Large aerospace events such as the Farnborough Air Show are often dominated by fixed-wing news. But, at this year’s event, helicopter stories were as numerous as umbrellas as we journalists worked under the rainwashed Farnborough skies. By Ian Parker
Most evident in the flying display was the Bell-Boeing V22 Osprey, which took to the air daily, its unusual noise drawing the attention of the crowds. It’s not entirely helicopter- or fixed-wing-like. The aircraft made its air show debut at Dubai and the UAE is expected to be its first international customer, followed by Israel and Canada. The V-22 has had a troubled development with several crashes and struggles with a high, $67 million price tag, but what revolutionary aircraft escapes these things? The aircraft has performed well in Afghanistan and the recovery of a downed F-15 crew has drawn much positive attention.
Equipment manufacturers for the Bell 525
Bell also showed a mock-up of its 525 Relentless, which is aimed at the VVIP market among others. It’s a BIG and beautiful helicopter, with much attention paid to aesthetics as well as engineering. Chief engineer David King gave HME a tour of the aircraft pointing out its novel door and seating arrangements, which will make the aircraft popular with pilots and passengers alike. On the eve of the show, Bell announced suppliers for the type, which include GKN Aerospace and the Triumph Group (composite and machined structures), Goodrich (ice protection), Israel Aircraft Industries (passenger seats), Macaer Engineering Group (wheeled landing gear), Kuka (major structural tooling), and Pacifica Engineering (rotor and drive tooling). General Electric is supplying the digitally-controlled CT7-2F1 engines, Garmin the G500H integrated flightdeck and BAE Systems the fly-by-wire control system. Scheduled to fly in 2015, the Relentless is also aimed at the offshore, police, SAR and air ambulance markets.
Eurocopter progresses Puma Mk2
The UK Ministry of Defence’s Puma upgrade has taken a major step forward with Eurocopter completing its first internal qualification. The Puma Mk2 will have enhanced performance, mission capability and safety and the first modified aircraft will be at QinetiQ’s Boscombe Down facility in a few weeks to begin test and evaluation. The Puma Mk2 is a key element in the UK’s medium battlefield support helicopter capability and will be deployed for tactical troop and load movement, day and night. The upgrade will significantly extend the life and increase the capabilities of the RAF’s 24 Pumas.
Ruag on Pumas
Swiss company Ruag exhibited the first example of its 15 Eurocopter AS332 Super Pumas, which it is refurbishing for the Swiss Air Force. The 20-year-old aircraft has just been re-delivered and the final one will be handed over in 2014. The redesign on the cockpit includes Rockwell Collins avionics and an Elbit helmet-mounted display.
Agusta Westland in force
At Farnborough, AgustaWestland announced orders for 38 helicopters worth euro 300 million. CHC has ordered 10 AW139s and ERA has ordered five AW189s. A further 12 169s and 11 139s have been ordered by undisclosed government and commercial customers. On Wednesday of the show, the company held an official handover of the first AW159 Lynx Wildcat to the UK MOD. AgustaWestland’s CEO Bruno Spagnolini hosted the event, handing over the first aircraft to the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, UK secretary of state for defence. However, five aircraft have already been delivered. AgustaWestland will open a support and training facility at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (Subang) Airport near Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2013. It will have hangar and warehouse space as well as the company’s training academy and corporate office. AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters also announced a new light helicopter to be developed jointly. It will be a 2.5 tonne, single-engine aircraft, fitting below the AW119, the smallest in AW’s range today. It will be built in Russia, probably at the HeliVert facility in Tomilino, Moscow which was opened by the two companies in June 2011 to assemble 139s for the Russian market.
S-92 cleared for sea state 6
Sikorsky announced that the S-92A has received FAA approval for operations in sea state 6 conditions. This completes the planned envelope expansion of the emergency flotation system. Certification has also been obtained from EASA. Similar clearance is expected from Transport Canada soon. Sikorsky has also won a five-year contract to supply 653 Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopters to the US Army, Navy and foreign customers. Deliveries should be completed by December 2017. Some 106 aircraft will be foreign military sales.
R-R on Kiowa Warrior
Rolls Royce announced a $183 million contract to service the M250 engines which power the US Army’s fleet of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters. Some 500 engines on more than 300 aircraft will be supported for a year and the Army has an option to extend the contract for an additional four years.
The EC175 in demonstration during flight
Also flying daily presentations was Eurocopter’s EC175 which is set for European certification at the end of this year. This 7-tonne helicopter is also aimed at the oil and gas, SAR, VIP and corporate sectors and carries around 16 passengers up to 135nm offshore. Eurocopter president and CEO Lutz Bertling says ‘With its enhanced performance, state-of-the-art technology and high safety standards, the EC175 represents the best in Eurocopter’s application of innovation as we expand our helicopter product line.’