Eurocopter's seven-ton EC175 mockup, in its search and rescue configuration
its predecessor, the Grand New sports a max gross weight of 3,175 kilograms and is capable of 140 knots. It is equipped with the top-of-the-range Cobham avionics suite, which vastly improves pilot situational awareness while cutting down pilot workload. Not to be outdone, Sikorsky displayed its spectacular S76D mockup, which has recently gone into production following a very successful flight-test programme. What has to be one of the most luxurious VIP copters available today, the S76D not only stands out as the sexiest machine currently in the helicopter market, but also one of the most advanced too, particularly when it comes to cockpit technology. The twin engine S76D is equipped with the all digital, integrated TopDeck avionics suite by Thales. The system combines synthetic vision (which allows the pilot to see through darkness, fog, or smoke), with dual flight management systems (FMS), terrain awareness systems (TAWS), moving map, and large glass display panels. The latter puts pilot situational awareness into a totally new league on the helicopter front while cutting down workload immensely, thanks to
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its intuitive, user-friendly manmachine interface. Resembling the top end of avionics found in modern corporate fixed wings and airliners, it can only be said that it is about time that those integrated panels and FMS functionality found their way into the rotary wing market. There can be no doubt that the TopDeck avionics suite will have a major impact on helicopter flight safety into the future. Entry level helicopter pioneers, the father and son team of Frank and Kurt Robinson, were on site to reveal the long-awaited turbine-powered R66 Robinson helicopter. To the casual observer the four place R66 is externally very similar to the R44 Raven II, but the Rolls-Royce RR300 powerplant makes for some substantial operational differences. The payload with full fuel is an impressive 420 kilograms, allowing the carriage of four large adults and some baggage. The machine can hover out of ground effect at over 10,000 feet and climbs at over 1,000fpm. With an initial price of US$770,000 for the basic R66, which includes leather upholstery and HID landing lights, it is quite likely there will be an immediate demand for the
machine. FAA certification is still underway, but according to Kurt Robinson the first deliveries of the R66 should begin late in 2010. Last but not least, Bell Helicopters showed off its impressive twin turbine Bell 429, which was the only new helicopter to receive certification in 2009.The Pratt and Whitney Canadapowered 429 features a new main gearbox with run-dry capability, a four-blade rigid composite rotor, dual hydraulics and three axis autopilot. At its maximum speed of 155 knots it can remain aloft for nearly two and a half hours, translating into a range of around 400 nautical miles. What became very clear at this year’s Heli-Expo was that major manufacturers are feeling bullish about the future, with nearly each company unveiling a new product into a market that is slowly but surely showing an upsurge – the pace of which might be the deciding factor in which of the majors are best able to weather the storm. If the number of orders and letters of intent signed at the Expo are anything to go by, there is little doubt that the helicopter market is growing globally and in great fashion.