Paramount Group is restarting production of composite main and tail rotor blades for Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters at its Midrand facility, the company has announced, and intends to produce composite blades for other helicopters in the near future.
Paramount acquired the capability from Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE), now Paramount Advanced Technologies, which opened its composite rotor blade facility in Midrand in October 2006. Paramount acquired ATE last year after it went through business rescue proceedings.
Paramount, in announcing the move to restart production on 4 September, noted that the design of helicopter rotor blades is an essential element in helicopter manufacturing to ensure reliability and long service life. Composite rotor blades outlast the life of the helicopter, whereas metal blades have to be replaced several times during the helicopter’s life span. Compared with metal blades which have to be replaced set-by-set, composite rotor blades can be replaced blade-by-blade and are more damage tolerant in operation. The blades can also be introduced without changing the helicopter’s rotor head – a world first, according to Paramount.
Ivor Ichikowitz, Executive Chairman of Paramount Group, said the restarting of blade production was “huge” for the South African industry as the Mi-17 and Mi-24 series of helicopters are very prolific, with some 3 000 flying, each with five main rotor blades. In the past Russian Helicopters has controlled the supply of rotor blades.