Roy Knaus, ceo of Heli Austria, has identified and implemented what he considers to be the most desirable upgrade for the AS350B. "It needed a Soloy SD2 conversion with the LTS-101 Honeywell engine," he says. "Heli Austria was the first organisation in Europe to convert the AS350 B to take Honeywell engines. It was a great success and this year we are converting two more aircraft."
The conversion utilises all original AS350B2 drive train components and is FAA certified to be installed under the Soloy STC's SR01647SE into AS350B2s. Knaus reports: "We logged over 1,000 hours in the first year which established a new record for our operation - usually we do around 600 per aircraft. We found the converted aircraft to be very reliable and extremely powerful and there was the plus that, at 'hot and high' the fuel consumption was reduced by about 10 per cent."
Other upgrades identified by operators and owners included the suggestion of air-conditioning from Heli-Air Service and a greater focus on stabilisation from Bruno Cirignano. EBAN survey respondents largely rated the AS350 B2 as a reliable and versatile aircraft with good cargo lifting and multi-mission capability. Heli-Air Service said the aircraft was known worldwide which helped its marketing on aerial works and photography services.
But unusual problems included one reported by Ulf Casel of Skoggsflyg Cassel Aero AB of water leaks into the cabin after heavy rain. Robert Rucker of Agrarflug-Helilift said the AS350B was expensive and Marco Besagni of Helico Srl was also unhappy with the value. Owners and operators have mixed feelings on maintenance support with feedback ranging from very satisfied to very unhappy, however most expressed satisfaction.
Most were satisfied or very satisfied with dispatch reliability, operating capability and value although a minority were unhappy.