AgustaWestland has concluded its acquisition of the model 609 civil tiltrotor program from Bell and now has complete control of development and civil certification. Two prototypes have logged over 600 hrs at altitudes up to 25,000 ft and speeds up to 275 kts, validating the aircraft's flight envelope. AgustaWestland plans to build 2 additional prototypes to complete certification requirements by early 2016, with deliveries expected immediately following certification. AgustaWestland says it holds 70 orders for the 609 from some 40 customers in more than 20 countries.
Kazakhstan's Ministries of Defense and Emergencies have received the first 6 of 45 Eurocopter EC145s, marking the beginning of an industrial cooperation and distribution contract between Eurocopter and Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering. The new company will assemble and customize EC145s at its facility near TSE (Astana, Kazakhstan) and will also provide pilot and technician training. The first 6 helicopters will be used for search-and-rescue (SAR) and medevac missions.
Bell's 407GX, which obtained FAA and Nav Canada certification earlier in the year, achieved EASA certification in Nov 2011. The 407GX is equipped with the Garmin G1000H integrated glass cockpit, traffic information system, helicopter synthetic vision, moving map and helicopter terrain avoidance warning system (HTAWS). Bell reports 60 orders for the 407GX, with deliveries beginning soon.
First multimission Bell 429 delivered
Fairfax County (VA) Police Dept has taken delivery of the first of 2 new Bell 429s customized for airborne law enforcement, SAR and EMS missions. Fairfax is the launch law enforcement customer for the multimission-configured 429.
Chief Pilot Paul Schaaf lists the Bell 429's performance, low noise signature, ergonomic cockpit, IFR capability and low DOCs among its desirable features, and notes that the 429's spacious cabin—largest in class and capable of accommodating 2 patients—allowed for some creative interior design.
FCPD's first Bell 429 (s/n 57004) was delivered in Mar 2011 to Paradigm Aerospace Corp (PAC) in Mount Pleasant PA for completion. It was delivered to Fairfax on Dec 9. Schaaf notes that training for the first crews was completed on Dec 22 and the aircraft went operational on Dec 30. Aircraft number 2 (s/n 57055) was delivered to PAC on Oct 28. Completion and delivery are expected in Mar 2012.
The new Bell 429s will replace a pair of Bell 407s which were on an 8-year replacement cycle. One of these was sold last June to an EMS operator in California and the other will leave early in the new year.
A replacement fund for the 407s has been in place for many years. Including the return from the sale of the county's well equipped 407s, total cost of the upgrade is just under $5 million. Due to their modern construction and adaptability for future missions, the 429s are on a 20-year replacement cycle, which should result in a net reduction in helicopter costs to the county. The Bell 429 was chosen after a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process. —Phil Rose
Sikorsky has delivered the 4th of 15 UH60M Black Hawks to the US Army for transfer to the Swedish Defense Military Administration under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Three of the Swedish UH60s will deploy to Afghanistan in Apr 2013 to perform medevac, utility and SAR missions. Prior to transfer, the helicopters will be fitted with an external rescue hoist, gunner seats, armored floor, stackable litters and a cockpit heater.
Bell has delivered 2 model 412s to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) at its Piney Flats TN facility. SLAF Cmdr Air Marshall HD Abeywickrema accepted the keys to the 412s, which add to the already large helicopter fleet operated by the SLAF.
Quest Helicopters has announced the development of a light twin tandem-rotor helicopter to be designed in Ukraine and manufactured in the UAE. Announced at the Dubai Air Show in Nov 2011, the helicopter will have 2 contrarotating 4-bladed rotors and an emergency ejection capsule for the occupants. The cockpit and cabin will separate as a unit from the rest of the helicopter suspended by 2 parachutes, with a minimum altitude of 300 ft for safe operations. Quest expects a first flight in early 2013.
Duke Life Flight has chosen Metro Aviation for EC145 custom completions. According to Metro, the larger cabin size will allow Duke Life Flight personnel to install advanced medical interiors and the option to add a 2nd medical person if needed. Delivery of the completed aircraft is scheduled for Mar 2012.