Developed to help customers predict and stabilize maintenance costs, the plans provide complete DMC protection for a fixed cost per flight hour. They also come with preferred rates (around 10% discount) at the more than 100 Bell Helicopter Customer Service Facilities worldwide.

Sikorsky, willing to show its capabilities to retrofit old helicopters as optionally piloted helicopters, has integrated a full authority control kit in a 1979 UH-1A and preformed an unmanned flight with it.

During the show Lockheed Martin strongly confirmed its commitment to keep and invest on the civil market despite deliveries down more than 50% in 2015. “We are 100% committed to the commercial helicopter market” said Dan Schultz, Sikorsky Aircraft president.

Sikorsky will answer the US Army’s call for information on potential light armed reconnaissance and attack aircraft with a proposal derived from the S-97 Raider. The 5,000kg (11,000lb) compound assault platform would be Lockheed’s go-to offer if the army were to launch an Armed Aerial Scout follow-on through its next-generation first future vertical lift (FVL) rotorcraft acquisition plan. Joe Triompo, VP Sikorsky Customer Support said that "Sikorsky is focused on enhancing customer support and achieving excellence in customer satisfaction". The initiatives include the opening of a new Customer Care Center based in Trumbull, Conn., and manned 24-hours-a-day by a focused, interdisciplinary team of experts working on urgent customer needs as well as longer term availability and reliability improvements. Furthermore the company now has over 20 Customer Support Centers worldwide and is continuing to expand its service capabilities.

Airbus Helicopters will begin an extensive marketing campaign this year centered on its 9t H215 helicopter, with the platform touring both North and South America in search of prospective civil and military customers. The company is targetingthe UN market and the Mi-17/Mi-8 replacement market.

Airbus officials have confirmed that the H175 VIP variant is expected to be certified and delivered this year while the public service configuration (EMS, law enforcement and SAR) is planned to enter service next year with Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service (GFS).

In 2015 Airbus Helicopters delivered 395 aircraft (compared to 471 in 2014) and has received 383 orders (compared to 402 in 2014). In the meantime, company revenue is up from €6.5bn to €6.8bn.

MD Helicopters announced the successful first flight of the MD 902 Explorer equipped with Universal Avionics InSight Integrated Flight Deck.

Lynn Tilton, MDHI’s CEO said she plans to have a new attack helicopter, the 6XX ready by the end of 2018. 6XX will be a single engine aircraft with new avionics, more volume and at least 400nm of range. The engine of the new aircraft has already been selected and it will be a Rolls Royce M250-C47E/3.

Eagle Copter is set to deliver its first production Eagle 407HP to the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The helicopter is a re engined Bell 407 with HTS-900-2-1D.

Robinson Helicopter began taking orders for its new two seat R-44 Cadet before Heli Expo. According to Kurt Robinson, Robinson CEO, the cadet would be appreciated by the pilot who wants to perform IFR training at a lower cost than a R44 as the price will be lower than R44 Raven I.

Robinson R66 deliveries reached 117 in 2015 compared to 101 in 2014. Other model deliveries are breakdown as follows: 152 R44 Raven II, 44 Raven I and 34 R22.

Guimbal Helicopters delivered 44 Cabri helicopters in 2015 and plans to reach 56 helicopters this year. In addition the company is developing a low cost air conditioning option for its 2 seat aircraft.

The Swiss helicopter company Marenco has announced it will have received 84 letters of intent for its Skye SH09. The PT2 of the HTS900 Single engine made its first flight on February 26. EASA certification is expected in 2017, followed by FAA certification in 2018.

Innova Helicopters has signed an agreement with Rolls Royce for a technical development program to certify the Rolls-Royce RR300 turbo-shaft engine for the New Zealand Helicopter C630 helicopter. The company, which has recently acquired the intellectual property rights of the C630, expects the first flight by the end of 2016 and production of the helicopter to commence in 24 to 36 months from now, said Greg Fedele, executive VP at Innova Aerospace.

Enstrom and Rolls Royce have signed an agreement covering provision of the RR M250 engine for the five seat 480B helicopter. Enstrom has already delivered 220 480Bs worldwide.

To push down operating cost, P&WC announced during HAI it is increasing PW210 TBO from 3,500 to 4,000 hours. PW210s are installed on S-76D and AW169 helicopters.

Turbomeca will be rebranded in the next few months as SAFRAN helicopter engines, according to French local newspaper La République des Pyrenées.

Turbomeca is feeling the effects of the helicopter industry’s downturn and delivered 15% less engines in 2015 (718 compare to 850 in2014). However, Turbomeca is still investing in both the Tech3000 as the next generation 3000 shp engine for the heavy helicopter market and also in hybrid architecture.

Turbomeca has announced the entry into service of BOOST, its new online engine maintenance management service. BOOST (Bank Of Online Services & Technologies) is a highly secured, webbased application developed in association with IBM. With it, operators will access real-time, personalized engine data to enrich their own fleet maintenance management, with the direct support of Turbomeca teams, 24/7.

During his press conference at Heli-Expo, Turbomeca CEO, Bruno Even said that the H175 is a “natural target” for the 1,700-2,000shp Ardiden 3. He added that “When we decided to launch Ardiden 3 our clear ambition was to be able to select by all helicopter programs in the range of 6-7t.” However other platforms have been identified by Bruno Even and the AW139 could be another possibility.

The Honeywell HTS900 has been selected by several OEMs. Honeywell is now planning to integrate its HTS900 on the EC145, arguing that it would offer a 7% fuel burn improvement over the EC145's Turbomeca Arriel 1E2. Tom Hart, vice-president of defence aftermarket Americas, added "It would be an excellent drop-in replacement for that capability". The H145 would also be the first twin-engine application for the 1,100shp (820kW)-class HTS900.

AHS has issued its civil and military helicopter forecast for 2015 to 2020 and Russian Helicopters is predicted to have 17.92% of the market share followed by Sikorsky with 15.83% and then Airbus, Bell, and Finmeccanica. Mike Hirschberg, Executive Director of AHS int., said Russian helicopters continue to do well because the aircraft are simpler, cheaper and less sophisticated aircraft.

Honeywell forecast a soft helicopter market in the next four years and estimates between 4,300 to 4,800 helicopter deliveries for 2016-2020 compared to 4,300 during 2011-2015. This volume is expected to be as follows: 45% for single light helicopters, 26% for light twins, 28% intermediate/Medium Twin Engines and 1 to 2% for Heavy multi engines.

According to Asian Sky Group, the Asia Pacific civil helicopter market grew by 4.5% in 2015. China grew the most at +20%, with 118 more helicopters.

Even if Bristow has reported an Oil&Gas revenue of decline 21.2% to $81.2mn, the company remains optimistic in the long term. In addition to cost cutting, Bristow is looking closely at UAV technology and announced a $4.2mn investment in Sky-Futures, a provider of drone inspection data services for the O&G industry.

The US Army is currently training its first class of primary helicopter pilots on the UH-72A. This year 25% of the students will train in the Lakota and this number will increase by 25% every year.

Despite the challenges that faced the energy industry last year, Ed Washecka, CEO of Waypoint Leasing remains positive about the company’s future agreements: “While we expect further headwinds through 2016, we are optimistic that as operators make capital allocation decisions, they will increasingly rely on leasing solutions, which enhance operational and financial flexibility.” Waypoint is anticipating further growth over the next five years with the delivery of over 125 helicopters worth more than $1.7bn.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.

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