Eurocopter and its Helibras affiliate have broken ground for a new manufacturing facility in Itajubá MG, Brazil, where Helibras will build, assemble and maintain the EC725s being acquired by the Brazilian armed forces. The EC725 is Eurocopter’s latest version of the Super Puma/Cougar family. Brazil signed a contract in Dec 2008 to acquire 50 of the type for a variety of missions, including combat SAR, long-range tactical transport, EMS, logistics support and naval missions. EC725 production at Itajubá will result in a doubling of production capability for Helibras, which currently assembles Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuils, as well as a doubling of staff levels from the current 300.

SkyBooks, a Bell affiliate company, is offering free fleet trial subscriptions to its Web-based Sky­Books electronic record-keeping program. Bell helicopter owners and operators will have access to flight ops and pilot currency tracking, maintenance tracking and reporting, inventory management with preloaded Bell parts, digital document management and vault storage. Full analyst services may be added during the trial period at limited cost.

Sikorsky flew the 2nd of 3 S76D prototypes on Mar 19. Chief Test Pilot Greg Barnes and Pilot Tom Davis conducted the 30-min flight at the manufacturer’s West Palm Beach flight center. Next they will run the aircraft through a series of flights to gauge performance of its new Pratt & Whitney PW210S powerplants. The S76D uses all-composite, “flaw-tolerant” main rotor blades, Thales avionics and autopilot, dual rotor speed with active vibration control, a “quiet mode” and optional rotor ice protection system (RIPS) for all-weather capability. It is designed to offer operators an increase in useful load and extended-range performance over the current S76C+ and S76C++. Estimated range of the S76D is 450 nm with no reserve and 354 nm with 30-min reserve.

Testing continues on the Sikorsky X2 high-speed technology demonstrator, with 2 successful test flights logged at the end of March. After a 1-hr flight on Mar 27, X2 Chief Pilot Kevin Bredenbeck reported that pilot workload was significantly reduced and that the aircraft continued to perform as expected. The X2 flew with retracted landing gear and reached a speed of 130 kts—the highest speed achieved to date in the program. The flight test team successfully evaluated several systems including landing gear retraction, inflight balance measuring, active vibration control and blade proximity monitoring. Sikorsky’s goal is to prove that a helicopter can cruise comfortably at 250 kts while retaining good low-speed handling characteristics, efficient hovering and a seamless and simple transition to high speed. Sikorsky has now conducted 9 test flights on the X2 for a total of 7.9 flight hrs, 80.9 hrs of run time and 207 engine starts. Aircraft testing has been taking place at the company’s development flight center in West Palm Beach FL since Jul 2009.