Rotor & Wing International

Rotorcraft Report

Industry insights since the previous issue.

HAI, AAMS Unite With Groups Fighting ATC Privatization

Helicopter Assn. International (HAI) and the Assn. of Air Medical Services (AAMS) have joined 34 other U.S. aviation groups in declaring their opposition to a proposal to place the FAA’s air traffic operation in private hands.

In a written statement July 3, the groups said, “While we enjoy the safest most efficient air traffic control (ATC) system in the world, we also believe that reforms, short of privatization, can better address the FAA’s need to improve its ability to modernize our system.” That need includes meeting the FAA’s mandate to equip the general aviation fleet with ADS-B technology by 2020.

The groups included the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. (AOPA) and 30 smaller aviation groups throughout the U.S.

“We are ready and willing to work with all industry stakeholders and Congress to advance the consensus needed to improve our current system,” they said, “and to ensure that our nation’s air traffic control system remains the envy of the world.”

They said their opposition was based on review of a proposal by Rep. Bill Shuster. HAI President Matt Zuccaro said Shuster’s proposal “will do nothing to increase the efficiency and safety of a system that is already the world’s best ATC program.”

A Pennsylvania Republican, Shuster chairs the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. For years, he has championed turning over ATC operations to a private corporation. His latest attempt is incorporated in “reauthorization” legislation H.R. 2997, approved by that committee June 27 and forwarded to the House.

Shuster and advocates argue privatization will enable more efficient upgrades to and operation of the U.S. ATC system. Opponents claim Congress has hobbled ATC operations and modernization by failing to provide steady funding of those activities. Shuster acknowledges the point. From 2006 to 2012, Congress passed 42 continuing resolutions and 23 short-term extensions for the FAA. It passed a three-year FAA authorization bill in 2012. The agency has been surviving on funding extensions since that law expired in late 2015.

Privatization has been backed by many U.S. airlines, Delta Air Lines being one exception. The privatization push gained the support of President Donald Trump in early June. But the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s own version of the FAA reauthorization bill, passed June 29, included no mention of ATC privatization.

In a joint statement, the groups said, “[T]he billions of dollars and time that would be spent transitioning our nation’s air traffic control system to a not-for-profit entity can be better applied to the continuing progress to update and modernize our air traffic control system.” RWI

Citing ‘Horrific Downturn,’ Bristow Reorganizes

Bristow Group is reorganizing its structure and business operations, dropping a global approach to air services and narrowing its pursuit into new business areas to focus on meeting offshore energy firms’ demands for greater efficiency in specific world regions amid a chronically severe downturn.

“The market has gone into a longer, more horrific downturn,” said Jonathan Baliff, Bristow President/CEO, June 9 in launching what the company labeled “our action plan for a competitive and profitable future.” He added, “We are shrinking to fit the current market demand. The objective of the actions today is to create a more competitive Bristow,” with a significantly strengthened capital structure and lower overhead.

Photo courtesy of Bristow

Streamlining Bristow’s corporate structure is the first step, he said, “but there will be other announcements, so stay tuned. This is going to be a long slog.”

A key objective of the plan is helping oil and gas, and other customers, achieve greater regional efficiency in their operations.

“Our clients are going to become more efficient regionally from a cost structure standpoint for transportation to platforms and rigs with or without us,” Baliff said. “For us, it’s about our clients’ success, bringing our clients’ costs down, doing more with less aircraft but still remaining incredibly safe.”

Under the plan, Bristow is reducing its corporate headquarters operation in Houston, Texas, cutting its overhead costs to 12% of revenue and splitting its global structure into two regional hubs. Many executives have left Bristow as a result, Baliff said, and others will follow.

Bristow’s Europe hub includes the U.K., Norway, the Middle East and Africa. But it also includes Asia, Australia and Turkmenistan. It will be led by a veteran of nearly 40 years in the oilfield service business, Alan Corbett, who has been named VP Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia (EAMEA) and is responsible for operations and commercial development in those areas. His responsibilities include Bristow’s Airnorth and Eastern Airways operations.

Corbett also will oversee commercial support activities for headquarters and the Europe and the Americas hub, which includes Bristow Academy, U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Canada, as well as Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad.

The Americas hub will be led by Rob Phillips, who as VP Americas will be responsible for operations and business development efforts for those areas. Phillips also will have global oversight of operational infrastructure support activities. Phillips, who joined Bristow in 2003, began his 25-year-plus offshore aviation experience as a pilot. Corbett and Phillips report to Baliff. RWI

Aurora-DARPA XV-24A Finishes Subscale Flight Tests

Aurora Flight Sciences’ XV-24A LightningStrike subscale vehicle demonstrator has completed its planned flight test program, the company said during April’s Navy League’s Sea Air Space. Tests included outbound and inbound transition fight. The full-scale demonstrator is currently in production, Aurora said, with the flight test program slated for late 2018.

Photo courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences

This project is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) X-Plane program. The subscale aircraft weighs 325 pounds and is designed to 20% scale of the full-size one. It flies autonomously on programmed routes, without a human in the loop. The aircraft runs on a lithium battery with an endurance of five minutes. The full-scale model would be 12,000 pounds with a 61-foot wingspan, powered by hybrid-electric propulsion to significantly extend endurance. It would use three Honeywell 1-megawatt generators with one Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine.

The test program for the full-scale V-24A is planned for Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. RWI

CH-53K Makes Its Way from Florida to Pax River

Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

In its first extended flight, the Sikorsky/U.S. Marine Corps CH-53K King Stallion flew from the manufacturer’s West Palm Beach, Florida, facility to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland June 30 as part of the heavy-lift program’s transition of flight tests to that Naval Air systems Command facility, Sikorsky parent Lockheed Martin said. The 704-nautical-mile, six-hour flight included fuel stops at Naval Air Station Mayport, Florida and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. Four Engineering Development Model CH-53Ks have completed more than 450 hours of flight testing in West Palm Beach. RWI

AW609 Program Updates

Italian investigators’ final report on the fatal 2015 AW609 prototype in-flight breakup highlights disparities between engineering simulations used to design the fly-by-wire civil tiltrotor and its actual performance in the air.

The ANSV concluded the No. 2 AW609 type broke up over Santhià, Italy, after the blades of its right- and left-hand prop rotors all flapped extremely and struck the wings’ leading edges during the test at the aircraft’s design dive speed of 293 kt (calibrated airspeed). The blade strikes severed hydraulic lines, triggered a fire and led to the in-flight breakup that killed test pilots Herb Moran and Pietro Venanzi. The pilots already had performed dives that day of 303 and 295 kt.

Photo courtesy of ANSV

In a separate development, Leonardo Helicopters has briefed members of an international aircraft operations group on changes that will need to be made to global aviation standards to cover air and ground movements of civil tiltrotors.

The recommendations covered a host of generic tiltrotor operational and regulatory issues, from integrating the high-speed aircraft into low-level helicopter routes to adding nacelle-angle parameters to flight data recorder rules, adjusting heliport firefighting requirements for the capacity and placement of tiltrotor fuel cells and the use of inlet barrier filters on such aircraft.

The recommendations could be adopted by mid-2018. Leonardo has targeted that year for the AW609’s certification, with introduction to service soon thereafter.

“We are on schedule to obtain certification for the AW609 by the end of 2018. First orders will be delivered end of 2019,” Leonardo Helicopters chief Daniele Romiti said at the Paris Air Show, according to the Reuters news service. RWI

Airbus Pushing Electric, Noise Advances for Vertical Lift

Airbus Helicopters is pushing tech applications for electrical power and noise-mitigation advances for its next-generation vertical-flight aircraft.

Two aircraft projects briefed at the Paris Air Show highlighted Airbus’ initiatives on electric power and noise mitigation: Rapid And Cost-Effective Rotorcraft (or Racer) and CityAirbus air taxi.

A third project is further evidence of this technological push: the electric-powered Vahana single-passenger autonomous vertical takeoff and landing being developed by A3 (“A-cubed”), Airbus Group’s advanced projects outpost in Silicon Valley. The company is targeting Vahana for a first flight later this year.

The projects encompass a broad range of Airbus’ tech initiatives, according to senior executives of the company who spoke this week at Le Bourget. This broad range includes greater use of predictive analytics to help improve vertical-flight aircraft life cycles, advanced designs of dynamic components that could reduce maintenance costs and higher levels of integration of aircraft propulsion systems and flight controls.

The projects also are part of broader trend in the rotorcraft industry to invest in the aircraft capabilities that customers will want tomorrow at a time when demand for current products, like the highest-yield medium- and heavy-class helicopters, has slumped. Bell Helicopter in March revealed its FCX-001, a notional rotorcraft intended to focus various innovation initiatives and test the market on those applications for which customers might actually pay.

The high-speed Racer is part of the European Union’s Clean Sky 2 research program to develop cutting-edge technology aimed at reducing aircraft CO2 gas emissions and noise levels. The innovations the aircraft is expected to employ, Airbus officials said, include a high-voltage generator that would enable the quick restarourteof towt of one of the helicopter’s two turboshaft engines in the flight.

Airbus plans to begin full-scale systems integration tests this year and conduct unmanned flight tests next year. RWI