One of several Eurocopter products on display was this EC130B used for sightseeing flights by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters.

American Eurocopter celebrated 40 years in the US on Jul 10 and held a special anniversary event at its GPM (Grand Prairie TX) company headquarters.

The event commemorated the company’s growth and achievements since 1969, when Aérospatiale and LTV Aero­space formed Vought Helicopter.

Eurocopter 3-ship formation

Today the company employs more than 750 US workers—more than 500 at GPM and the remainder at facilities in Columbus MS—including engineers, technicians, program specialists and administrators in manufacturing, marketing, technical support and training.

The company’s US facilities generate about $740 million annually in total economic impact in the US. Last year the company delivered 135 commercial helicopters, as well as 35 UH72A Lakota light utility helicopters to the US Army. Recent additions at GPM include delivery and training centers—including a full-motion flight simulator—an avionics shop and engineering center.

EADS North America CEO Ralph Crosby

Jul 10 also marked the opening of a new customer service and fleet ops center (CSFC). This is the third customer support center opened by the Eurocopter Group in the past 2 years. (The first two are in La Durane, France and Hong Kong.)

New customer service and fleet ops center

The American Eurocopter CSFC at Grand Prairie will not only enhance the company’s ability to support its local customers—it will also be linked to the other 2 centers, allowing customers to have access to all of Eurocopter’s logistics and technical support capabilities.

Investment in the CSFC is part of the effort that American Eurocopter and parent Eurocopter have been making to achieve their stated goal of providing the best customer service and support in the industry.

AgustaWestland delivered the first of an unspecified number of AW­139 medium twin helicopters to Bel Air of Holsted, Denmark in June. Configured with 12 seats, the aircraft has now started flying offshore transport missions. Bel Air has also been appointed the official AW139 service center in Denmark. Cur­rent­ly, there are around 150 AW139s in service or on order for offshore missions around the world. More than 430 AgustaWestland AW139s have been ordered to date.

Simplex Manufacturing Co of Portland OR has acquired Helipod Intl—an Auckland, New Zealand-based developer and manufacturer of certified accessory products for Robinson helicopters, including cargo pods and spray systems. Manufacturing will be shared between New Zealand and Oregon, while all sales activities will be based at the Simplex office in Portland, and the 2 companies’ distribution networks will be merged. Helipod CEO Peter Maloney will be joining Simplex.

Frasca Intl will design and build a Sikorsky S76C++ Level 6 flight simulator training device (FSTD) for Era Training Center (ETC) of Lake Charles LA. It will feature Frasca’s TruVision global visual system with detailed database, electronic cockpit displays, flight test validation data, blade element modeling, auto­matic certification testing and multichannel sound simulation. This will be ETC’s third Frasca FSTD. The center currently uses Frasca-built EC135 and AS350B2 FSTDs which were delivered last year.

Sikorsky recently delivered an S300C to UND Aerospace at the University of North Dakota. UND has operated Sikorsky helicopters in its training program since 1983. The new S300C becomes the 7th Sik­orsky helicopter in UND’s fleet. UND has 3 more S300C helicopters on order for this year.

Eurocopter has delivered the first EC225 to Southern Service Flight Company (SSFC) based in Vung Tau City, Vietnam. A Service Flight Corp of Vietnam (SFC VN) subsidiary, SSFC provides helicopter flights for offshore exploration, search-and-rescue (SAR) operations and emergency medical service. SSFC Ops Dir Capt Le Trong Dong notes that a second long-range EC225 is due to arrive later this year, bringing SSFC’s total fleet to 8. He adds that its delivery will allow SSFC to intensify its activity in Vietnam’s booming oil and gas market. SFC VN’s other subsidiary, Northern Service Flight Company (NSFC), took delivery of its first EC155B1 at the Paris Airshow. A second EC155B1, scheduled for delivery in 2010, will be used for SAR missions.

Metro Aviation of Shreveport LA has received Part 145 repair station authorization to perform maintenance and repair on the Bell 407. The company is now approved for repairs on more than 30 models. Metro has finished several new Bell 407s for air medical and corporate customers and has contracts for further completions through next year. Med Trans Corp is the latest air medical customer to contract with Metro to perform completions on its Bell 407s.

Sikorsky has opened a flight test hangar and customer delivery center at Coatesville PA. The new 61,000 sq ft building in­cludes 3 partial floors of administrative space and dedicated hangar space for up to 8 aircraft. The facility includes an individual suite for each customer, conference rooms, a business center, kitchen area and lounge.

FAA and TC certification for Bell 429 light twin

Bell 429 on display at Mirabel QC. (Inset) Mercy Ambulance Service Emergency Transport Dir Dan Keough (L) receives the keys of the first model 429 from Bell CEO Richard Millman.

Bell’s 429 light twin received Transport Canada and FAA certification on Jul 1. A few days later, on Jul 7, Bell Helicopter Textron Canada’s plant in Mirabel QC was the scene for the official celebration and delivery of the first 429 to Air Methods for operation by Mercy One, a Des Moines IA-based emergency medical helicopter service.

Launched in Feb 2005 at HAI Heli Expo in Anaheim CA, the Bell 429 was meant to replace the Bell 427i with first deliveries planned for 2007. First flight of the 429 took place at Mirabel on Feb 27, 2007.

The certification program involved 2 prototypes and 3 preproduction aircraft, which accumulated 1800 hrs of test flights. By the end of this year, Bell expects to have delivered 10 model 429s and to have 3 or 4 in customer service.

The company plans to deliver 40 units in 2010, 70–80 in 2011 and to reach full production in 2012 with 96 machines. With 30% greater cabin volume than any competitor in its class, Bell is confident that the 429 will be well received by the market.

The company currently holds more than 300 letters of intent (LOIs) for the 429, making it the most anticipated new helicopter ever launched by Bell. Around 40% of LOIs are from North American customers, most of whom are medical operators, followed by utility/offshore and law enforcement.

The 429 is a clean sheet design, employing the modular airframe concept and advanced rotor blade design from Bell’s modular affordable product line (MAPL) program but maintaining a derivative engine and rotor drive system from the 427 and featuring a glass cockpit.

All main and tail rotor blades have swept tips to reduce noise—a major design consideration as the 429 is aimed at EMS and police operators as well as utility and VIP customers. Accommodating 2 pilots and up to 6 passengers—or 2 stretchers and 4 technicians—the 429 has a useful load of 2590 lbs. Power comes from 2 Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207­D1s, giving it a maximum speed of 150 kts.

A key feature for EMS operations is the 429’s clamshell aft doors which swing out and up against the airframe. A tail rotor guard will be available as optional equipment and as a retrofit at the end of the year. The Bell 429 comes with a price tag of $4.86 million (2007 dollars). DOCs are said to be around $644 per hour. —Philippe Cauchi