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Fortem International Ltd.
Fortem International Ltd.
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Me & my aircraft: Single engine helicopters – Single helis are adaptable and robust, with twin benefits at lower cost
Single engine helicopters enjoy a wide range of duties in EMEA, from corporate or vip travel to firefighting and cargo. Famed for their reliability and ease of operation, and available at lower cost than their twin engine counterparts, the singles are a popular choice.
Read this story in our October 2014 printed issue.

Single engine helicopters enjoy a wide range of duties in EMEA, from corporate or vip travel to firefighting and cargo. Famed for their reliability and ease of operation, and available at lower cost than their twin engine counterparts, the singles are a popular choice. For this feature, we spoke to the manufacturers behind their design and the pilots and owners who use them every day, to see what all the fuss is about.

AGUSTAWESTLAND

AgustaWestland manufactures two single engine models: the PZL-Swidnik SW-4 and the AW119Kx, the latter commonly known as the Koala. PZL Swidnik is a subsidiary of AgustaWestland.

SW-4

This type was EASA certified in 2007, and has received orders for more than 30 units from customers in Poland and abroad. It is capable of carrying up to five people including one pilot, and has proven particularly successful for training and corporate transport tasks. The platform is the baseline for the development of an unmanned aerials system which is undergoing testing activities. The SW-4 civil variant is engaged in a dedicated demonstration tour in the USA and had its North American premiere at Heli-Expo earlier this year. The cockpit has been enhanced in recent years.

AW119

Close to 240 AW119s have been ordered to date in more than 30 countries by over 100 customers. Originally developed from the AW109 Power light twin helicopter in the 1990s, the AW119 has made significant gains in maximum take off weight, payload, range and mission capability thanks to the installation of G1000 avionics. The AW119Kx can carry up to six passengers plus one pilot and an additional passenger in the cockpit. The AW119 features redundancies of all main systems typical of multiengine aircraft. The aircraft has been used for a variety of applications, including vip/corporate, EMS, law enforcement, utility, firefighting and offshore transport. Ten per cent of its total sales have been made to African customers.

Strong across the board

Ferda Yildiz flies an Agusta A119 Koala for Kaan Air in Turkey. He is very satisfied with the maintenance support, operating capability and value offered by the aircraft, and is satisfied with dispatch too.

AIRBUS HELICOPTERS

Airbus Helicopters, previously known as Eurocopter until its rebrand in January this year, manufactures a number of single engine types. They include the AS350 Squirrel, EC120B Colibri and EC130B. The AS350 holds the record for the highest ever mountain rescue at 8,091 metres, and it has also touched down at the summit of Mount Everest. With 987 units still in service in EMEA, it is the most prevalent type operated by EBAN readers by a significant margin. The EC120 is a five-seat helicopter with a fenestron tail rotor that is deemed well suited to either parapublic or cargo missions. It is a far more recent product than the Squirrel, yet already has 303 units flying in EMEA. The EC130 is a wide body variant of the Squirrel; it too has a fenestron.

Looks great and won't let you down

Richard Bailey of Scientifics Ltd in Derbyshire, UK, operates an EC120B. He is extremely happy with the aircraft in all respects. His favourite features are its reliability, engineering support, comfort, speed, equipment and looks. He is emphatic in his remarks on value however: “It is too expensive, just like all helicopters.” His most desired upgrade is moving map GPS.

Aleksander Pieprzyk flies an EC130B4 for Pieprzyk in Poland. He is pleased with his helicopter and says that the best thing about it is the engine power. Opening the rear doors can be problematic and if he could upgrade anything it would be this. Davide Subrero of Italy's Star Work Sky is very happy with the operating capability of his AS350 range; he has a B2 and a B3. He has received good support from Airbus Helicopters on several of his contracts and he says that the rotorcraft is ideally suited for passenger and aerial work, although he is less pleased with the engine.

BELL

Bell's latest single engine models include the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X and the 407GX.

Jet Ranger X

The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is a five-seat aircraft. It incorporates dynamic components, an aerodynamic design, a dual channel FADEC Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine, a fully integrated glass flight deck with G1000 avionics and multi-mission capability, owing to its fully flat floor which is easily configured. It has large cabin doors for straightforward loading of passengers and cargo and is quieter than ICAO Stage 3 noise limits. It is currently in development and its first flight is expected at the end of 2014. Over 200 purchase agreements have already been placed.

Bell 407GX

The 407GX is said to integrate reliability, speed, performance and manoeuvrability with a cabin configurable for an array of missions and payloads. It too is equipped with the Garmin G1000 flight deck, which provides improved situational awareness. The Rolls Royce 250-C47B turbine FADEC engine delivers effective hot and high performance with the ability to cruise at 133 kts. Its spacious cabin has five club passenger seats with an additional passenger in the cockpit in single pilot operations. The aircraft provides a quiet and smooth ride in all types of weather.

Popularity is second only to the Squirrel

Andre Coetzee has a Bell 206B JetRanger which he operates for Henley Air in South Africa. He is satisfied across the board with the aircraft, and says that its age is the only downside. He deems it very reliable and easy to fly. His most desirable upgrade is to a C20J engine with inlet barrier filter and Van Horn tail rotor blades.

He also has a 206L LongRanger that he is very pleased with, especially the increased gross weight afforded by the lighter airframe configuration. Its age is once again the biggest downside, and he would like a C30P upgrade.

Coetzee is also responsible for a Bell 407. He is pleased with the type, though he does remark that the FADEC is the best and simultaneously the worst thing about it. An inlet barrier filter is again his most desired upgrade.

Northern HeliCopter's Frank Zabell is responsible for the German operator's LongRanger. He is delighted with the maintenance support he receives and with the rotorcraft's dispatch reliability. “It offers unbeatable value for money,” he says.

Robert Denehy of Aerogulf Services in Dubai has a Bell 206, which he uses for offshore and vip. He is very satisfied overall with the helicopter and says that reliability is its best feature. He does concede that it is an ageing aircraft and some vendor support equipment is no longer available. The upgrade he desires most is a K-Flex drive shaft. Denehy also has a LongRanger which he is very satisfied with in every respect. This is also used for offshore and vip and he describes it as a 'very stable flying machine that can carry up to six passengers.' He has nothing negative to say about it, and would like to upgrade with a K-Flex drive shaft.

EBAN spoke with him in detail about the company's future plans with single engine rotorcraft: “We have the Bell 206B3 and the 206L-3 and we are looking to also get an L4 in the near future for an oil contract that we are using for power line inspections. This is going to be an additional aircraft for us.

“The first reason for this potential addition is the endurance, and it also has more lifting capability. You have more room in the helicopter itself, so sometimes for some specific jobs in filming, they require big gyroscopes. In the smaller helicopter this is a little bit tight – we can do the job with the small one but the space is limited for the cameraman.”

Denehy adds: “We were a Bell authorised centre for quite a long time and maintain very good relations. Most of our fleet consists of the Bell 212, we have also had a Bell 412 before, and we have had AW139s. Bell, even with the local representative here, also has excellent service, so we can still find spare parts very easily. The delivery time is very good, so we don't need to stop our operation for a long period of time waiting for a spare part to arrive.

“We are starting to develop our single engine operation more now, and that is what we are doing with the scenic flights, the filming and the photography. We also have a good number of vip requests. Because Dubai is a main attraction at this time, everybody wants to travel by helicopter.”

Peter Thoma of Germany's Heliteam Sud operates a Bell 407 which he says has 'outstanding performance and reliability.' He is particularly happy with dispatch and operating capability, and his most desirable upgrade is a glass cockpit.

MD HELICOPTERS

MD builds the MD500, MD520N and MD600N. The 500 series was originally designed to be a light observation helicopter for the US Army. The 520N incorporated NOTAR technology, eliminating exposed tail rotors; it first flew on May 1st, 1990. The MD600 is an eight-seat development of its predecessors, achieved by stretching the fuselage. Deliveries began in June 1997.

Perfect for pilots

Jorgen Andersen of JAI in Denmark operates an MD520. He is pleased with the rotorcraft, especially its operating capability and value, and he describes it as a pilot's helicopter. He admits that space onboard is at a premium, and his most desired upgrade is EFIS, which he says is coming soon.

AEROSPATIALE

The Aerospatiale range includes the SA315B Lama, SA316, 318 and 319 Alouette, SA341 and 342 Gazelle, SA360C Dauphin and SE313 Alouette II. The Lama has exceptional hot and high capability and was originally designed for the Indian Air Force, while the Alouette was the first production helicopter to use a gas turbine as opposed to a piston engine. The Gazelle is commonly used for light transport. Production of the single engine Dauphin ceased in the 1970s and very few of them are still in service today.

Costly on maintenance but dispatch is high

Francesco Comensoli flies an Aerospatiale SA315B for Italy's Eli-Fly. The company undertakes scenic flights, logging and aerial surveys. He is very satisfied with its maintenance support, dispatch reliablilty and operating capability, and is marginally less pleased with the value.

Laurent Tissier of Helittoral in Perpignan, France, has an Aerospatiale fleet which includes the SA316, 318 and 319. Tissier flies close to the Spanish frontier and the Pyrenees mountains, and states that he is happy with the 318C overall, particularly its value. “It has low operating costs but the maintenance costs are the worst thing,” he says.

“We operate the light single helicopter SA318C in Lama version, and we are looking forward to acquiring a Lama or Squirrel AS350B3 on lease.”

ENSTROM

EBAN had no respondents who operate Enstrom helicopters, but the details for its single turbine model the 480B are given below.

The model has a maximum cruise speed of 109 kts fully loaded and a range of 355 nm with an endurance of at least four hours. Its useful load is in excess of 1,000 lbs and is commonly used for pipeline patrols, training, personal use, law enforcement and transportation. It has a roomy cabin and high inertia along with wide, shock-absorbing landing gear and a low centre of gravity. It is flown extensively in EMEA, including the UK, eastern and central Europe, Israel and the southern tip of Africa.

ROBINSON The Robinson R66 is the sole single turbine model manufactured by the Californian company. It has five seats and a separate cargo compartment. It is faster and smoother than its piston forerunner the R44. Deliveries of the aircraft began in November 2010. It has skid landing gear and combines electromechanical components with a glass cockpit.

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