Wingcopter is finalist for AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards

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Wingcopter has been named a finalist in the XCELLENCE Awards by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI). The Germany-based manufacturer of autonomous delivery drones was selected from a pool of entries as one of six finalists for the Humanitarian category. The winner will be announced during the keynote session on the 8 October at AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2020 in Dallas, Texas.

“The AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations who have applied unmanned systems technology to create solutions to address a range of challenges affecting business and society,” said Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI. “AUVSI is pleased to recognise these finalists for their perseverance and dedication to turn dreams into reality.”

Focused on improving the lives of people worldwide, a significant part of Wingcopter’s projects are of humanitarian nature. Its aircraft can be fitted for long-range delivery of urgently needed medical supplies in areas where infrastructure is poor and traditional means of transport would take too long. Thanks to its patented tilt-rotor mechanism the Wingcopter can take off and land in the smallest areas, while at the same time fly as fast as a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft.

Wingcopter has proven its technology works in various humanitarian projects with missions in the South Pacific island state of Vanuatu, where it set up a drone-based on-demand supply network on behalf of the local Ministry of Health and supported by UNICEF. By delivering vaccines for children to 19 remote health clinics, delivery times could be reduced from several hours or even days to a few minutes. Also in Tanzania and Malawi, Wingcopter was able to prove that drone delivery can drastically shorten patients’ waiting times, especially for urgently needed medicines.

“Being recognised for our humanitarian efforts, something that is deeply rooted in our company DNA encourages us to continue on the path we have chosen. Even though we will expand our activities in parcel and food delivery as well, we will always use our cutting-edge technology for the purpose of saving or improving people’s lives, as we believe that advances in technology should not be a privilege of economically developed societies,” explains Tom Plümmer, Co-Founder and CEO of Wingcopter.

The AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards is for individuals and organisations that are innovators in the unmanned systems industry, with a demonstrated commitment to advancing autonomy, leading and promoting safe adoption of unmanned systems, and developing programs that use these technologies to save lives and improve the human condition.

Italian Air Force aids COVID-19 pandemic

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The Italian Air Force is utilising its Leonardo HH-101A Caesar helicopter for pandemic-response operations in Italy as the country is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini also made the AW101 variant available during this emergency.

The Caesar helicopters are operated by crews from Grazzanise Air Base, Cervia Air Base and Specialised Air Force medical team to transport patients with the virus to hospital or medical establishments.

The helicopter will be equipped with an Aircraft Transit Isolator and an insulated stretcher which is designed for bio-containment air transportation. Combining advanced technologies, mission systems and manufactured design, it will offer the largest cabin in its class with stand-up head room and incorporates the latest in vibration reduction technology. It will be able to perform various missions such as search and rescue, personnel recovery, special operations and the interception of slow flying aircraft.

Bristow flying COVID-19 patients

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Bristow Group is flying suspected COVID-19 patients in the North Sea and the Americas.

Three suspected cases have been transported from offshore energy installations in the North Sea since 18 March, as well as acutely-ill offshore workers in the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad, Tobago and Guyana. These operations included delivering test kits to isolated offshore platforms.

Bristow stated that it will continue to support medical evacuation requests to transport potentially ill or confirmed cases.

The missions were carried out by modified aircraft to ensure the necessary separation is provided between flight crew, onboard medic, and passengers. The implementation of physical barriers, protective curtains and airflow systems all adhere to the body substance isolation (BSI) precautions.

Bristow Deputy Area Manager for the Americas, David Jacob stated that “we are currently on track to be the first commercial operator in this region to implement portable, negative pressure isolation stretchers for high-risk transports involving unconsciousness, non-ambulatory, or high-risk infectious disease patients receiving invasive en route care.”

The rotorcraft are decontaminated after every flight and already equipped with aeromedical transport equipment but will potentially have further equipment added to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Jacob added that Bristow Group was prepared to expand the transport of coronavirus patients; “we are ready to help and have the experience to do it the right way and can expand this service to where needed to help battle COVID-19”.

Helicopter Association International remembers Matthew Zuccaro

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Helicopter Association International (HAI) has sadly announced the passing of Matthew S. Zuccaro, the immediate past President and CEO of the association. 

Zuccaro became an HAI member in the early 1980’s and has since moved through the association with his vast knowledge and experience in the aviation industry. He was elected to the HAI Board of Directors in 1987 and served as chairman in 1991. Following that, he was named President of HAI in 2005, working until retirement in January of this year. In the same month he was honoured with the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award at the HAI HELI-EXPO 2020. 

Amongst his many positions with the association, Zuccaro accumulated 50 years of professionalism and pilot skills. One of his largest accomplishments was a column he wrote in ROTOR magazine in 2013, encouraging pilots to land in situations in potentially dangerous situations for passenger and pilot. This led to HAI’s Land & LIVE programme, a long-term campaign to improve safety by reminding pilots to use their aircraft’s capabilities to land at any sign of danger. “A fitting legacy for a man who was passionate about safety in the industry he loved so much.”

Editor’s comment: How far can you go?

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One of the most interesting things about the helicopter industry, as opposed to the fixed wing sector, is what’s called the “technology cycle”. Comparatively, it’s a very, very long ride in the rotary market. It simply comes down to what an operator wants a helicopter to do. It’s a basic requirement. You need a cabin to carry people. How many people? There’s a natural limit of 19, if you go higher you must have a cabin attendant. So, simply put, that’s why the Sikorsky S-92 is stuck at 18-19 seats. This hasn’t stopped the type becoming one of the leading players within the offshore oil and gas industry though.

Of course, radius of operation is always important and as far as the exploration industry is concerned, it’s critical. But in terms of speed, helicopters have come to a natural threshold in terms of development, unless something revolutionary comes into daily service, speeds are unlikely to change significantly anytime soon. Fuel efficiency, well it’s not terribly important, but if you can have less burn for every given gallon it takes us back to the range equation. The key things any operator seeks is safety and reliability, these are what everyone is focused on.

When assessing at the fixed wing market, what it has is fuel efficiency. Each time there’s a new aircraft with an improved engine such as the NEO or MAX there’s a commercial aircraft series that offers better fuel burn. But a helicopter is simply a collection of spare parts, and there’s nothing out there on the current horizon that will replace it. There’s an upside to this, as it means that types such as the AW139, 169, 189 and the H145, 175 are going to be around for a very long time. They may well be modified over the years, but the medium and super-medium classes are here to stay for good.

Two Bell 505s ordered by Simrik Air

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Bell Textron announced that an order for two of its Bell 505 jet Ranger X helicopters has been placed by Nepal’s Simrik Air. The aircraft will be operated by the company on private and corporate charter flights.

“Simrik’s Air purchase of the first two Bell 505s in Nepal is a key milestone for all of us at Bell,” said David Sale, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, bell. “The order is a testament to the confidence that Simrik Air has in the Bell 505 to perform in the most demanding environments. The two Bell 505s, coupled with the two Bell 407GXPs Simrik Air currently operate, will add even more versatility to Simrik Air’s fleet to better serve their customers.”

At present there are 40 Bell 505s operating in the Asian Pacific region supporting a range of industries. These include tourism and charter flights in China, Cambodia and Vietnam and the type is also used as a training type for cadet pilots serving with the Japanese Coast Guard.

Airbus reveals main rotor modification for the AS365 Dauphin

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Airbus Helicopters, as part of its product improvement programme for its AS365 Dauphin has released details on a modification to the Main Rotor Actuator from Goodrich to avoid intermittent seizing alerts, while improving its reliability.

The intermittent issue has been highlighted following analytical reports which showed a significant ratio of removals due to seizing alerts of the distributor. This was traced to the degradation of a weld on a printed circuit board.

The repair of the Main Rotor Actuator has to completed by an approved repair centre. Currently, Airbus Helicopters is offering a special price and lead time for this specific modification through its network.

Four H160s for the French Navy’s SAR missions

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The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) is to supply four H160s to the French Navy for search and rescue missions through a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines. The French Navy will start operating these helicopters in 2022 for a period of ten years. This interim fleet of H160s will enable the French Navy to ensure the continuity of these critical missions as the Alouette III retires from service and pending Guépard deliveries. Airbus Helicopters, and its partners, will also be responsible for supporting the fleet with a high level of availability and performance commitments. In addition, French Navy operational feedback will be monitored to benefit the design of the military version of the H160 and its support system.

“We are proud that the French Navy will be operating the H160 for their search and rescue missions. We are sure that the improved situational awareness, increased pilot assistance, and visibility that the H160 provides will prove to be a valuable asset for their critical and demanding missions”, said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. “Our industrial partnership with Babcock and Safran Helicopter Engines will allow us to ensure the highest level of availability for the French Navy and we are honoured to have been entrusted with this mission”.

The H160, as a next generation medium twin engine aircraft, powered by Arrano engines, was designed to be a modular helicopter in order to address missions ranging from offshore transportation, private and business aviation, emergency medical services, and public services. Its entry into service is planned for later in 2020. First deliveries of the equally modular military version, the H160M, or Guépard as it known in the French armed forces are planned in 2026. 169 H160Ms are foreseen in the frame of the Joint Light Helicopter programme (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) to replace five types of helicopters in service in the French armed forces.

Leonardo announces new Helicopter Support Centre in Brazil

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Leonardo has announced the expansion of its regional helicopter customer service facilities with a new centre in Itapevi; its aim to improve capabilities in South America. 

The support centre will include maintenance hangars, a bonded warehouse, workshops, a heliport and other services. These services with support the AW119 single engine, AW109 light-twin series and AW family including the AW139, AW169 and AW189 types. This facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 with the possibility of future expansion. 

Currently, there is an excess of 190 helicopters operating in Brazil, supporting for private transport, law enforcement, public services, offshore and naval applications. The centre will provide the ability to enhance services to maximise the helicopter fleets effectiveness and safety.

This development will meet the requirements in the region of a growing South America helicopter market. It will also demonstrate Leonardo’s commitment to the region.