Good rotary times ahead
We might not have the big helicopter deals of yesteryear but I for one feel positive about the winds of change that are sweeping through the civil and military rotorcraft markets respectively and you should too.
For one, and for fears of sounding like a political spin doctor, things can only get better after the ‘annus horribilis’ of last year and better they have.
As a couple of examples demonstrate within the civil and military market.
In relation to the civil sector, we see OEMs investing in the future with new technologies and next-generation rotorcraft.
Airbus Helicopters has revealed its high-speed demonstrator, dubbed Racer, as part of the European Clean Sky 2 programme. The company unveiled a model of Racer in its aerodynamic configuration at Paris Air Show in June.
Racer, which stands for Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft, has an average speed in excess of 220kt.
This year has also seen concept become reality when Bell unveiled a new future helicopter concept featuring a range of next-generation technologies at Heli-Expo 2017 in Dallas.
The FCX-001 is a five-bladed new medium twin-sized aircraft, positioned as slightly bigger than the Bell 412 in length and in width.
The project was given a deadline of March 2017 to showcase the concept through a full-scale mock-up, provided by Roush, of an augmented reality experience within the cockpit and a virtual reality experience in the cabin.
The investment is focused on supporting technologies and not on a flight test vehicle. If times were as tough as last year perhaps industry would not have seen the concept born into fruition.
In addition, the emergence of Erickson and CHC from bankruptcy has been indicative that the tide of change within the industry was rising towards steady growth.
This market positivity has been further helped by companies like Kaman delivering the K-Max after the production of the model stopped for more than a decade.
The next half of the year is looking to be just as buoyant with promises of orders and LOIs across civil platforms with new models like the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X, entering the market in earnest now it is FAA certified, and the H160 which is gearing up for its certification next year.
Furthermore, the Airbus Helicopters H225 and Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless, following crashes last year, returning to flight injects confidence into the market that business is starting to return to normal.
(Photo: Gary Sissons)
While progress has continued across US military helicopter programmes, upgrades and refurbishment of models have been prominent this half of 2017.
The US Army’s programme to upgrade its legacy UH-60L Black Hawks with a new digital cockpit is proceeding at a pace, following the first flight of the prototype model in January.
Some 760 legacy UH-60L Black Hawks will undergo a major cockpit upgrade to UH-60V standard that will allow them to remain on duty alongside UH-60Ms into the 2030s and beyond.
The Pakistan Navy is set to receive seven former UK MoD Sea Kings by the end of this year.
The first set of Boeing AH-6i armed scout helicopters were received by the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) in June. The 12 aircraft were delivered to the first operational brigade.
Notably, in June this year Sikorsky received the go-ahead from the US Army for a five year contract worth $3.8 billion, which included 40 UH-60M Black Hawks to Saudi Arabia.
There is scope for another 103 aircraft meaning the contract would rise by a further $1.4 billion. It is anticipated that initial deliveries will take place three months from now and carry on into 2022.
A Sikorsky spokesperson stated that the base contract of 257 aircraft includes 182 UH-60M Black Hawks: 142 for the US Army and 40 for the SANG as well as 75 HH-60M Pave Hawk.
The rotary market at current is demonstrative that there is a strength in the whirlybird and it is soaring into the next half of the year with a solid footing.