Rotor blade manufacturer Van Horn Aviation (VHA) is taking several steps to minimize downtime due to overhauls on the company’s composite 206B main rotor blades. In addition to working with several composite rotor blade repair stations around the world to provide authorization for main blade overhauls, VHA is also conducting fatigue tests to increase the time between overhauls (TBO) to 5,000 hours.
“We have been hearing from potential customers that they assumed only we or Bell Helicopter would be able to complete the overhauls on the main blade,” says VHA president, Dean Rosenlof. “That’s not our intention. When we finalize the tools and procedures required to overhaul our 206B main blade, we’ll reach out worldwide to repair stations with composite rotor blade repair capability. We’ve already started talking to repair stations here in the U.S. and in Australia. We want blades to be overhauled as locally as possible to reduce or eliminate additional downtime.”
Having received the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supplemental type certificate (STC) in Feb. 2016 and Transport Canada STC in Nov. 2016, the composite VHA 206B main rotor blade currently features an 18,000-hour service life (more than triple the life of the original metal blade) with overhauls every 2,800 hours. While beginning certification tests for the 206L LongRanger main rotor blade, the VHA engineering and test staff are already working on the fatigue tests required to bring both the 206L and 206B main blades to 20,000-hours service life and 5,000-hours TBO. Increasing the TBO to 5,000 hours will match the service life of the OEM metal blade.
“We are placing a high priority on increasing the TBO of the main blade to 5,000 hours, which should happen by the end of the year, but certainly before the first operator reaches the current 2,800-hour mark,” says Rosenlof. “At 5,000 hours, operators will have a choice of going through a two-week overhaul on our blade or buying a new set of metal blades for roughly 20 times the price of the overhaul.”
The VHA 206B main rotor blades feature carbon fiber skin and spars, an efficient NASA-designed laminar-flow airfoil, tapered tip, and a combination of stainless steel and nickel abrasion strips that cover the entire length of the blade for erosion and lightning strike protection. The VHA blades use the identical installation configuration as the OEM blades, allowing direct replacement without hub modification. The overhaul includes removal and replacement of the root grip plates, root bolts and nuts, and bushings, plus repaint. The overhaul is estimated to take no longer than two weeks and cost approximately $3,500.