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There’s A Change in the Air

Here’s a question for you to start things off. What event had 60 aircraft on display, 660 vendors in attendance, and between 18,000 and 20,000 attendees? If you said this year’s Heli-Expo in Dallas, you hit the nail on the head. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, you missed a terrific show.

While speaking to a large number of vendors and attendees, I didn’t meet a single one who had anything but praise for what they were seeing. Excitement and enthusiasm were in abundance. To be sure, our industry is not immune from what is going on in the world around us, and there are industry segments that will not do as well as others for awhile, but 2012 should prove to be a great year as a whole. The Eurocopter exhibit pretty well described our industry with a banner that proclaimed “thinking without limits.” Today’s helicopters are without limits in the myriad tasks they perform. Here are some of Heli-Expo’s highlights that should have a positive effect in 2012.

New Aircraft

Eurocopter showed off its EC130 T2 helicopter and announced orders for 105 aircraft. The T2 version boasts the Turbomeca Arriel 2D engine, which will provide 10 percent more average power, lower specific fuel burn and a higher TBO. The aircraft will have an active vibration-control system, improved air ventilation, energy absorbing seats and crashworthy fuel cells.

Bell unveiled the model 525 “Relentless,” its new super-medium twin helicopter. It’s the largest civil helicopter in Bell’s storied history. The Relentless is an 18,000-pound-plus ship with an expected range of more than 400nm, speed near 150 kts and a service ceiling of 20,000 feet. It’s targeting the off-shore oil industry market. Power is from a pair of GE CT7-2F1 engines (1,800 shp each.) The aircraft boasts a five-blade all composite main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor. The control system is a triple redundant fly-by-wire system, and the cockpit houses a Garmin 5000H touch screen-controlled glass panel integrated avionics suite with four main displays.

 The 525 features a composite and metal airframe that emphasizes ease of maintenance. “Our design goal is to be able to remove and replace any line replaceable unit (LRU) aircraft component in 10 minutes or less and that includes access,” states Larry Thimmesch, Bell’s vice president of Commercial Programs.

 The Agusta Westland AW189 made its Heli-Expo debut this year. It’s an eight-ton multi-mission aircraft and is powered by two General Electric CT7-2E1 engines, equipped with FADEC and built-in particle separators. A mix of seats, mission consoles, dedicated equipment and litters can be installed according to the operational requirement. A modular fuel system that is quick to fit and remove ensures that the optimum mission specific trade-off between passengers and distance can be achieved. The open architecture avionics suite includes a fully digital glass cockpit with four eight-by-10-inch active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCDs); a four-axis, dual-duplex digital automatic flight control system (DAFCS); and dual flight management systems (FMS).

New Equipment

The Rolls-Royce RR500 engine has almost completed development, but the certification program has been put on hold while waiting for an aircraft OEM to specify the engine.

Garmin introduced the G5000H touch screen integrated avionics suite. As mentioned before, it will be standard on the Bell 525 Relentess. Besides having primary flight displays (PFDs) and multifunction displays (MFDs), it will feature Garmin’s Telligence TM voice control function. This allows certain functions to be activated by voice command.

Turbomeca announced that the Ariel 2D engine has entered service aboard the Eurocopter AS350B3e. This engine will also power the EC130 T2 mentioned earlier. The new Ardiden 1,800 shp engine testing is complete. The engine is designed to power helicopters in the six to eight-ton range, with a projected TBO of 5,000 hours.      

 The 1,100shp TM800 engine has moved into preproduction status. It has not yet been officially named. It’s designed to power future four- to six-ton helicopters and provide a significant fuel savings over current engines.

 Universal Avionics introduced its new high-resolution flat panel display for helicopters. (See the HeliMx article coming in a future issue). The EFI-890H has rotorcraft-specific symbology along with synthetic vision and added guidance features.

In conclusion, it was a fantastic show and I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg on what I saw there. I firmly believe there really is a change in the air for our industry, and it is a change for the better. If you could not make it to Heli-Expo this year, try and make it next year. We will see you in Las Vegas!

R. Fred PolakEditor