Fama Helicopters Africa has debuted the Kiss 209 twin-seat turbine helicopter in South Africa, with three more examples on their way from Italy.
The aircraft received an enthusiastic response when it was unveiled at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in Pretoria last month.
The 320 kg K209 helicopter is manufactured by Fama Helicopters in Italy and is made largely of composite materials, with the cabin, body panels, tail boom and main and tail rotor blades made of carbon fibre. Because the composite rotor blades have an unlimited lifespan, they don’t have to be replaced, while conventional metal rotor blades on an aircraft like a Robinson R22 have to be replaced after several thousand flight hours.
Although the K209 makes heavy use of carbon fibre, it has a metal tubular frame that is filled with nitrogen: sensors automatically check for leaks and notify the pilot, making inspections an easier process. Thanks to oil reservoirs in the airframe, it is possible for the pilot to change the aircraft’s centre of gravity in flight.
Powering the K209 is a 162 hp Solar T62 gas turbine, which usually used as an auxiliary power unit (APU) on large helicopters and other aircraft. The engine can operate on Jet-A1, paraffin or diesel although diesel results in slightly reduced power (10%) and smoke when starting up. The T62 gives a cruise speed of 90 knots for the fixed gear version while the retractable version can cruise at 100 knots.
The K209 seats two pilots in a glass cockpit with an Electronic Flight Instrument System. With its large cockpit Fama says the K209 is ideal for training, especially as it allows pilots to receive a turbine rating at piston-engined helicopter prices – the K209 is roughly on a par with the R22 to operate.
Helicopter pilot training, sales and charters company Powered Flight, located at Wonderboom Airport, is using the first K209 for pilot training for these reasons. The first aircraft arrived in South Africa in April while another three are on their way to Fama Helicopters Africa, which is the local agent for the aircraft and also located at Wonderboom. The company said its K209 on display at AAD had generated a significant amount of interest, with people keen to test fly or order the aircraft.
Helicopter maintenance company Zulu Aviation Africa has been accredited to maintain the K209 in South Africa but Fama is working with it on establishing an assembly facility at its premises at Wonderboom.