Rotor & Wing International

Rotorcraft Report

Roundup of news from the past month or so.

The Bell Helicopter 505 Jet Ranger X has received type certification from Transport Canada, according to announcements from Marc Garneau, Canada’s minister of transportation, and from Bell President and CEO Mitch Snyder. The company expects FAA and EASA certification to follow shortly.

he Bell Helicopter 505 Jet Ranger X has received type certification from Transport Canada, according to announcements from Marc Garneau, Canada’s minister of transportation, and from Bell President and CEO Mitch Snyder. The company expects FAA and EASA certification to follow shortly.

“With more than 400 letters of intent, the marketplace is anxiously awaiting this aircraft,” Snyder said.

The letters have come from operators worldwide from a variety of market segments. Snyder added that the company is emphasizing the 505’s training application. The base price is about $1 million.

Snyder said he expects the first delivery announcements to come at the beginning of next year. 2017 is set to be a ramp-up year for production, with a 1.5-day move rate in 2018. The Bell 505 was designed for quick assembly. Production is set to take place in the company’s Mirabel, Quebec, facility.

“The certification of the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is a significant accomplishment that contributes to Canada’s thriving aerospace industry,” said Garneau. “By developing and manufacturing a fuel-efficient aircraft here in Mirabel, we are creating good jobs and moving Canada to the forefront of our global commitment to reduce air emissions.”

The Jet Ranger X is a single-engine helicopter, powered by a dual-channel full-authority digital engine control system Turbomeca (Safran) Arrius 2R. According to Bell, it is the first helicopter in its class to feature a fully integrated glass flight deck with the Garmin G1000H avionics suite. The Bell 505 is designed to carry up to four passengers and has more than 1,500 lb of useful load. R&WI

S-92 Probe Seeks Tail Rotor ServoFailure Cause

Sikorsky’s Jan. 10 announcement and subsequent update for its customers to inspect immediately their S-92s before flight was prompted by a tail-rotor servo failure that resulted in a dramatic landing of a CHC aircraft on a North Sea rig last month.

Via HeliOffshore’s website, Sikorsky said that “physical inspections of the tail rotor pitch change shaft bearing are well underway with over 250 aircraft inspected.” Sikorsky said it also has been reviewing HUMS data from those aircraft and that a small number of parts are being returned to Sikorsky for additional evaluation.

Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

HeliOffshore CEO, Gretchen Haskins said: “These inspections are a precautionary measure to ensure safety, the operators are complying with Sikorsky’s Alert Service Bulletin and collaboration across the safety system is progressing well.”

The failure, which appears to be traced to a seized bearing in the servos, might have occurred quickly. Just 4.5 flight hours before the accident, the aircraft’s health and usage monitoring system captured the first indication of trouble with the bearing. But detailed analysis did not reveal that until after the accident.

Those are among the key points of an initial assessment of the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is investigating the Dec. 28, 2017, incident. The CHC aircraft with two pilots and nine passengers on board spun more than 180 degrees to the right and rolled 20 degrees to the left while landing on the rig more than 100 nm east of Aberdeen, Scotland. The S-92’s left main landing gear gouged the helideck on the Elgin Process, Utilities, Quarters rig before the pilots were able to land the aircraft.

No one was hurt in the incident, but the helicopter had to be hoisted from the helideck to a ship below for return to Aberdeen.

Once aircraft panels were removed, “it was immediately apparent that the tail rotor servo piston was damaged,” the AAIB said in a special bulletin issued today. “The servo was removed and revealed that the tail rotor pitch change shaft double-row, angular contact bearing was in a severely distressed condition.”

The investigative body said there were two previous events in which degradation of the tail rotor pitch change shaft led to reduced tail rotor control in flight. Flight crews identified the situations and landed immediately, and Sikorsky subsequently identified the underlying failure causes and introduced a number of safety measures, the AAIB said.

“At this early stage of the investigation, the helicopter manufacturer is not clear whether this bearing degradation is the result of a new root cause, or a previously unidentified failure mode,” the branch said.

The parts from the incident aircraft have been shipped to Sikorsky’s Trumbull, Connecticut, facility for forensic examination. That manufacturer issued a statement today saying it will continue to support the investigation into the root cause of the suspected tail rotor pitch change shaft bearing failure.

The National Transportation Safety Board is participating in the investigation as is a representative of the U.S. The FAA and Sikorsky are serving as technical advisors to the NTSB as permitted under international law.

Prior to shipping the parts to Sikorsky, the AAIB examined them further and found “signs of severe overheating with extreme wear on the inner and outer thrust races and barrel-shaped rollers of the bearing,” it said. The branch added that the roller bearings had seized to the inner thrust race and the outer race roller had excessive axial play (0.5 in).

“The tail rotor driveshaft imparted a torsional load to the tail rotor servo” that caused the primary piston rod to fracture inside the servo. Due to that failure, the secondary piston sleeve separated axially from the primary piston, “with the consequential total loss of control of the tail rotor.”

The AAIB presented the following account.

The accident flight was the second of four planned ones over the North Sea’s Elgin-Franklin Offshore Field that day. The first, from Aberdeen to Elgin Process, Utilities, Quarters was uneventful. But as the helicopter lifted from that rig on a heading of 270 degrees, it yawed unexpectedly to the right through 45 degrees. The helicopter commander (who flew this in the accident flight) applied full left yaw pedal, checked the rotation and landed back onto the deck.

The flight crew discussed the yaw, which they thought had been the result of local turbulence or wind effects of the platform structures (which is not uncommon for this helideck). They decided to continue.

During the subsequent liftoff into hover, the commander applied left yaw pedal. The helicopter responded and turned to the left, and all control responses appeared normal. The commander then climbed to 500 ft for the brief transit to the West Franklin wellhead platform, 3.3 nm to the south. The helicopter made a normal approach and deceleration and crossed over the helideck.

During the descent to land, at about 4 ft above the helideck, the S-92 yawed rapidly to the right, reaching a maximum rate of 30 degrees per second. At the same time, it rolled 20 degrees to the left. At that point, the left main landing gear contacted the helideck. The aircraft continued to yaw to the right on its left main wheels and nose gear before the right main wheels contacted the surface.

The helicopter came to rest on a heading of 041 degrees at about 0844 local time, having rotated through 187 degrees. The aircraft was shut down and the crew and passengers disembarked; there were no injuries.

Weather at the platform was reported at 0608 as a surface wind from 220 degrees at 17 kt, visibility 10 km or greater, overcast cloud at 2,000 ft and a temperature of 8 degrees C and dew point of 3 degrees C. Pressure was reported at 1038 hPa. No lightning activity was recorded in the area. R&WI

US Osprey Exercises in Japan Halted, Resumed

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps

Despite local pushback, the U.S. Marine Corps resumed Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey refueling training in Okinawa in January. This comes about three weeks after the Dec. 13 nonfatal crash off the coast of Okinawa involving an Osprey during an aerial refueling training exercise. Reports said the Japanese Defense Ministry has confirmed that the U.S. has taken all measures to prevent another accident from happening. However, this is reportedly not appeasing the local Okinawan government, which was not in favor of resuming Bell Boeing MV-22 flights the week after the incident. The U.S. government is still conducting its investigation, but news reports said some of the most likely causes of the crash could involve human error, turbulence and the complexity of the nighttime refueling exercise in general. R&WI

China Planning a Tiltrotor?

China could be flying its own version of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey in the future, according to a Chinese news report. State-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) is reportedly developing a tiltrotor that it calls “Blue Whale.”

Design and capability objectives for this aircraft include creating both a medium and heavy variant with the ability to fly at more than 310 mph. Unlike the Bell Boeing Osprey, China’s VTOL aircraft would have four rotors. This, in theory, would decrease safety risks and increase maneuverability. AVIC’s Blue Whale would be designated for operations like disaster relief, supply airdrop and other emergency response operations. R&WI

Leonardo Takes off With Drone Endeavors

Leonardo’s SW-4 Solo drone made its first flight in December, the company said. Taking place at the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport in the province of Taranto, Italy, the remote-controlled helicopter’s flight signifies the start of the experimental campaign, which aims to check characteristics and validate flight procedures in both normal and emergency conditions.

The Solo is the product of collaboration between Leonardo, Aeroporti di Puglia and the Technological Aerospace District. The drone’s flight program is supported by the National Civil Aviation Authority and the DTA. It is set to continue this year. One of Leonardo’s goals is to validate procedures and regulations for an unpiloted aircraft, as opposed to remotely piloted.

Leonardo’s SW-4 SoloPhoto courtesy of Leonardo

Manufactured in Leonardo’s Poland facility, the base SW-4 is a light, single-engine helicopter built for civil multi-role operations. The Solo could be used in missions like firefighting, search and rescue, and patrol.

Leonardo also has fully acquired Sistemi Dinamici, the manufacturer said at the end of December. Originally a 2006 AgustaWestland and IDS Corp. (Ingegneria Dei Sistemi) joint venture, Leonardo already owned 40% of capital. With it, the company fully acquires the unmanned SD-150 Hero.

A light helicopter, the drone is designed for both naval and land operations. It is a short-range tactical unmanned aerial system with an empty weight of 220 lb, able to fly for five hours with about 33 lb of payload, which can include an ADS-B transponder. The Hero’s autonomy allows it to fly pre-programmed missions, and its ground control station features one pilot and one payload operator seat.

Some possible applications for the drone include border control, fire prevention, mining and utility. R&WI

Israel’s Cormorant Nearing Market Readiness

With the same technology as its AirMule, Israel’s Urban Aeronautics hopes another of its unmanned aerial systems will, one day, do what helicopters cannot. According to news outlets, the Cormorant made a solo first flight in November and is expected to come to market in 2020. The Cormorant has been under development since Urban Aeronautics’ creation in 2001. Fancraft technology features an internal rotor system, rather than an external main rotor. The company holds 39 patents, with more submitted for approval. It can reportedly transport more than 1,000 lb and travel at 115 mph.Urban Aeronautics reportedly hopes to market it for military operations, priced at some $14 million. The drone is still under development and currently does not hold any transport authority certifications. R&WI

Photo courtesy of Urban Aeronautics

What is the Status of the 525?

Flight testing on the Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless is still suspended, but the program keeps progressing, the manufacturer told R&WI. The company is facilitating all proceedings that do not involve flight, while cooperating with the investigation of the July 6 crash.

“Bell Helicopter continues to work closely with the NTSB and FAA to complete the NTSB investigation of the 525 accident,” said the company. “The NTSB and Bell Helicopter have focused on a sequence of events, which is currently being further investigated.”

Photo courtesy of Bell Helicopter

Bell said it continues to make progress with sustainment planning, engagement with certification authorities, component testing, major structural and dynamics test, upgrades to its systems integration lab and production improvements.

This past summer, a Bell 525 broke up midair and fell out of the sky during a flight test and killed both pilots onboard. So far, evidence has shown signs that rotor blades came into contact with the tailboom and perhaps the nose as well. R&WI

Congress Examines Transportation Nominee

Elaine Chao’s examination as nominee for the position of U.S. Secretary of Transportation with U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation went on Jan. 11.

Her confirmation is pending a full Senate vote.Her nomination questionnaire is available online and spans 12 pages plus additional attachments. “What do you believe to be the top three challenges facing the department/agency and why?” asks one question.

“A top priority for [the Transportation Dept.] is to maintain a culture of good stewardship on behalf of the American people. This means effective enforcement of safety measures; getting the most benefit from the Department’s expenditures including strengthening its planning and acquisition practices; and preparing for the future by considering new technologies in our infrastructure,” Chao answered.

“Second, given the nation’s need to improve critical infrastructure, it is important to find ways to expedite the process of making repairs and building new constructions and decreasing the regulatory burdens when appropriate. With or without a new infusion of funds, it is necessary to look at the existing processes for infrastructure development and find more efficient ways to address bottlenecks in planning and permitting.”

Elaine Chao

“Third,” she continued, “with so many needs everywhere in the country, a big challenge will be to strive for equity between urban and rural areas, among different modes of transportation, and other competing but equally deserving stakeholders.”

Chao is an advocate of privatization and reduced government regulation. Her nomination comes at a time when Congress is enmeshed in a debate over the pros and cons of privatizing the FAA’s Air Traffic Org. R&WI