By the time you read this, nearly a month will have passed since the end of Heli-Expo. But the annual industry gathering’s presentations, press conferences, order announcements, networking and partnerships impact the industry throughout the year — that is until the next Heli-Expo. And we aim to recap all such efforts within our coverage.
Despite the many criticisms surrounding the possibility of electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) air taxis flying in the future, the industry is bracing for the inevitable. AHS International said there are 50 companies around the world, right now, working on research and development programs for eVTOL technology.
Elsewhere, Air Methods CEO Aaron Todd, in a ceremony announcing the operator as the launch customer for the Airbus Helicopters AS350 crash-resistant fuel tank, noted the industry’s willingness to embrace the potentially lifesaving technology. There are thousands of AS350s and EC130s in service. How many (and when) will equip the newly certified technology remains to be seen, but it is something R&WI will be monitoring throughout the year.
I also learned from researchers at the University of North Dakota that over the past year, more than 500 helicopter pilots traded rotor blades for jets, leaving the rotorcraft industry to become regional airline pilots. But is the industry really facing a shortage of available pilots and mechanics as research might say? The trend is already hitting Canada’s largest helicopter transportation services company, Canadian Helicopters. On page 26 (“Canadian Helicopters…”), you’ll read how the company is competing with Bell’s Mirabel facility for experienced maintenance technicians.
Coming off somewhat recent news, Frank Lombardi on page 16 (“Breaking Down…”) provides a detailed analysis of the potential impact the Bell 525 prototype crash in 2016 has on the future of fly-by-wire technology for the helicopter industry.
In our first pilot report of the year, Sikorsky test pilot Bill Fell provides an in-the-cockpit perspective on the game-changing technologies tested on the Raider. Such tech has provided foundations for the manufacturer’s S-97 Raider and SB>1 Defiant, the latter in partnership with Boeing.
I want to thank all of our new members of our editorial advisory board for their expertise in shaping our coverage for the remainder of the year. You may read about them on page 7.
Although our members provide unparalleled insight, your input is also essential to the pages of our magazine and the posts on our website. Tweet us, email us or post a Facebook comment — tell us what you’d like to learn more about. RWI