Tag Archives: #aircraft

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.

Black Hawk Landscape

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.

For more on the civil and military helicopter markets in review this year, please see shephardmedia.com

RIAT 2017: Tattoo markings in the sky

This year’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford did not disappoint with its wide range of aircraft on static display and those flying across the skies above.

Among those on flying display was the Airbus A400M transport aircraft. While the aircraft has been blighted by cracks in the propeller gearbox, despite this in March of this year Indonesia confirmed its intent to purchase four A400Ms.

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Another crowd pleaser was the RAF’s Chinook which demonstrated its prowess by wowing the crowds with its balancing act on its rear wheels and then taking off again.

Also present at the show were strategic strike bombers such as the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress and, in a rare appearance, the U-2 ISR aircraft.

The US Air Force aircraft has recently been involved in intelligence gathering operations in Afghanistan and has now been operated by the air force for more than 50 years.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail was on display with its radar mounted on its fuselage – the aircraft present at the show had recently been conducting ISTAR missions in the Middle East.

Fighter aircraft displaying their wares included the F-15 and the Eurofighter Typhoon while rotorcraft present included the HH-60G Pave Hawk and the AW159 Wildcat amongst many others.

For more news from the show, please visit https://www.shephardmedia.com/show-news/air-power-conference-2017/

It’s all go at the show

In the week that was, we saw the UK’s then prime minister open proceedings at the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA 2016) only to then be replaced two days later by Theresa May. Also, Pokémon Go happened (!).

Monday got off to a flying start with an array of airborne announcements. In total 59 aircraft are to be delivered by Boeing to the UK.

The company confirmed that it was now on contract for 50 AH-64E Apaches for the British Army. In addition, the UK MoD is also to receive nine P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) from Boeing.

Rain stopped play on Monday afternoon. Panic only really set in at the media centre when the wi-fi went down and then the journalists got up and ran for the station navigating through the British summer time monsoon that descended. Here at Shephard we were highly amused by all the weather-related puns.


Leonardo added two more international customers to its Falco Evo Shephard learnt at FIA 2016. The new customers currently operate the legacy Falco UAS.

In other UAS news, the Fury guided munition, jointly developed by Textron Systems and Thales UK, will undergo final moving target testing later this year. The Fury is designed to be utilised by small and medium sized UAS and special missions aircraft.

In training news, a second team announced that they would be putting their hat into the ring for the UK MoD’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) programme. ASDOT considers the UK’s live air training activities and airborne threat training.

For the #avgeek  the F-35 Lightning tearing up the airshow sky was an exciting and LOUD affair throughout the week. Raytheon was vocal about its involvement with the aircraft as suppliers of weapons systems to the platform.

Raytheon were also host to one of the most engaging and firey presentations at FAI 2016. Air Cdre Dean Andrew, ISTAR force commander on the Sentinel R1, talked passionately to journalists at FIA 2016 in an effort to lobby ‘anyone that would listen’ regarding cuts to his force announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015. Journalists could not believe their luck with Andrew’s candor and repeatedly asked ‘you know you’re on record right?’.

It was a great show for rotorcraft as Sikorsky’s armed Black Hawk made its debut at the show. The company revealed that it was working closely with a customer but would not divulge their name, more the pity. The weapon system is anticipated to be qualified by the end of this year. Leonardo Helicopters also debuted their armed version of the AW149.

Bell Helicopter paid tribute to their crew members who lost their lives on 6 July during a test flight of the 525 Relentless.

Company officials were seen wearing ‘R’ badges in memory of the 525 Relentless crew. The V-280 mockup made its international debut at FIA 2016 and also the company appointed RUAG Aviation in Switzerland as its newest customer service facility for the Bell 429.

v-280 cropped

FIA 2016 proved to be an eventful show with contracts signed, aircraft debuting and tropical weather storms adding to the mix. Shephard covered a whole host of topics so be sure to check out our dedicated news page.



I hate to Brexit to you…

Last week, I attended a media day at London Oxford Airport. Located 65km from the capital, on-site helicopters can fly passengers to London in around 22 minutes.

It boasts to be the sixth busiest airport for business aviation within the UK’s mainland totalling 8,000 business aviation passengers per year.

Ninety-five per cent of the airport’s traffic is to EU destinations of which 40% is domestic in accordance with WINGX Advance. Current popular EU destinations include: Paris, Milan and Dublin among others.

One of the interesting topics raised during the day was the possibility of the UK leaving the European Union when the electorate take to the polls on Thursday 23 June.

The EU referendum will allow people to place a cross whether they wish the UK to remain in the European Union or to leave.

The question is: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

The Twittersphere and media have coined the withdrawal as Brexit, and the government is of the stance that the UK should remain within the EU.

Interestingly, one of the key seven points being promoted by the government’s ‘Stay-in’ campaign states in relation to aviation that: ‘The EU has made it easier and cheaper for us to travel around Europe. EU reforms in the 1990s resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights.’

A populist appeal but an issue with real monetary value for the likes of the voting public. However, what is the aviation industry stipulating with regards to the potential effect of leaving the EU?

In general the consensus, though said ever so quietly, is for a wish to remain (if not, please do reply).

Perhaps the reason there is not much volume on Brexit is because there’s a gut feeling it might not happen, provocatively-speaking of course. This is not a call to arms, however, a more evident narrative on the industry’s response to the possibility of Brexit is needed.

It was only last month that Boeing choose London as its new European headquarters.

The reason the disruption of current red tape legislation could interrupt processes and leave a very perplexed industry in only a couple of months.

The sector is still feeling the effects of the reduction in oil price, which surely would be impacted further if the UK left with an anticipated fall in confidence in its currency.

As the government comments: ‘The resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound, which would risk higher prices for some household goods and damage living standards.’

CAPA, the Centre for Aviation in January this year published a report titled, ‘Brexit up in the air: implications for aviation if the UK votes to leave the European Union.’

One of the report’s headlines was that ‘the EU has a liberalised aviation market’; which is in relation to the low cost travel argument which allows airline operators within member states to function across the Union ‘without restrictions on capacity, frequency, or pricing,’ the report commented.

Membership of the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) is not something guaranteed to the UK if it does depart from the EU.

The ECAA is a multilateral agreement which ‘creates an open framework accessible for European countries which wish to fully integrate into the European aviation family and to fit into the Neighbourhood Policy of the EU. The objective is to integrate the EU’s neighbours in South-East Europe and the internal aviation market which consists of EU member states as well as Norway and Iceland.’

Moreover, another area looked at by the report is the fact that the UK even if not an EU member state it is still likely to have to comply with EU aviation law. However, it would probably be restricted in its authority over the creation of new legislation and amendments to existing laws.

An interesting point, James Dillon-Godfray, head of business development at London Oxford Airport raised was the notion that the London property market could suffer which would majorly influence London business aviation.

With less than two months to go until polling day, the industry’s stance on remaining or staying needs to be more present; as one of the fundamental industries for jobs and trade, travel and living standards it could dictate the outcome: whether it’s take-off or stationary.

The big arms bazaar in the desert

In a departure from recent air shows in the region, Dubai 2015 didn’t really have a multi-billion dollar headline announcement from one of the GCC’s major airlines.

More the benefit for the defence journalists present who were delighted that military and civil security deals were the order of the week with Saab, AgustaWestland and Aeroland UAV all featuring heavily.

Not that there weren’t teething problems with the organisation, or location.

Imagine the mild sense of farce as hundreds of exhibitors, journalists and delegates are left queuing around the building as they try to gain entrance on the opening day of the show.

An intricate and fiendish crowd funneling system attempted its own recreation of the Large Hadron Collider by using the disparate tendrils of frustrated humanity as matter for its prism of officialdom, squeezing those present into a single condensed beam of focused anger. A word to the wise for 2017; more staff, more entrances, fewer frayed tempers.View up high

There was some common sense in moving the show from its previous venue to the purpose-build Sheikh Al Maktoum Dubai World Central. More space for one. Room to expand even further the other. The down side to its remoteness means that fierce evening winds blast through the static display, it being the desert and all, and it takes a small era to get there in the first place.

Unless you like the charms of the free zone, baking warehouses and all, there are more picturesque locations to be. The exception to that is if you’re viewing the area from a Chinook 1000ft in the air, in which case it’s great.

So a thumbs up to Dubai then.

And because it’s based (near) the that most vertiginous of metropolises, the evening receptions by all accounts can be pretty decent too. Just ask Katy Perry.

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The never ending story

The poor maritime patrol aircraft has found itself benefiting from a popularity bump in recent days as national media thrash themselves silly over what will and what won’t form part of an expected UK requirement to fill one of the gaps created by the now (in)famous 2010 SDSR.

We can expect to see MPAs putting on a bunch of new outfits and strutting their stuff, parading before a customer probably very keen to make the right call this time around after the unmentionable catalogue of misadventure that was the MRA4 programme.

Some of the MPAs are likely to opt for the classical approach, sporting well-styled turbo-props that hark back to the early days of flight. The comforting thrummm of such aircraft in flight and attached nostalgia could be a pull when it comes to the crunch.

What do we know of the crunch though? Little to nothing.

But we live in the jet age don’t we? Maybe the UK needs a jet, something with two to four engines, a big old payload capability and endurance great enough to fly through a full day-night cycle and really mess with the souls tasked with flying and operating the thing.

For this it’s likely to be down to a fly-by-wire or fly-by-light decision, each located very much at opposite end of the latitudinal poles, thanks to a bit of a shortage of aircraft-manufacturing capability/desire in the UK.

Or maybe the UK could just be done with it and head into the unmanned age, which after all is where it’s at, so say all the people that know far more than this hack. Maybe what the MPA needs is to do is go all ‘Tron’, sleek and post-modern with futuristic gleam, a suitable electro soundtrack thumping in the background as it takes it’s turn on the runway.

Whatever the case, whatever the prevailing fashion, expect it to get a whole lot more contentious before we are all finally put out of our heightened state of suspense.

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Helo-high flyers at Helitech

This year Helitech International made a return to the London docklands after being moved from the Duxford site back in 2013.

While some are still disgruntled at the move there was the opportunity to see a lot of aircraft as well as perform a bit of business with major players in the civil rotorcraft industry.

Bell Helicopter provided demonstrations of its Bell 429 aircraft with a new VIP interior, two of which have already proved too tempting for unnamed Russian and Swiss customers.

bell video cropped

This year’s show saw two new aircraft on display, the Airbus Helicopter H160 and the Bell 505 Jetranger X. The former has completed its first test flight since being unveiled at Heli Expo earlier this year and the company is expecting deliveries of the aircraft will begin in 2018.

h160 video cropped

One of the dominant topics of conversation was of course the oil and gas market which has seen the price of oil fall below $50 a barrel in recent months. While there is some concern over the market situation many are expecting to see things turn around in the next month given the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry.

Bell Helicopter is expecting the grass to be greener soon and is positive that its Bell 525 Relentless will be in a good position when certified in 2017 as this, and likely to coincide with the turnaround in the oil and gas market. Grant Turnbull spoke with Bell CEO about the prospects for the 525.

Playing a bigger role in the market as operators look towards different finance options are the helicopter leasing companies. Notably at this year having a large presence at Helitech, companies such as Waypoint Leasing took up as much stand space as some of the major OEMs.

Waypoint produced some of the bigger announcements of the show with orders placed for 20 H135s and 18 AgustaWestland family aircraft.

It’s not all about oil and gas, the UK’s National Police Air Service (NPAS) formally accepted delivery of its EC135 T2+ at Helitech. The aircraft has been fitted with custom-designed equipment suites including a new mission management system.

NPAS video cropped

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