Tony Osborne (

Tony Osborne (
EASA Approves Fix For AS350B3e Tail Rotor Problem 

Eurocopter is planning to retrofit the worldwide AS350B3e fleet with a modification to solve a tail rotor issue by August.

The manufacturer, owned by EADS, says the retrofit, which involves the removal of chin weights fitted to the tail rotor assembly and the installation of a load compensator, will fix issues suffered by operators of the B3e variant of the Ecureuil single-engined light helicopter that was launched by the manufacturer at the 2011 Heli-Expo event.

U.K. Helo Operators Prepare For Night Vision Goggle Use 

A U.K. helicopter operator has received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval to begin flying air ambulance operations using night vision goggles (NVG).

Bristow Increases Operating Income Despite EC225 Troubles 

Helicopter operator Bristow Group boosted its operating income in the third quarter of 2012 despite its European operations being hit by the grounding of the Eurocopter EC225.

However, the company says that it is currently unable to determine whether the ditching incidents in May and October of last year and “the resulting actions taken by the CAAs [civil aviation authorities]” will have a material adverse effect on its “future business, financial condition or results of operations.”

Fourth AW169 Joins Company’s Flight-Test Program 

AgustaWestland is pushing ahead with the flight-test program of its AW169 twin-engine helicopter , with the first flight of the fourth prototype. AC4 flew Jan. 31 at the company’s facilities at Vergiate, Italy, and will join the other three prototypes.

The first three AW169 prototypes, which first flew last year in May, July and November, have completed more than 150 flight hours. AgustaWestland hopes to achieve certification in 2014.

FAA Releases Tiltrotor Noise Rules 

The FAA is defining noise regulations in readiness for the introduction of civilian tiltrotor aircraft.

While the first civilian tiltrotor, the AgustaWestland AW609, is not expected to be certified until the end of 2016, the FAA’s rules aim to establish noise limits for the new aircraft type and harmonize U.S. rules in line with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Eurocopter Looks To New Models 

Eurocopter has begun design work on a new helicopter that will incorporate the high-speed technology used in its X3 demonstrator.

CEO Lutz Bertling told journalists at the company’s annual press conference in Paris Jan. 24 that the first designs are now on the drawing board, but he would not offer a timeline for when or in what form the hybrid rotorcraft would appear. “This concept is not about high speed, but high productivity and it delivers additional productivity to the operator,” he said.

Embraer, AgustaWestland Plan JV For Helicopter Production 

AgustaWestland and Embraer are examining the potential of helicopter production in Brazil.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) looking at establishing a joint venture that could lead to the production of AgustaWestland’s helicopters in Brazil for both military and civil use.

Such a project would give the company a foothold into the Latin American market, currently dominated by Eurocopter and Bell, while Sikorsky has also managed to enter the fold with sales of its military and civil products.

Eurocopter Prioritizes EC225 Fix 

Eurocopter is calling the main gearbox issue afflicting the North Sea fleet of EC225 helicopters the most serious technical problem that the company has encountered, but maintains that fixing it is a top priority.

CEO Lutz Bertling described the problem as “more severe than any technical issue than we have had in the past,” during comments at the company’s annual press conference in Paris Jan. 24. “We are conducting test flights to find those sets of parameters that caused the issue, but it is not easy,” he said.

Agusta Crash Brings London Helo Ops Scrutiny
A growing number of senior politicians in London, including Mayor Boris Johnson, are calling for reviews into helicopter operations over the capital following the fatal crash of an Agusta A109 helicopter on Jan. 16. (AW109s photo: AgustaWestland)
First Russian-Built AW139 Helicopter Begins Flight Tests 

The first Russian-built AgustaWestland AW139 has begun flying, bringing the AgustaWestland/Russian Helicopters joint venture HeliVert a step closer to its goal of producing up to 20 of the medium helicopters a year for the Russian market.

The first flight, announced Jan. 15, actually took place on Dec. 19 following the aircraft’s rollout the day before. The aircraft flew for 37 min. and completed a series of tests for Russian aviation authorities. It is now involved in a short flight test program before delivery to the as-yet-to-be-announced customer.

Eurocopter: EC225 Probe To Continue Past February 

Engineers hunting for the cause of a gearbox issue that has grounded the North Sea fleet of Eurocopter EC225 helicopters say their search may extend further into 2013 than originally planned.

Eurocopter had hoped it would find the root cause of the main gearbox (MGB) problem, which forced pilots to carry out controlled ditchings of two EC225s into the North Sea last year, and be able to return the EC225 fleet to full operational capability by the end of February.

First Russian-Built AW139 Helicopter Flies
The first Russian-built AgustaWestland AW139 has begun flying, bringing the AgustaWestland/Russian Helicopters joint venture HeliVert a step closer to its goal of producing up to 20 of the medium helicopters a year for the Russian market. (AW139 photo: Jordi Paya)
Investigators Broaden Search In EC225 Gearbox Probe 

U.K. air accident investigators have widened their search into the root cause of gearbox failures that forced the crews of two Eurocopter EC225 helicopters to ditch into the North Sea last year. In late 2012, investigators from the U.K. Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) linked their probes into two controlled ditchings of EC225s – one operated by Bond Offshore in May and a second operated by CHC Scotia in October. The rest of the North Sea EC225 fleet was grounded in the U.K. and Norway following the incidents.

AgustaWestland Hopes To Sell 200 SAR-Equipped AW189s
AgustaWestland believes it can sell as many as 200 AW189 medium helicopters equipped for search and rescue (SAR) missions over the next 15 years. (AW189 photo: AgustaWestland)
Bell Appeals For Reconsideration Of Bell 429 Weight Increase Petition 

FAA has opened a comment period to consider Bell Helicopter’s appeal to increase the maximum gross weight of the Bell 429 helicopter.

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