Rotorcraft Report: V-280 Completes Low Power Ground Run

Latest highlights in rotorcraft and vertical flight.

Bell Helicopter’s V-280 construction was completed at the beginning of September. Bell said the aircraft completed its first low power ground run Sept. 29. Oct. 7, the aircraft completed a ground test with rotor rotations per minute at 100%. First hover flight is scheduled for November, with first conventional flight scheduled for the following month.

Bell’s timeline has the V-280 able to enter the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase in 2019 or 2020.

That would be some five years sooner than the military’s U.S. Army-led FVL timeline.

During a media event at Bell’s assembly facility in Amarillo, Texas, V-280 Program Manager Chris Gehler and Global Military Business Development Director Carl Coffman explained how the company’s accelerated timeline could work. It rests on the assumption that the U.S. Defense Department would adopt a new acquisition procedure, aligning with its goal of reforming the acquisition process. Gehler said the steps in the FVL program align with the goals of a technology maturation risk reduction (TMRR) phase, which comes prior to a competitive bid. If the government could accept the work Bell is doing for the FVL program as a substitute for a TMRR phase, the acquisition process could be accelerated. This could take off up to eight years, according to Gehler.

To help win the Army’s favor, Bell designed the V-280 to align with what the Army is currently using. The Army does not currently operate the Bell-Boeing V-22. V-280 Build Team Manager Jeff Josselyn said that the new tiltrotor’s wingspan is about the same size as a Sikorsky Black Hawk, although the company claims the two aircraft have different capabilities. (Bell says the V-280 would have twice the speed, maybe five-times the range as a late-model Black Hawk.) Josselyn, a former Black Hawk pilot, noted the V-280’s “spacious” cockpit and its large windows. The current prototype’s cabin takes advantage of the partnership with Lockheed Martin and features the same suite found in a C-130K. And although the V-280 is designed as a fly-by-wire aircraft and doesn’t need a traditional cyclic/collective configuration, Bell has fitted the aircraft with side sticks, borrowed from the 525. The V-22 features a forward throttle control. The fuselage is borrowed from the 525 as well; Bell is partnered with Spirit AeroSystems for that component. RWI

Leonardo Helos Gets Leader

Leonardo Helicopters has a new top leader.

Gian Piero Cutillo

Daniele Romiti is being succeeded as managing director of Leonardo’s Helicopters Division by the parent company’s CFO, Gian Piero Cutillo. The shift is part of a larger reorganization of the Rome-based aerospace and defense company.

Romiti, who now will report to Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo with responsibility for special projects, took the helm of the rotorcraft OEM in 2013 in the wake of an India bribery investigation that saw the arrest of his two predecessors.

Cutillo was appointed CFO of the former Finmeccanica in 2012. He began his career in 1989 as a manufacturing financial planner for Texas Instruments, and his posts since then included SVP of planning and control for Piaggio Group. Leonardo VP Group Finance Alessandra Genco will succeed him as CFO.

In the latest reorganization, the company said, Profumo created the new posts of chief commercial officer (filled by the former managing director of Leonardo’s Land and Naval Defence Electronics Division, Lorenzo Mariani) and chief of people, organization and transformation (filled by Simonetta Iarlori). RWI

Fort Rucker Takes on Hurricane Irma

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

A UH-60M Black Hawk descends on Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center’s Hagler Field Sept. 9, 2017. Twenty Black Hawks and 17 CH-47F Chinooks with the 110th Aviation Training Brigade at Fort Rucker, Alabama, moved to Mississippi to remove them from the path of Hurricane Irma. Another 32 AH-64E Apache helicopters from the 110th ATB are staging at Meridian Key Field. RWI

Air Med Groups Drafting Aid for Assessing Helo Safeguards

Three air medical industry groups, prompted by the NTSB, are drafting guidelines to help hospitals and aircraft operators better understand the safety provisions built into helicopter air ambulances they are considering acquiring.

Led by the Association of Critical Care Transport, the effort includes the Association of Air Medical Services and the Air Medical Operators Association. A small group of representatives from those groups is drafting a set of questions that hospitals and operators might use in assessing which helicopter best meets their safety and operational requirements, said Executive Director Greg Hildenbrand of Life Star of Kansas, a board member of the critical care transport group who is working on the effort.

The goal is to complete that draft and circulate it for comment by a technical advisory panel that includes engineering representatives from Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter, Leonardo Helicopters and Sikorsky, and possibly MD Helicopters, said LifeFlight of Maine Executive Director Tom Judge. Judge, the ACCT board member who chairs the effort dubbed the NTSB Safety Recommendations Steering Committee, said comments also will be sought from professional organizations in the air medical community. RWI

Aurora Flight Sciences to Become a Boeing Company

Boeing plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., the to-be subsidiary said. Although the sale is not yet official, the two parties have signed an agreement. Terms have not been disclosed.

Aurora Flight Sciences LightningStrike X-Plane.Photo courtesy of Aurora

“The combined strength and innovation of our teams will advance the development of autonomy for our commercial and military systems,” said Greg Hyslop, CTO and SVP of Boeing engineering, test and technology. “Together, these talented teams will open new markets with transformational technologies.”

Boeing and Aurora have worked together before, collaborating on prototypes and structural assemblies in commercial and military applications. Aurora would keep its name should the transaction be completed, with “A Boeing Company” tacked onto the end. It would also retain an independent operating model as a subsidiary under Boeing Engineering Test & Technology. Boeing’s financial guidance would not be affected.

“Since its inception, Aurora has been focused on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make aircraft smarter,” said John Langford, Aurora Flight Sciences founder and CEO. “As an integral part of Boeing, our pioneered technologies of long-endurance aircraft, robotic co-pilots and autonomous electric VTOLs will be transitioned into world-class products for the global infrastructure.”

Aurora was founded in 1989, and has since designed, produced and flown more than 30 unmanned aircraft systems. It is headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, operates in six states and has an office in Luzern, Switzerland. Aurora President Mark Cherry spoke at R&WI’s Rotorcraft Business and Technology Summit last month in Fort Worth, Texas. There, he discussed Aurora’s autonomy projects. The company was recently awarded a U.S. Air Force contract worth $499 million to support a research program. In April, Aurora and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that the XV-24A LightningStrike subscale vehicle demonstrator had completed its planned flight-test program. RWI

Safran Unveils High-Power Engine for Super-Medium, Heavy Helos

Safran Helicopter Engines unveiled a new, 2,500 to 3,000-plus shp engine family for super-medium and heavy helicopters, with its first application on Leonardo Helicopters’ AW189.

The Aneto high-power turboshaft family, presented at October’s Helitech International in London, fulfills the strategy of Safran (then Turbomeca) in buying out Rolls-Royce’s 50% stake in the RTM322 engine program in 2013 and positions the French OEM to compete for contracts to power new generations of super-medium and heavy helicopters. RWI

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