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Fortem International Ltd.
Fortem International Ltd.
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.
Read our latest feature:   FBO Survey: Europe, Middle East and Africa
ME & MY AIRCRAFT–Twin helicopters: Twins can be costly, yet their capability in EMEA rarely disappoints
Twin engine helicopters are the choice of operators across the EMEA region for an exceptionally varied mission profile. They are reputed as 'workhorses' and are just as capable of vip transportation as they are of putting out fires or transporting oil rig workers.
Read this story in our June 2014 printed issue.

Twin engine helicopters are the choice of operators across the EMEA region for an exceptionally varied mission profile. They are reputed as 'workhorses' and are just as capable of vip transportation as they are of putting out fires or transporting oil rig workers. As part of EBAN's 'Me & My Aircraft' series, we asked a selection of twin engine rotorcraft operators to provide feedback on their aircraft, on subjects ranging from dispatch reliability to value for money. There are five major manufacturers in this sector – AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters, Bell, MD Helicopters and Sikorsky – and as part of our survey we spoke to individuals who fly the products of each.

AgustaWestland

Nuno Neto flies an Agusta A109 for Portuguese Vinair Aeroservicos. He is satisfied across the board with the service he receives, and is particularly pleased with the dispatch reliability and the operating capabilities of the aircraft.

Robert Denehy of Aerogulf Services in the UAE has an AW139 short nose helicopter equipped for offshore oil and gas deployment. He is more than satisfied with all aspects of the aircraft, and says that it offers a comfortable and smooth ride. He does admit that its aft centre of gravity is a downside, and would also like to upgrade the system software to version 7.

One contributor who flies an AW139 and wishes to remain anonymous is generally satisfied with the aircraft and says that the safety is impressive. Fuel consumption is unfavourable, however, and they would like to increase the MTOW.

Kaan Air operates an AW109S and an AW109SP in Turkey. Overall, our respondent says he is satisfied with his helicopters, although he doesn't believe they offer good value for money.

Chris Hardy flies an Agusta A109 Grand for A.W. Jenkinson Forest Products in the UK. He is pleased with his aircraft's speed but says that it is very costly. His most desired upgrade is weather mapping.

Ferruccio Magnaguagno of Elimarca in Italy has an A109E and he is generally satisfied with the aircraft. However, he is also less happy with the value it offers.

Strong European presence for Agusta with African interest growing

AgustaWestland manufactures a range of rotorcraft in all main weight categories to meet a wide scope of mission requirements, for government and commercial roles. The company is prolific in light twins, including the AW109 series, the Grand, and GrandNew models. More recently it launched the AW139 intermediate, the AW169 light intermediate and the AW189 super medium, with commonalities across the three types including design, certification and safety standards, components, operational capabilities, maintenance and training approach.

In the commercial sector, the product range covers duties such as vip and corporate transport, offshore transport, EMS/SAR, law enforcement and utility. The company is developing the AW609 tiltrotor and its own unmanned rotorcraft capabilities to further expand capabilities offered by vertical lift.

The light twins from the AW109 series, the GrandNew type and the AW139 intermediate twin are regularly chosen by operators. The AW139, in service since 2004, has orders for 760 units by 200 customers in 60 nations; there are more than 650 already in service. It has a 56 per cent share in the global market in its weight class. Agusta has a 65 per cent share in the global multi-engine vip and corporate market, while the AW139 is often seen in the offshore market, with more than 30 per cent of sales made for this application.

Although almost two thirds of revenue for 2013 was generated in Europe, the company also has a significant presence in the Middle East, with approximately 220 units sold in the area to date. Africa is expected to offer opportunities in the future and some units have already entered service in Kenya and South Africa.

Following EASA certification of the AW189 in February, the manufacturer will focus on handing over the aircraft for its customers as it approaches operational readiness. It will also be focusing on completing the development of the AW169 to allow this to enter service in early 2015.

Airbus Helicopters

Will Banks of GB Helicopters in the UK operates an AS355. He is very satisfied with the type and says that the best thing about the helicopter is its versatility. He does, however, find the availability of parts from Airbus Helicopters to be poor.

Multiflight's Mark Griffiths has AS365s based at Leeds Bradford airport, UK, and he is pleased with both the N1 and N2. Reliability is a big plus point for him, but he does admit that its Class 1 performance is disappointing. HUMS is his most desirable upgrade.

Federico Faloci of Italy's Aermarche flies an AS365N3 and reports that he is satisfied with all aspects of the helicopter.

The UK's South Western Helicopters has an EC135P1. Respondent Eric Proctor says his company is happy with the aircraft across the board.

Eugen Tatu of Romanian C&I Corporation flies an EC135P2+ and speaks highly of the maintenance support he receives from Airbus Helicopters: “We have a very good connection with local Airbus Helicopters representatives.” He is nonetheless unhappy with the operating capability of the aircraft, commenting that it has a low capacity and low endurance. He is also frustrated by the amount of gadgetry on the helicopter. “There are a lot of gadgets on what is a small helicopter, and sometimes issues appear which cannot be controlled by pilot. There are too many electronic devices and no recorder.” He says that the best thing about the 135 is the ease of maintenance and flight planning, but says that the lack of range is a problem. His most desired upgrade is a new transmission system and more powerful engines.

JAI's Jorgen Andersen has an EC135T2+ in Denmark, which he is satisfied with. The quality of the aircraft is particularly pleasing, but he finds that the price is less appealing. He would like to see GPS in the cabin. Akif Turna flies an EC145 for the Turkish General Directorate of State Airports Authority. While he is satisfied with the maintenance he receives, he does see room for further development: “Firstly, the interiors need to be addressed. I would also like to see improvements in the levers for the sliding doors, a fixed mechanism for cowlings, and half-tinted windows for pilots against direct sunshine.” Turna finds that in hot and high conditions, take-off can be difficult. “We need to balance the fuel on board against the hot and high conditions and also consider the number of people on board,” he adds.

The avionics on the 145 are said to suit pilots well, and the auto pilot is an advantage, along with its spacious cabin. Turna is currently experiencing a mast moment problem, especially at unprepared landing and take-off areas.

Frank Zabell says that the AS365 operated by Germany's Northern Helicopter has 'outstanding reliability' and he is extremely satisfied in all respects. He would like to upgrade to the N3 model.

Bell

The Bell 222UT has a low acquisition cost and offers great payload and value for money per hour, according to Andre Coetzee of Henley Air in South Africa. He says that maintenance from the manufacturer has been poor though. “Bell has been poor in providing cost-effective field support for this model.” He would like to upgrade with skids.

“Dispatch reliability is less than 90 per cent at the moment, but we are steadily increasing that,” he says. “As to the operational capability, it is fantastic. We have filled a very specific niche market using this aircraft and it is working well for our company.” He is delighted with the payload of the 222, but the price of spares is often high. He would also like to fit K-flex couplings and an inlet barrier filter.

Michal Wamej of Poland's Magellan Pro-Service is satisfied with the operator's Bell 427 and says it is a good aircraft for the price the company paid. He says spare parts availability has been low, and his most desired upgrade is single pilot IFR.

Aerogulf Services operates a Bell 212 in the UAE, which Dean Houghton describes as a 'basic' model. “The aircraft is equipped for offshore oil and gas, long line and vip,” he says. “The support we have from Bell has always been very good and the aircraft is exceptionally versatile and reliable.” He adds that he occasionally encounters difficulties because the type is not made any more, and he would like to upgrade to the HP version.

Ryan Annandale flies a Bell 230 for Saftronics in South Africa. He remarks that the helicopter performs “as well as can be expected” given its age. He is proud of the aircraft's 100 per cent dispatch reliability and says that it is scrupulously maintained. As to the operational capability, the operator does not use the 230 for cargo purposes. Annandale adds that his machine has a very high avionics specification for a helicopter: “This makes her very easy to fly and navigate,” he says. He would like the aircraft to have more efficient fuel consumption, and if he could he would invest in either a Bell 430 or 429.

Bell products can perform in extremes

Bell Helicopter currently manufactures the Bell 412 and the Bell 429, which can include a wheeled landing gear option. The 429 is a highly developed light twin with single and dual pilot IFR, and it can be configured for a variety of missions. It has a wide cabin and door, can seat up to seven passengers and one pilot, and is certified for a cargo load of 7,500 lbs. It has a range of 411 nm with a cruise speed of 155 kts.

The Bell 412 can perform in extreme climates and has a roomy cabin with space for up to 14 passengers with one pilot; its cruise speed is 140 kts with a range of 358 nm.

There are also types such as the Bell 212, Bell 205, Bell 430 and Bell 222 which are no longer in production, although more than a thousand of these aircraft are still in operation. The manufacturer represents a third of the worldwide market, with customers in 140 countries and approximately 11,000 units currently flying.

The Bell 412 is especially popular and more than 820 operate globally. The newer 429 already has 150 units in service. Mission types include HEMS, corporate and vip transport, SAR, energy, offshore oil and gas, power grid support and other utility missions. There are close to 150 Bell 412s operating in Africa and the Middle East, and nearly 100 in Europe.

The company is working towards the first flight at the end of the year for its latest twin aircraft, the Bell 525 Relentless.

MD Helicopters

Heli Austria's Roy Knaus flies an MDH 902 Explorer. He is satisfied with the maintenance support he receives and is very pleased with the aircraft's dispatch reliability and operating capability. He also believes it offers good value for money. “The Explorer has low noise and a spacious cabin,” he comments. “However, the cost of parts has increased substantially during the last few years. There are no power by the hour components available for the airframe.” His most desired upgrade would be to install 207E engines.

MDs offer a quiet and smooth ride

MD Helicopters offers the MD902 Explorer in the light twin market. This year signals the 20th anniversary of the 902, which was introduced as the most technologically advanced and quietest light helicopter available. It has a composite fuselage, exclusive NOTAR technology and a high useful load.

The aircraft has a high rotor disk at 11 ft, a large unobstructed cabin, a smooth ride and low noise, making it well suited to air ambulance duties. The 902 has also been used for vip. It has made a mark in Europe, where strict noise restrictions and Category A single engine performance are requirements. It has recently found popularity in the Middle East and Africa due to favourable hot and high performance.

Sikorsky

One anonymous respondent was deeply upset with their Sikorsky S-92. The aircraft is configured for oil and gas work but the dispatch reliability has been seriously affected due to a lack of parts and long repair periods. MGB deck and beam cracks have resulted in months of downtime for the operator.

Operating capability is satisfactory, but increased MTOW would be preferred. Our contributor did say that the aircraft's reliability is appreciated by passengers, but is disappointed once more with the internal noise and cockpit vibrations. “Lately we have received complaints about unacceptable external noise and vibration levels,” he says.

Heavyweight Sikorskys fit challenging missions

Twin-engine commercial Sikorsky products include the S-76D and the S-92 helicopters. Its newest helicopter, the S-76D, began delivery in late 2013, with the first delivery going to Bristow Group in December. It has a faster cruise speed and more efficient fuel burn than previous generations, with a maximum range of 443 nm. More than 800 S-76 helicopters have been delivered to customers globally since 1979, contributing daily to a growing 6.4-million-plus fleet flight hours. It can carry out vip transport, offshore oil, SAR and EMS.

The S-92 entered service in 2004. It is fully FAA and EASA compliant and meets or exceeds oil and gas industry requirements. Its range is 547 nm. Since its introduction in 2004, more than 200 S-92 helicopters have been delivered in 24 countries around the world. The combined fleet has accum-ulated more than 675,000 fleet hours. The type specialises in SAR, head of state missions, oil and gas and utility.

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