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Bigger and Better Than Ever

It was a star-studded gathering, with all the pomp and glitz you would expect at such an event. The Academy Awards, you ask? Not even close! I’ll give you some hints — it had an estimated 20,000 visitors over three days, more than 700 vendors and 60 aircraft on display, and saw the presentation of the 2013 Helicopter Mechanic of the Year Award! If you guessed Helicopter Association International (HAI) HELI-EXPO 2014 in Anaheim, CA, you got it. It seems that each year HAI outdoes itself with a bigger and better convention. It truly is the biggest and best helicopter show in the world.

Derek Weeden of DynCorp International’s McClellan, CA, facility was presented with the 2013 Helicopter Mechanic of the Year Award. You can read more on Weeden and the award in the article on page 25 of this issue. Gear up and get ready! Who knows? You could be our 2014 Helicopter Mechanic of the Year Awardwinner. For those of you who could not make it to HELI-EXPO 2014, the following is a brief look at some of the show’s highlights.

One of two AgustaWestland AW609 prototypes made its appearance, and for the first time offered passenger demo flights. AgustaWestland also unveiled its new AW109 Trekker, its first light twin helicopter with skid landing gear. Training and customer support were also big news at HELI-EXPO and AgustaWestland was no exception. It introduced its new “Leonardo” customer portal. The system is designed to allow AgustaWestland to better track operators’ support requirements in real time.

AgustaWestland also announced that it will start to build the AW169 at its Philadelphia facility in 2015 and plans to build 20 aircraft per year by 2017.

With lots of fanfare and flashing lights, Bell Helicopter unveiled three detailed mockups of its new five-seat “short, light, single” (SLS) helicopter and announced that it would be called the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X. It will replace the Bell 206 Jet Ranger that had been in production since the 1960s.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, Eurocopter officially became Airbus Helicopters. Some of its announcements were that the AStar model 350 helicopter for the U.S. market will be built in Mississippi. Its new X4 prototype will be engine qualified with both Turbomeca and Pratt and Whitney Canada, and its new “Helicopter Zero” will have a full composite airframe. The first flight is anticipated for 2015.

Turbomeca announced its historic first-time partnership with Bell Helicopters. Its Arrius 2R engine will power the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X (SLS) helicopter. Turbomeca also introduced an industry first, with its electrical auxiliary power unit (e-APU) system on the new generation AW189 helicopter. It also announced it bought out Rolls-Royce’s shares in the RTM332 engine program, and that is now a 100-percent Turbomeca engine. The engine is in the 2,000 to 3,000 shp range.

Turbomeca also introduced the bank of online service and technologies (BOOST), a range of advanced engine and maintenance management services designed to help operators keep their helicopters flying. In association with IBM, Turbomeca has developed integrated online services for streamlining customers operations. Through this highly-secured, compatible, web-based tool, Turbomeca aims to “provide the helicopter industry with revolutionary world class services.”

Enstrom Helicopters unveiled a mockup of the TH-180, its new entry into the helicopter trainer market. The helicopter is a scaled-down version of its FX-280 model, and would be a two-seat, piston-powered helicopter. 

Scott’s Bell 47 announced that it has signed an agreement with Rolls-Royce for the RR300 light turboshaft engine to be installed on the Scott’s Bell 47GT-6 helicopter.

Robinson Helicopters displayed a new line of standard and optional Garmin glass-panel displays and radios, along with Aspen Avionics PFD and MFD options.

In the avionics department, Thales offered a look at its third generation concept of its Avionics 2020 cockpit. The basic premise here is to allow pilots to do more and reduce their workload at the same time.

Last but not least was the unveiling of the Global Helicopter Mechanic Career Survey. This is sponsored in association with HAI, the European Helicopter Association (EHA), Safran Turbomeca and Helicopter Maintenancemagazine. For more information on this critical survey, please see the article on page 36 of this issue.

I could probably devote an entire issue of Helicopter Maintenancemagazine to just HELI-EXPO. I will bring you additional stories throughout the year on some of the exciting maintenance related developments I saw. If you could not make it to HELI-EXPO 2014, the Helicopter Maintenance magazine staff and I hope to see you in Orlando for HELI-EXPO 2015.

Thanks for your continued support and enjoy this issue. 

R. Fred Polak  |  Editor