BA609 Tilt Rotor Makes Airplane Conversion
The Bell Agusta BA609 tilt rotor converted from helicopter to airplane mode in flight for the first time on July 22 and achieved 190 knots or 219 mph. Bell/Agusta Programs Executive Director Jack Gallagher said, "This is truly a momentous point in aviation history because we have finally achieved the full range of flight on the BA609, the world's first civil tiltrotor." He added, "This changes everything in vertical lift and general aviation." Unlike the V-22 with continuous tilt control, the BA609 nacelles move through fixed tilt stops from vertical (90 degrees) to 75, 60, 30, and horizontal (0 degrees). Pilots Roy Hopkins and Jim Lindsey were at the controls when the BA609 made its first complete transition. Mr. Hopkins said, "Jim and I thought the aircraft flew as expected and the vibration level was very low." The first BA609 returned to flight status at the Bell XworX research and development facility June 3, 2005, following an 18-month programmed pause in flight-testing. The downtime enabled Bell to introduce new flight control software and make changes to meet current FAA requirements for birdstrike protection. Aircraft No. 02 is at the Agusta assembly and flight-testing facility in Italy and is now scheduled to make its first flight during the fourth quarter of 2005. Aircraft 03 and 04 will fly in 2006. Aircraft 01 and 02 will be dedicated to handling qualities and power tests. Aircraft 03 will be used for icing trials. Aircraft 04 will be the avionics test article.
Rolls Royce Makes Chinook Suppressor
Rolls-Royce Corp. received an $18 million contract for up to 100 Infrared Exhaust Suppressors (IES-47) to equip the Boeing MH-47 Special Operations Aircraft. The contract was issued by the U.S. Special Operations Command Technology Applications Contracting Office. The new suppressors, are designed to reduce the heat signature of the twin Honeywell T55 gas turbine engines on the Chinook. Engineering and program management will be conducted at Rolls-Royce facilities in Indianapolis, and production work through subcontractors in Danville, Illinois, and Brea, California. The contract runs through May 31, 2007. The Army Cargo Helicopter Program Office is also evaluating a signature-reducing paint scheme for the Chinook developed by the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) at Fort Eustis. Phase 1 tests this October will evaluate a desert scheme, Phase 2 a scheme for vegetation, and Phase 3 a combination pattern.
Greek NH90 Flies
Eurocopter has flown the first serial production NH90 helicopter for the Hellenic Army. The aircraft is the sixth production NH90 to fly, following aircraft built for Germany, Finland, Italy and Sweden. Greece ordered 16 NH90 Tactical Transport helicopters and four Special Operations aircraft in 2003. Options cover another 12 Tactical Transports and two Special Operation variants. Deliveries, including options, will stretch from 2005 to 2010. Both Greek configurations will be powered by Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01/9 engines. Greece also ordered four medical mission kits to convert any of the aircraft to Medevac configuration. Eurocopter now claims 357 firm NH90 orders and 86 options, plus more than 45 aircraft selected for future procurements. There are more than 40 NH90s on assembly lines in France, Germany, Italy, and Finland.
Fire Scout UAV Fires Rockets
A Northrop Grumman RQ-8A Fire Scout unmanned air vehicle (UAV) fired two unguided 2.75 in. test rockets on the Yuma Proving Grounds July 22. Northrop Grumman claims this was the first successful live weapons firing from an autonomous unmanned helicopter. (The Vigilante helicopter UAV fired rockets under control from a chase aircraft.)
The first FIREMAX forest firefighting conversion of the Kaman K-MAX helicopter flew on June 14. Kawak Aviation Technologies in Bend, Oregon manufactures the firefighting package and has its first two orders from Superior Helicopter in Grants Pass. Oregon. After FAA certification, the Superior aircraft will be operated on behalf of the US Forest Service (USFS) under call-when-needed contracts this fire season.
The first Superior FIREMAX made over 100 water drops as the aircraft and tank were being evaluated. Kawak will hold the FIREMAX Supplemental Type Certificate and sell conversions to existing K-MAX operators. “They should be quite plentiful next season,” says Roger Wassmuth, Kaman director of K-MAX marketing and business development. Kaman meanwhile stands ready to restart K-MAX production to fill significant FIREMAX orders. “That means not one or two,” says Mr. Wassmuth. Twenty-five K-MAX helicopters are now in service.
The FIREMAX conversion has two main parts. An hydraulically powered pump with snorkel is driven by the 50 hp accessory pad already on the K-MAX transmission. A removable U-shaped 700 gal water tank water tank straddles the helicopter attached to the load beam on the aircraft centerline. The tank also holds fire retardant foam additives.
The pilot hovers the FIREMAX over a body of water to submerge the end of the 12 ft snorkel, and the 1,500 gallon-per-minute suction pump fills the tank in 25 seconds. At the fire site, the pilot opens the tank doors to douse the flames. The water tank and door are designed to provide excellent hydrostatic head pressure and an extremely dense water column for very effective drop patterns.
A control box on the instrument panel glareshield has the operating switches, digital water level indicator, door indicator lights, and foam concentration indicator. A sight tube in forward part of the tank provides an external backup gauge.
The basic K-MAX has fought fires successfully with an external Bambi Bucket. Four of the helicopters operated under exclusive contracts last year and 11 under call-when-needed arrangements. However, the USFS and foreign governments have shown a clear preference for helicopters with internal tanks. “Their feeling is the belly tank is safer, no matter how well you performed as a bucketed helicopter,” observes Mr. Wassmuth. With USFS tanker board certification, the FIREMAX will be more attractive for exclusive firefighting contracts.
The FIREMAX water tank can be installed and removed in less than hour, and the self-contained hydraulic system can run a grapple accessory for logging. The FIREMAX can fight fires with either bucket or tank depending on the situation.
Kaman is re-certifying the K-MAX from 6,500 to 7,000 lb Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight. It plans another round of BURRO (Broad Area Unmanned Responsive Resupply Operation) demonstrations for the US Army later this year.
First VH-71A Test Vehicle In The US
The first Presidential helicopter replacement (formerly VXX) test article arrived at the Lockheed Martin Owego facility June 10. The Lockheed Martin/Agusta Westland US101 now carries the US military designation VH-71A. A popular name for the Presidential EH101 derivative is still under consideration. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) now plans three imported test aircraft to precede 23 production helicopters and expects the VH-71A to achieve Initial Operational Capability in Fiscal 2009. Lockheed Martin program officials have said an EH101 will be leased from the Italian Navy to support the test program.
The Navy says flight testing of the new Presidential helicopter began before VXX contract award with engine integration testing on a contractor vehicle in December, 2004. US flight testing will begin shortly at Owego and will transition to Patuxent River in 2006. Agusta Westland will build four US101 pilot production aircraft in Yeovil in the United Kingdom. Bell helicopter will assemble the fifth and subsequent aircraft in Amarillo, Texas. Rotor blades, transmissions and other critical parts will be made in Italy and Britain. Presidential communications and protection systems will be integrated in the Lockheed Martin Facilities in Owego.
VH-71A unit cost is expected $82 million per aircraft for the Increment 1 configuration with Presidential airstairs and cabin. Unit price is approximately $110 million per aircraft for the Increment II configuration with advanced BERP IV rotor blades, transmission and tail rotor improvements, and a second display for the Presidential cabin.
Navy policy will not permit discussion of how the service and the prime contractor plan to make the EH101 structure compliant with the latest civil and military safety standards. The Anglo-Italian helicopter was designed and civil certificated before current requirements for crashworthiness and turbine and birdstrike protection were enacted. NAVAIR’s performance and detail specifications for new Navy and Marine aircraft typically exceed current civil safety standards. NAVAIR also expects the Increment 2 airframe to achieve a 10,000-hour service life to match that of today’s VH-60N. Lockheed Martin plans to redesign the EH101 with an all-aluminum airframe to meet current requirements.
Boeing and the US Army have signed the first production engineering contract for the Block III AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter. The $27.2 million research, development, test, and evaluation contract for the Block III open system architecture was signed June 28 in a virtual ceremony linking Washington, DC; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; and Mesa, Arizona. It provides Fiscal 2005 funding for non-recurring engineering on the Block III AH-64D. Follow-on engineering and production contracts are expected.
The Army now plans 597 D-model Apaches in active and reserve units. Boeing Mesa will conclude remanufacture of 313 Block II aircraft in 2010. Block III Longbow Apache deliveries start later that year. Survivors of the 284 Block I Longbow Apaches will be re-inducted for Block III modernization with composite main rotor blades, a new transmission, General Electric T700-GE-701D engines, and numerous systems improvements.
Block III introduces the open systems architecture necessary to integrate wideband network communications, extended range sensing, Level IV control of unmanned aerial vehicles, extended range fire control radar, and passive ranging radio frequency interferometer.
A separate contract was awarded on June 30 for design, development, and integration of the Raytheon AN/ARC-231 radio. The AN/ARC-231 is an Airborne VHF/UHF/LOS and DAMA (demand assigned multiple access) satellite communications system. It networks multi-band secure anti-jam voice, data and imagery.
Telephonics Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Griffon Corporation, has received a subcontract from General Dynamics Canada for 31 APS-143B(V)3 Multi-Mode Radars with Identification Friend or Foe subsystems for the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Project. The contract covers hardware with options for initial spares and 20 years of in-service support. The first test aircraft system will be delivered in July 2007.
The advanced APS-143B(V)3 radar has an open architecture for an internal, fully integrated Mark XIIA IFF interrogator compatible with the IFF interrogators being supplied for the US Navy's MH-60R LAMPS helicopter, the Canadian CP-140 Aurora upgrade program, and the US and International Air Force's AWACS platforms.
The radar program will be managed from Telephonics' facilities in Farmingdale, NY with a portion of the work being performed in Canada.