Tag Archives: Black Hawk

Regulations likely to drone on and on

During a US Army Black Hawk and DJI Phantom 4 UAV collision in September last year, the helicopter sustained damage to its main rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck while parts of the UAV were discovered lodged in its engine oil cooler.

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At the time an FAA temporary flight restriction was in place, in keeping with good practice which stipulates, ‘travel is limited because of a temporary hazardous condition, such as a wildfire or chemical spill; a security-related event…’

In this case a UN General Assembly meeting, with US President Trump in attendance, was being held in New York City.

Under other FAA restrictions all UAV flight is prohibited ‘from the ground up to 400ft’ and within five miles of an airport or helipad.

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So far, so good. Ostensibly laws are water tight. That is until state level compliance is considered.

New York is a particularly interesting test case as there is no state level regulations prohibiting UAV flight, despite the fact that several civil suits involving drone operators have been brought before the courts. ‘Reckless endangerment’ is often the charge sought by the prosecution when these cases are being debated.

New York City’s government website takes an unequivocal position, which reads, ‘If you see a drone being flown in the city, call 911.’

In contrast, the city’s department of parks and recreation website features the various locations where UAVs can be flown freely.

Allowances, it seems, cannot be made for those who wish to plead ignorance with respect to UAV ownership and responsible flying. The NTSB’s investigative report into the original September incident detailed several errors admitted to by the DJI Phantom 4 owner.

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A summary of the report states, ‘The drone operator was unaware of the collision until an NTSB investigator contacted him. The operator was also not aware of temporary flight restrictions that were in place at the time because of presidential travel and a UN general assembly session. He was flying recreationally and did not hold an FAA remote pilot certificate.’

Without more stringent regulations questions remain, even from this one incident where there were thankfully no injuries sustained by the Black Hawk aircrew or members of the public.

Who will pay for the damages caused to the helicopter? Will the US Army have to rethink how they organise and execute security centered missions when in close proximity to the civil population? Do thresholds of 400ft and upwards and five miles outside of an airport/helipad have to be similarly reassessed?

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Black Hawk Dawn

Ex-military helicopter designs entering the commercial market are potentially breathing life into the industry, with CH-47 and UH-60 Black Hawk variants now entering service from North America to Australia.

In August, the US Army Contracting Command Redstone, on behalf of the Utility Helicopters Project Management Office, announced the availability of 14 UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters for sale under the Black Hawk Exchange and Sales Team programme.

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From a Hawk to Orca

This could mean we see more refurbished examples of the type appearing in the civil domain in the next few years worldwide. However, with the market just keeping its head above water following the economic downturn, do these models pose healthy competition or oversupply if taken into the civil sector?

Three years on from the first Black Hawk auction, companies are bringing forth their overhauled aircraft to the commercial market. Some of the major players that refurbish ex-US Army Black Hawks are Arista Aviation, BHI2, Global Aviation Solutions, Rogerson Kratos and Unical Defense.

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The Black Hawk, having been on the frontline of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq as well other theatres, is suited to the hot and high environments of southern European regions during the summer fire season. While refurbished models have already been tasked with firefighting missions, other sectors that could utilise the platforms include SAR, EMS and law enforcement.

Sikorsky Australia recently announced that it will refurbish ten ex-US Army rotorcraft for firefighting and disaster relief operations. The A$63 million ($50 million) contract announced on 27 July will see deliveries of the Black Hawks to StarFlight Australia begin in Q1 2018.

StarFlight, a joint venture that was established in 2015 by LifeFlight and Kaan Air, also holds an option on a further ten helicopters of the same type.

Under the contract, Sikorsky Australia will structurally refurbish the aircraft and install new engines, main and tail rotor gearboxes and drivetrain and a new rescue hoist. The cockpit will be upgraded with a helicopter terrain awareness and warning system.

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What will be interesting to see is if these helicopters really establish themselves in the European market or if they are held up by regulations as they convert to civil usage. It is likely that the red tape might just delay things, and operators might experience hassle here.

In March 2017, Sikorsky confirmed at Heli-Expo that it is committed to serving the growing technical and logistical support needs of more than 30 commercial operators who have acquired surplus UH-60A.

Also at the show, Darrell Kindley, CEO of Global Aviation Solutions, told RH that the Acehawk, one of the company’s refurbished Black Hawks, was expected to receive its STC by the Q2 2018.

The Acehawk is a retrofit kit available for UH-60A/Ls and S-70 aircraft, and the aircraft is to be marketed worldwide as well as in the US.

The Acehawk cockpit features four 12in, 4K displays and two touchscreen controllers, panoramic view and aynthetic vision technology, and the option to integrate third-party radios, sensors and other mission equipment without affecting the G5000H core software.

The Black Hawk is a robust and versatile helicopter, which has more than proven itself in the military arena. However, with a civil market bustling with new platforms and legacy medium to heavy aircraft fairly capable of undertaking firefighting missions, the Black Hawk will have to get its claws in pretty deep to prove it is not a flighty bird and will be able to stay the long term in the civil market.

Never a dull moment

While progress has continued across US military helicopter programmes, one platform that has garnered its share of headlines is the Black Hawk, with developments in the Middle East and across Asia-Pacific.

As more refurbished UH-60s take on an array of roles in the civil market, the aircraft remains a popular choice for military forces.

Notably, in June this year, Sikorsky received the go-ahead from the US Army for a five-year contract worth $3.8 billion, which includes 40 UH-60M Black Hawks to Saudi Arabia. There is scope for another 103 aircraft, meaning the contract could rise by a further $1.4 billion. It is anticipated that first deliveries will take place three months from now and carry on into 2022.

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A Sikorsky spokesperson stated that the base contract of 257 aircraft includes 182 UH-60M Black Hawks – 142 for the US Army and the 40 for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) – as well as 75 HH-60M medevac aircraft.

In July, the Royal Thai Army (RTA) ordered four more UH-60M Black Hawks from Sikorsky after receiving US Congressional approval. This acquisition will enable the RTA to field a complete squadron of 16 aircraft.

In addition, the Republic of China Air Force will replace its Sikorsky S-70C Bluehawk fleet with UH-60M Black Hawks beginning in December, it announced in April, while in August, the Brazilian Air Force announced that its UH-60L Black Hawk had reached 30,000 flight hours.

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Meanwhile, the US Army’s programme to upgrade its legacy UH-60L Black Hawks with a new digital cockpit is proceeding apace following the first flight of the prototype model in January. Some 760 legacy UH-60L models 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.

However, it is not just the Black Hawk spreading its wings across the globe. Boeing’s military helicopter offerings in the form of the AH-64E and AH-6i have also been gathering momentum, with the first set of the latter received by the SANG in June. The 12 aircraft were delivered to the first operational brigade.

The company has also been awarded a $223 million FMS contract for eight CH-47F Chinooks, as part of a wider multiyear deal with Saudi Arabia, the US DoD announced on 23 August, while in June the UK MoD announced a six-year £48 million Apache helicopter training contract.

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Boeing is not the only company for whom there have been developments, with a number of news items – both positive and negative – emerging for other OEMs.

MD Helicopters revealed in March at Heli-Expo 2017 that its new 6XX will be marketed to military as well as civil customers. It was originally designed for a foreign military customer, but it is unlikely a contract will materialise.

At another helicopter show, MAKS 2017 in Moscow, Russian Helicopters showcased its latest military derivative of the Mi-8/17 portfolio, the Mi-171Sh-VN attack helicopter.

While Pakistan’s navy is set to receive seven former UK MoD Sea Kings by the end of this year, Leonardo will supply an undisclosed number of AW139 intermediate twin-engine helicopters to the government of the country early next year.

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However, an Indian Navy deal valued at over $1 billion for 16 multirole helicopters was given a quiet burial after being scrapped by the MoD. Price negotiations with Sikorsky for the S-70B Seahawk collapsed in June, ending a deal that held much promise for the navy, which is wrestling with issues in relation to its current Sea King fleet.

Bell Helicopter highlighted imminent deliveries of its tiltrotor and attack helicopter offerings across Asia at the Paris Air Show. The company will see the first V-22 handed over to Japan in September/ October this year while the AH-1Z Viper will start to be delivered to Pakistan soon.

Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion is entering production and company officials are confident that the USMC Heavy Lift Replacement Program is on track.

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Find the latest edition of Defence Helicopter here and more news online.

 

Gallery: Taiwan’s shiny new Black Hawks

Our Asia-Pacific editor (and all round nice bloke) Gordon Arthur has been in Taiwan this week to watch the country’s annual Han Kuang war games. While there, he’s managed to get some fantastic shots of the Republic of China Army’s (ROCA) newest aviation asset, the UH-60M Black Hawk.

For indepth coverage of Taiwan’s Han Kuang exercise, see Gordon’s full story here.

From a total of 60 UH-60M ordered, the army will eventually receive 45 and the rest will go to the National Airborne Service Corps (NASC), which performs non-military missions. The NASC Black Hawks are currently sporting a very trendy red paint scheme but in wartime it would be repainted black and additional military kit fitted.

Here’s a selection of photos, all copyright to Gordon Arthur and Shephard Media.

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