Hai Heli-Expo, the world's largest trade show dedicated to the helicopter industry this year celebrated its 70th anniversary. Since it was founded, HAI has served its membership and taken many actions on behalf of helicopter operators throughout the world. The organization has benefited the entire industry, to include manufacturers, suppliers, operators, pilots and mechanics. The association's initiatives have had a direct and positive impact on international helicopter activities.
The Expo occupied almost 1 million square feet of the Georgia World Congress Centre. From manufacturers to suppliers to service providers and with more than 700 exhibitors including 60 helicopters on static display, 100s of education courses, seminars, workshops, forums as well as 730 industry suppliers the expo featured everything needed to keep an aviation business running.
According to data released by U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) at Heli-Expo 2019 the fatal helicopter accident rate has progressively increased over the last three years, from 0.54 per 100,000 flight hours in 2016 to 0.6 in 2017 to 0.72 in 2018.To achieve the safety organization's goal of reducing the overall helicopter fatal accident rate by 20 percent by 2020, the cumulative average rate would need to measure 0.61.
Likewise, fatalities per 100,000 hours jumped from 1.02 in 2017 to 1.64 in 2018. However, the overall accident rate has held fairly steady over the last three years, declining slightly from 3.67 per 100,000 flight hours in 2016 to 3.62 in 2018.
USHST attributed the rise in fatal accidents over the past three years in large part to accidents associated with non-essential low-altitude operations in which helicopters encountered obstacles.
Well supported by the helicopter industry exhibitors at HAI 2019 reported brisk business with a number of fairly large contracts signed. A number of new models were also launched during the exhibition.
Sikorsky launched two new variants of its S-92 heavy twin at Heli-Expo 2019-the S-92A+, an upgrade package for in-service S-92s and new-production S-92B. Both promise better operating costs and greater reliability and mission flexibility, the Lockheed Martin subsidiary said.
These updates will include new flight computing technology and main gearbox, as well as an interior common to search and rescue (SAR) and offshore operations; and an optional engine upgrade that improves hot-and-high performance. The only differences between the variants will be found on the S-92B, which will have larger cabin windows, a common cabin door for offshore and SAR missions and titanium side frames for a stronger airframe.
Kaman Aerospace Group, a division of Kaman Corporation (NYSE:KAMN), announced that it is developing the next generation K-MAX® unmanned aircraft system that will allow operators to have the capability to fly either manned or unmanned missions. Kaman expects to offer unmanned system kits for new production and existing aircraft in 2020.
Concurrently, Kaman is exploring opportunities to support the U.S. Marine Corps in developing co-use versions of autonomous aerial technologies that will have both commercial and military applications.
"Whether the need is night-time aerial firefighting, resupplying troops in austere environments or delivering critical supplies in support of humanitarian missions, the next generation of the unmanned K-MAX® will continue to demonstrate its unmatched readiness and efficiency no matter the requirement," the company stated.
Leonardo Helicopters managing director Gian Piero Cutillo is confident the airframer will achieve its goal of double-digit profitability by 2020 based on last year's results. 2018 helicopter deliveries were substantially higher than the 149 handed over in 2017, while order intake was also much higher. Additionally, he noted that Leonardo had 40 percent market share (by value) in 2018 versus nearly 33 percent in 2017, continuing a growth trajectory that began in 2012. Cutillo said Leonardo has captured 40 percent of the VIP multi-engine market and that its North American fleet had more than doubled in the last decade, from just more than 200 to 450 helicopters.
Kopter advised that by year-end, PS5, a clone of PS4, will be produced for the extreme weather portion of certification testing, including cold-weather regions. Kopter is working with both EASA and FAA toward early 2020 aircraft certification. Initial customer deliveries are planned for 2020 against a "committed order book" of 65 aircraft and nearly 100 letters of intent.
Swiss OEM Kopter also announced that it selected Lafayette, Louisiana, as the location for its U.S. production and service facility The company will lease an 84,700-sq-ft facility from the Lafayette Airport Commission, which owns the former Bell complex, as a planned construction site for its 505 light single helicopter.
The company expects to begin outfitting and staffing the U.S. facility later this year, with an eye toward beginning production there later in 2020. The first U.S.-assembled SH09 is expected to be delivered in 2021. The company expects to ramp up production to 100 aircraft a year from the location by 2025.
MD Helicopters, Inc. not only featured its new MD 530F but also celebrated its handover to launch customer Tennessee Valley Authority. The third MD 530F to join the TVA fleet, this proven single-engine helicopter is already in use supporting powerline utility, inspections, and construction operations throughout TVA's multi-state service area, and is expected to help reduce the agency's overall annual operation and maintenance costs.
The MD 530F features MDHI's newest all-glass single-engine cockpit as well as a Fargo 21-gallon auxiliary fuel tank, Onboard Systems Talon LC Keeperless 3,600 pound Cargo Hook and Colorado Helicopters Side Hook Bracket, Cascade STC reduced cord leg fairing, Blue Sky Networks D1000A SATCOM aircraft tracker, high visibility main rotor blades, and wire strike protection.
Robinson's R22 officially turns 40-years-old on March 16th. In celebration, at this year's Heli Expo convention in Atlanta, Robinson will display a new R22 (S/N 4797, N40YR) painted in the same scheme and colours as the very first R22 (S/N 0001). While the exterior will pay tribute to the R22's origins, the interior will showcase modern avionics including the Avidyne IFD 440 GPS/COM with built in Wi-Fi and Synthetic Vision. The aircraft is also equipped with a pilot-side accessory bar designed to support personal devices, e.g., iPhone or iPad.
Les Gillespie of Gardner Aviation (GA), a Robinson dealer since 2013, has purchased the retro-painted helicopter and will accept delivery at the show.
Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation (NAAF) has become the launch customer in the emergency medical services (EMS) sector for the new H145 helicopter unveiled at the Heli-Expo 2019 exhibition.
Airbus announced at Heli-Expo the launch of the new version of the best-selling H145 light twin-engine helicopter which features an innovative five-bladed rotor, increasing the useful load of the helicopter by 150 kg while delivering new levels of comfort, simplicity and connectivity.
The new rotor brings a significant increase in overall performance, with a maximum take-off weight raised to 3,800 kg and a useful load now equivalent to the aircraft's empty weight. The simplicity of the new bearing less main rotor design will also ease maintenance operations and improve ride comfort for patients, medical staff and crew, while the reduced rotor diameter will allow the H145 to operate in more confined areas.
Airbus also announced that the Rescue and Salvage Bureau (CRS) of the Chinese Ministry of Transport (MOT) is extending its medium class search and rescue helicopter fleet with the Airbus H175, beginning with a signature for two aircraft in search and rescue (SAR) configuration.
These new H175s will perform SAR missions in one of the world's busiest areas for marine traffic (seven of the 10 busiest container ports in the world are located in China) as well as other important offshore areas like the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. These heavily trafficked waters represent a demanding operational environment where pilots must always be prepared for the unexpected. The H175's SAR configuration was chosen for its endurance, long range, highly flexible cabin, and the Helionix avionics system which eases pilot workload and improves situational awareness.
Bell is working with the FAA on gaining IFR certification for the 407 by August and driving to certify its 525 Relentless by the end of the year, according to CEO Mitch Snyder. Gaining IFR certification for the 407 offers the company advantages in the air ambulance, offshore, and law enforcement markets, he said.
Bell's 525 super-medium twin is also progressing well, Snyder said, noting that two aircraft are currently in cold-weather testing in Yellowknife, Canada, and another is flying heavy snow testing in Rome, New York. Currently, four 525 aircraft are in flight testing and have accumulated 1,000 hours. The FAA joined the flight-test program in November.
Meanwhile, he revealed that the company plans to offer its 407 long single for the Navy's THXX helicopter trainer competition. Bell is the current legacy provider of training aircraft for the Navy with the TH57.
Enstrom Helicopter continues to invest in their piston line with improvements they debuted at Heli-Expo in Atlanta.
The newest 280FX which was on display in the Enstrom booth, showed off a redesign of the cabin doors, lighting upgrades including LED Forward (with Pulse) & Aft Landing Lights, a New Collective Design with Illuminated Control Panel and a redesigned avionics and switch console. Enstrom's new door design will give 280FX owners and operators increased utility with their aircraft.
International Defense and Aerospace Group (IDAG) has signed an $11 million deal to buy 25 Schweizer S300CBi helicopters, less than two weeks after IDAG bought the former Bristow Academy, Schweizer announced yesterday at Heli-Expo 2019. Fort Worth, Texas-based Schweizer said the deal marks the first commercial sale of the S300CBi since it purchased the helicopter line from Sikorsky last year.
"With our multiple flight training operations in Europe and with our recent acquisition of United States Aviation Training Solutions (USATS) in Titusville, Florida, IDAG is the largest Schweizer operator worldwide," IDAG chief executive Robert Caldwell said. Pennsylvania-based IDAG currently has a fleet of more than 30 S300s, as well as an existing company fleet of more than 50 primary, advanced, and tactical training aircraft, including UH-60 Black Hawks. "This purchase allows us to deploy assets across multiple satellite locations as we look to expand operations" inside and outside of the continental U.S., Caldwell added.
Keeping abreast with developments HAI has created a member category for unmanned operations and is actively involved in numerous advisory committees and working groups. This year the expo hosted several sessions focused on unmanned issues.
"Our members every day are becoming more proficient in the operation of drones and creating subsidiaries and departments within their company to offer those service," he said. "It has worked out really well." But at the same time, HAI has been involved with the safe integration into the airspace.
Emerging electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft "will not only revolutionize vertical flight, but society as a whole," Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society, predicted yesterday during an eVTOL session at Heli-Expo. He cited a confluence of regulatory, technological, and industrial developments that he thinks makes this the right time for eVTOLs, including the trend toward performance-based regulations, advances in electric motors, batteries, computer models and simulations, and increased investment in technology.
At present, Hirschberg said there are no less than 155 different eVTOLs under development. And, he noted, the timetable set by Uber Elevate is not unreasonable-eVTOL prototype aircraft flying by next year with commercial service beginning as early as 2023.
Citing data from the investment bank Goldman Sachs, NASA, and Uber, Bell VP of Innovation Scott Drennan said the global rideshare market will grow from $36 billion in 2016 to $285 billion in 2030, with the potential for 750 million urban aerial passenger trips across 15 major cities by 2030. Further, this data suggests the global market could support 900 to 1,500 air taxis as early as 2025 and that it would support 9,000 to 12,000 by 2035.
Comments by visitors and exhibitors alike were generally positive. One comment, "Invaluable for the Rotorcraft Community!" summed up HAI 2019