Flying through

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Scuba diving in Grand Turk

Smitty, the instructor, demonstrating to the group
Started doing a scuba diving course in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands last Sunday. We have now got on to open water dives, done two - one to 55 feet below for 44 minutes, the other to 40 feet below for 56 minutes. I have now done 1.40 hours under water and at depth on the reef. Fantastic. It feels like flying in the water, and the reef is full of the most incredible colours and fish I have never seen before. Wild.

Me - ready to get the rest of the kit on

Monday, 27 February 2012

North Caicos and Middle Caicos

This is the result of damage to the Turks & Caicos from Hurricane Ike in 2008. This picture shows the causeway between North Caicos and Middle Caicos, damaged in 2008 and still not yet fixed. The road is drivable but the car slides around between bumps and holes and the beautiful blue water sometimes looks rather close!
The problem is that neither North nor Middle Caicos have a big population - maybe around a 1000 or so people - and there is no money to mend the road.

The boat trip from Provenciales is not one that many people make, but if they do they enjoy it - wonderful trip.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Flying in the Turks & Caicos Caribbean Islands

Ben Gearing, TCI pilot, Gerald Cheyne and Me
Went flying with TCI Helicopters in Provo, brilliant flight in lovely weather, with a beautiful vision of water and islands, set in a sea of turquoise azure. Fabulous.
Difficult for the company though. They originally began the company in 2005 and it took until February 2010 before they were allowed to do the first flight! Restrictions also apply; they are not allowed to land anywhere except on airports, they may not fly below 500 feet, some airports require 24 hours notification for landing, they cannot do longlineing or external lifting. However, in spite of these restrictions they manage to carry out a good service which includes EMS, tourist and VIP flights, and they continue to lobby the government in the hope they may get more freedom to work in other ways. For example, there are occasional fires in the island, so it would be useful to have a fire fighting capability.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Experiencing the new EC130T2

It was a good show, and, as you can see, I enjoyed it.

Helicopter Life - the magazine - will be out in March with a full round-up of the show and many other interesting stories.

Marenco Swiss Helicopter

Marenco SKYe SH09
If HAI had a prize for the best newcomer I think it should be won by the Marenco SKYe SH09, which last year had us wondering if it would be able to continue, but has now sold 24, even though the first flight is not yet made. I talked to the company and they said they expect the first flight to be made this year, perhaps in the Spring. I hope it does and I would like to be there.
They are now more focused in exactly what market they are looking at, and have stopped hoping for the oil and gas market, concentrating only on the EMS, police, VIP and corporate markets.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Day three HeliExpo HAI Dallas 525 cockpit details.

Bell525 cockpit details
Finally got time to sit in the Bell 525 cockpit. Here it is, notice the side-sticks for both cyclic and collective, and the touch screen controls - see picture detail. The big screens are not touch control as, the instrumentation expert explained, the vibration in any helicopter cockpit makes it too tricky to touch screens without an unsupported wrist. Note that next to the touch-screen there is a support on the arm-rest - looked like a well-thought-out cockpit to me.
Apparently, the touch screen is very intuitive and anything you need to do never involves more than three steps.
Here is a picture of the seat in the cockpit with its special tracks. The aim is for easy egress (sic) from the cockpit, but while still allowing the pilot to get close to the screen.
The current idea is that it will be single pilot flying from the left by day and from the right by night - at least that is what I understood from the expert in the left-hand seat. The whole cockpit is NVG compatible.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Enstrom at HeliExpo 13th February 2012

Jerry Mullins, CEO of Enstrom Helicopter Company, signing an agreement with the Japanese Air Force for the purchase of 28 helicopters (the 480Bs) for use as trainers in Japan.
This is a very good day for Enstrom who, only a couple of years ago, looked as though they would not be able to continue to trade. However, thanks to orders in the Far East the company is growing rather than shrinking and they are now looking to possibly increase their training initiatives.
With no competition from Sikorsky, now that they have ditched the 300CBi, and many people who would prefer not to learn on a Robinson model, this could be a very good move by Enstrom.

Day Two HAI HeliExpo Dallas, Texas

Kimberley Smith at Russian Helicopter Hour
The FAA Safety representative Kimberley K Smith was speaking at the Russian Helicopter Hour explaining the IHST (International Helicopter Safety Team) initiative to promote safety in helicopter flying across the international world. This is something that has been warmly embraced by the Russian Helicopter Company, who is keen to promote safety in their country and to introduce safety improvements.
Other information in the Russian hour included the co-operation between Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters, and between AgustaWestland and Russian helicopters, which means that EC175s and AW139s will be built in Russia.

HeliExpo Dallas Day Two

RIP Schweizer 269CBi
A bad days for those who love the Hughes 269 and for those who use the CBi as a training machine. Sikorsky, who bought the Schweizer Helicopter Company back in 2004, have decided to take over the brand name of Schweizer and make the little training helicopter now the Sikorsky 300. They have also ceased production on the CBi model, as we were told by Jeff Pino this morning in the press conference. This is a disaster for all those who love training on the 300s. The CBi was created to fight against the monopoly of the Robinson in the training market, now, without its existence, there will be soon no small light alternative training model, the 300 is too expensive and so is the only other alternative the Enstrom.
However, a chink of light, Tracey Biegler of Enstrom says that the Enstrom Helicopter Company is now looking at find someway of making their light trainer a viable alternative to the R22. I do hope so. I like the Robinsons but I love the Schweizer models. A very sad day.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Details of Bell 525 Relentless

This is the front of the Bell 525 Relentless. Swivel seats is one novelty, which allows for easy ingress and egress for the pilot. Being able to get in and out, both for pilots and passengers, was one of the advising customer panel's major concerns. Other things they wanted were - any engines as long as they were GE. They settled for GE CT7 02F1 engines.
The 525 also has fly by wire controls using BAE flight control computers. 5 blade main rotor, which was felt to be necessary for such a large and weighty helicopter and a four blade cantored tail rotor. A greater than 400 nm range and excellent visibility.
Gross weight is 18,000 lbs and there are currently 16 seats, although it can have other modes. There are large sliding doors or as Bell CEO John Garrison put it, "you are only a seat away from egress."
The engines are 1280 hp and there is a massive luggage bay.
Although the first flight will not be until 2014 there are some basic ideals of flight specs: Speed more than 140 knots, range more than 400 nm, useful load 4,000 lbs.
They will be using a Garmin G5000H avionics package and the machine will have low cabin noise and vibration.
It was described as such a modern cockpit it was hardly recognizable with a side-stick cyclic and a side-stick collective.

Day one HeliExpo unveiling

Bell 525 unveiling
A 11.30 am today, amongst great fanfare the BellTextron 525 Relentless was unveiled by John Garrison, President and CEO. The 525 is a breakaway from the usual Bell models having 5 blades. It has 16 seats (depending on the mode) is in the 10 tonne class and has two GE engines - more details will come on this after the press conference this afternoon.

The other helicopter to be unveiled was the EC130T2, the new version of the EC130, with better fuel economy and two Arriel 2D engines. Cruise speed is up by 10 knots and fuel usage is down by 10%. MTOW is 5,512lbs or 6,724 lbs with an external load. Off to Robinson press conference next. I think it will be dominated by the two R66 crashes, one of which (in Columbia) has apparently led to a courtcase.

AW609 Flypast

Interesting facts about the AW609 shared by the test pilot. Petro Veranzi.
He said they are setting up a training programme for the 609, that FAA and EASA requirements are being discussed and that it should be ready for implementation by April 2012. He also said much of the training will be done in the simulator and that the training on the actual machine will include autorotation. However, he says autorotation while possible includes a very severe flare at the bottom. They will also experience vortex ring during training.
They are looking for pilots with a good helicopter background and some fixed wing. However, Veranzi himself was a F14 pilot who learnt about helicopters at the test pilots school, so I guess they are open to variation.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

AW609 Arlington visit Saturday 11th Feb 2012

AW609 flying at Arlington, Texas. The 609 is news because since 15th November 2011 it has been AW and not AB (AgustaWestland and nothing to do with Bell) but otherwise not much has changed yet. Not nothing - there is a new tail number and AgustaWestland has built a new facility in Texas (to comply with regulations) but there needs to be more to come, and fairly soon. The first 609 flight was in 2003; 9 years ago in case anyone cannot count! There are problems - not least the number of deposits paid - but AgustaWestland must have thought it was worth getting the machine to themselves - so we wait and see what happens in the next few months.
In the hangar at Arlington

HAI HeliExpo 2012 pre-dawn

Milwaukee airport
On the way to HAI HeliExpo.
Flew from the UK via New York (weather OK) to Dallas (weather perfect) but via Milwaukee.... It is a cheaper to go via Milwaukee, but it nearly meant ending the journey in Milwaukee as the snow blew up and the ploughs (sorry plows!) went out and the airfield closed!
However, they must be used to snow and wind, because the airfield re-opened, we took off and arrived in Dallas less than a hour late.
Tomorrow, to the 609 factory thanks to AgustaWestland. NB sat next to some AgustaW engineers on the 'van' up from the airport and they said that AW was an excellent example of synergy at work. That both companies had taken their strengths and put them together to work well - the Italians had the flexibility, the English the structure. I had no problem believing them, although for structure I might put bureaucracy!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Goodwood Festival of Speed - win tickets

To enter the competition for free tickets to the Festival of Speed at Goodwood, June 28th - July 1st 2012, take out or renew a two year subscription to Helicopter Life magazine and enter the draw to be held in May 2012.
to subscribe for Helicopter Life go to: and click on the 'subscribe to Helicopter Life' page. Follow the instructions to subscribe. As soon as we get your subscription you will automatically be entered into the draw. Good luck.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Eastwell Manor February 1st 2012

Flew in to Eastwell Manor in Kent for lunch in the 300. It was very cold -2 c and the helicopter had not flown much in the last couple of weeks, so we started it from the battery pack back at the hangar. All well and good and without a thought we shut down at Eastwell Manor.
Back to the helicopter ready to re-start and suddenly we remembered we had used a battery pack at the hangar and did not have one with us... oh dear!
Tried a start and gerbluump. No interest. We thought for a moment - then I suddenly remembered a trick we used with the old 300s in cold weather. I shoved the mixture fully in, as though it was a carburettor engine and pressed the starter. It worked. We were able to fly home. But it was a salutary lesson. Helps to carry a battery pack - if you have room!