Today is the last day of HeliExpo 2019. Here’s the latest news
Kopter to base North American production and support of SH09 in Lafayette
Swiss manufacturer Kopter, creator of the upcoming light single SH09, has revealed Lafayette, Louisiana, will be the home of its U.S. subsidiary.
The move, announced by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Kopter Group CEO Andreas Löwenstein at Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo 2019, will see Kopter take up residence in the 84,700-square-foot production facility at Lafayette Regional Airport vacated by Bell in August 2018.
Löwenstein said the site was chosen “for several reasons,” including its proximity to well-established operators and supporting companies, easy access to a qualified workforce, and for the facility itself.
“We have here a turnkey solution,” the told media following the announcement. “We have to do some transformation — it’s quite limited — but it’s a facility which has been built to assemble and deliver helicopters. We have basically all the main features of the facility that are already in place, which makes us gain a lot of time for the industry setup.”
The company’s manufacturing headquarters in Mollis, Switzerland will produce SH09 subassemblies — particularly those relating to dynamic components, with the Lafayette facility serving as a final assembly and customization line for the aircraft. It will also be responsible for all North American deliveries and customer support.
“We are delighted that Kopter chose Louisiana and Lafayette for the assembly of a dynamic new aerospace product,” said Governor Edwards. “The SH09 helicopter will be highly competitive in the marketplace and provide outstanding performance, great passenger and cargo capacity, and superior engineering and design.”
Currently, Kopter has 25 orders from U.S. customers for the aircraft, which is set for certification in 2020, with first deliveries scheduled for later that year. Kopter believes the U.S. market will represent about 50 percent of SH09 sales for the first decade of production.
“We consider the U.S. market [as] being the core light [helicopter] market; it will be very important for us,” said Löwenstein. “This is the reason why we will set quite an important facility here.”
Kopter revealed the creation of a fully owned U.S. subsidiary, Kopter North America LLC, in July 2018. Christian Gras is the CEO of this subsidiary – in addition to his responsibilities as executive vice-president for Kopter Group – and Larry Roberts is the president of sales, marketing and customer support.
The manufacturer began its search for a location to base its U.S. subsidiary with a lengthy list of 38 possibilities, said Löwenstein, and this was aggressively refined. “Louisiana was by far the most attractive place,” he said. “All in all the attitude of the authorities, the facility, the localization, the access… In the equation, Louisiana was getting out the clear winner.”
Hiring and training of the facility’s workforce will begin this year, with the final assembly line set up to essentially mirror the one Kopter is creating in Mollis.
“There is a lot of upfront work to be done, and we will progressively gear up the personnel,” said Löwenstein. The first fully U.S.-assembled SH09 will be delivered from Lafayette in 2021.
Kopter said the facility will create at least 120 new jobs by 2025, when production should reach around 100 SH09s per year.
“The jobs are a center of our preoccupations I think for both sides,” said Löwenstein. “The  jobs we will create in the facility, probably many more, are the baseline for the whole arrangement we have taken.”
Eagle Single provides aerial asset protection from wildfires in world-first
A pioneering project in Australia has seen the creation of a helicopter able to shoot fire retardant gel from the air to protect assets under threat from wildfires.
The “Asset Protection” aircraft is an Eagle Single — a single-engine Bell 212 powered by a Honeywell T53-17B — that was then customized by Eagle Australasia to be able to spray Thermo-Gel fire retardant with extreme accuracy at up to 230 feet (70 meters).
The project was the brainchild of Geoff Sprod, chief pilot and general manager of Sydney-based operator EPS Helicopter Services, and was brought to fruition through a partnership with NRMA Insurance.
The Asset Protection Eagle Single allows a person seated in the rear of the aircraft to spray the fire retardant gel at an appropriate ratio to water through a fire monitor — the type of nozzle that is commonly used by firefighters on the ground to shoot jets of water at a fire. The system includes the fire monitor housed on a Meeker Aviation mount, a 1,400-liter Simplex belly tank, a modified DART basket that contains a 170-psi diesel pump, and a standard 90-gallon auxiliary fuel tank converted to house the Thermo-Gel. Excluding the belly tank, the system weighs about 300 pounds.
Sprod told reporters he originally had the idea to create a helicopter specifically designed for asset protection a decade ago, but due to the complexity of the technical challenges that needed to be overcome, it was only over the last two or three years that he seriously explored developing the idea. Once he had a proof of concept utilizing EPS’s Airbus AS350, NRMA joined the project as a partner, and Eagle Australasia set to work making the system a reality on an Eagle Single.
“We needed an aircraft that had reasonable payload,” said Sprod. “But I was mindful that going for a big twin[-engine aircraft] really wouldn’t work with the [aircraft’s] rotorwash. So, after talking with Grant [Boyter] and the team there at Eagle, they certainly have excellent product knowledge on the Bell mediums, and that instilled a lot of confidence in me with moving forward with the Eagle Single and that they were equipped to develop my idea into reality for me.”
New avionics were also installed, including Eagle’s Generation II Digital Audio System, which supports up to 32 control panels, 20 transceivers and 12 full headsets with no external audio matching required. It also has Garmin G500H, GTN750 and GTN635 navigation, communication and GPS systems, and an AEM MCP01-100N NVIS master caution panel. Finally, the aircraft is fitted with BLR Aerospace’s FastFin System.
The water in the spray system flows at a rate of about 350 liters a minute, giving about three to five minutes of spraying time, said Craig Swayne, manager of sales and support at Eagle Australasia, who was heavily involved in the project’s development.
“The ideal scenario was to be able to apply Thermo-Gel to two houses with one load, which we have achieved at the 350-liters-a-minute mark,” said Swayne. “And it’s ideal with the downwash, because the spray sprays it and gives you some direction, but the downwash just takes this Thermo-Gel and puts it everywhere — under the eaves, and in and around the windows. It just coats everything with the downwash’s assistance.”
He said the biggest challenge in developing the system was achieving the spraying distance Sprod required.
“The key to the whole system is definitely the tip that we came up with and the means of which it injects the gel into the stream of water causing the least bit of turbulence,” he said. “Turbulence in the stream effects the distance.”
Sprod, who owns patents for the system in Australia, the U.S., and Canada, said he has been extremely impressed with the performance of the Eagle Single and the support from Eagle Australasia so far.
“What the Eagle Single can lift and how it performs, it’s just fantastic,” he said. “It is just the perfect platform for this capability. And I can’t speak highly enough of Grant’s team at [Eagle Australasia]. The workmanship on that aircraft is just superb. Both EPS and NRMA are very happy with the final delivered aircraft, and also the support that we’ve received since then.”
The Asset Protection Eagle Single is currently capable of shooting the gel about 165 feet, but Sprod and Eagle believe further enhancements to the pump and monitor could increase that to as far as 275 feet.
How accurate is the system?
“We can get it through the window of a car,” said Sprod. “It is absolutely precise.”
The current Southern Hemisphere fire season represents the first time the aircraft has been used for asset protection by the Rural Fire Service (RFS). Having trialed shooting a different products through the fire monitor last year, the RFS has settled on using Thermo-Gel.
“The system is really at its peak shooting gel,” said Sprod
HeliExpo 2020 save the date!
We are officially wrapping up HeliExpo 2019. That being said we will see you all next year at HeliExpo 2020 which will be held in Anaheim, CA in 2020. Show dates are Jan. 27-30 at the Anaheim Convention Center.