Monthly Archives: December 2023

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HAI Celebrates 75th Anniversary

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The helicopter trade association was established in 1948

Today, Helicopter Association International (HAI) celebrates 75 years of advocacy in the vertical flight sector. HAI was founded on Dec. 13, 1948, in Burbank, California, by a group of 16 individuals originally known as the Helicopter Council. Since then, the organization has grown to include thousands of members from at least 65 countries, including pilots, technicians, manufacturers, and suppliers. 

“Seventy-five years ago, a small group of visionaries had the foresight to establish an organization that would become the beacon for the vertical aviation industry,” said HAI president and CEO James Viola. “Today, HAI stands as a testament to their vision and the collective efforts of our members, volunteers, and staff. We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to promote vertical aviation worldwide.”

HAI remains committed to promoting safety and community in the vertical flight sector, which in recent years has evolved to include new types of rotorcraft, including electric and autonomous vehicles, in addition to traditional helicopters. The changing landscape of the industry has prompted HAI to consider rebranding with a more inclusive title—one that may or may not retain the word “helicopter.” Announcing the move at the 2023 Heli-Expo convention, Viola pledged the rebranding will “look to the future while honoring the past.”

“HAI remains committed to the industry while embracing the expansion and development of new aircraft, infrastructure, and uses for vertical flight,” Viola said. “Our core mission is and will remain: to support our members and promote vertical aviation’s critical role in creating safe, prosperous, and connected communities around the world.”

HAI will hold its next Heli-Expo event in February 2024 in Anaheim, California.

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Leonardo, Pratt & Whitney Canada use SAF on AW139

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Leonardo and Pratt & Whitney Canada today announced the successful completion of the first flight for a AW139 intermediate twin helicopter, powered by PT6C-67C engines, using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Accomplished at Leonardo’s facility in Cascina Costa di Samarate (Italy) on 21 November, the 75-minute flight and ground tests evaluated engine performance with multiple power variation and other systems. The test showed an outstanding response to the new fuel with no significant differences compared to the use of Jet A1 fuel. This goal marks a historic first for both Leonardo’s helicopters and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine family. Earlier this year in-service AW139 helicopters carried out flights with SAF, blended with traditional jet fuel under the current certification standards, in Japan, Malaysia, and most recently UAE. All main civil-certified types within the Leonardo’s helicopter product range are certified for operations using SAF with a blended ratio of up to 50%.

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European aircraft developer unveils “game-changing” hybrid airliner

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European aircraft developer Maeve Aerospace has unveiled an 80 seat hybrid airliner which it says will have the performance of a jet but the efficiency of a turbo-prop.

The airliner, known as M80, is c clean sheet design aircraft and will have a range of 800nm whilst having a 40% reduction in energy consumption.

Maeve claim that Its hybrid electric propulsion system will offer a fuel usage of 2 litres, per passengers, per 100km while cruising at 400 knots (ktas). This will result in a 25% lower overall trip cost and a 20% lower seat per mile cost compared to similarly sized truboprops.

Martin Nuesseler, CTO of Maeve Aerospace: “To my knowledge, there are currently no alternatives in development that are equally sustainable, cost effective, and match the operational needs of airlines and airports. If there are, I would applaud them, because we need more of these realistic solutions to become sustainable”.

As well as being able to operate on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) the M80 will be be fully certified to operate on 100% hydrogen based Power-to-Liquid fuels, mean it can potentially eliminate CO2 emissions to greater than 95%.

The ultimate aim for Maeve is to decarbonise air travel which is something that the industry has set a target of net-zero by 2050.

Maeve Aerospace aims to have the M80 in service by 2031. A date based on the experience and lessons learned from several aircraft programs, and their industrial ramp-up. 

The unveiling of the M80 plans come as Maeve Aerospace expands to a new innovation hub at Oberpfaffenhofen Airport in Munich.

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First Falcon 6X Enters Service

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The Falcon 6X can fly up to 5,500 nm

On November 30, Dassault’s first Falcon 6X began flying for its new owner, the French aircraft manufacturer announced today. The largest jet in the Falcon lineup—until the 10X enters service in 2025—the 6X received FAA and EASA type certification concurrently on August 22. Dassault did not reveal the identity or location of the 6X launch customer.

“Since that time, post-certification upgrades that were applied required EASA approval,” according to Dassault. Three flight-test airplanes logged more than 1,500 flight hours during a text campaign that lasted more than two years. First flight took place on March 10, 2021.

With maximum range of 5,500 nm, the 6X was launched in February 2018, after the 5X program was canceled due to problems with the in-development Safran Silvercrest engine. The 6X is 20 inches longer than the 5X, to accommodate the 6X’s more powerful Pratt & Whitney PW812D engines.

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EcoPulse Demonstrator Makes First Hybrid-electric Flight

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The technology demonstrator that flew last week is a converted TBM900 aircraft

EcoPulse, the hybrid-electric technology demonstrator aircraft being jointly developed by Daher, Safran, and Airbus, has started its flight-test campaign. On Tuesday, the partners announced that the first flight happened on November 29, with the converted Daher TBM 910 taking off from Tarbes Airport in the southwest of France for a 100-minute sortie.

During the flight, pilots deployed all parts of the powertrain, including the six 50-kilowatt electric power units, the turbogenerator, and six sets of electric thrusters, or “e-propellers,” installed along the wing. The flight tests will validate the results of earlier ground testing and also 10 hours of flight tests that were conducted without the electric propulsion system functioning in May and June. The first test evaluated the flight control computer and high-voltage battery pack.

Safran is responsible for the integrated motor/thruster units, as well as for the turbogenerator, which combines a gas turbine with a generator. The French aircraft engines and systems group has also developed EcoPulse’s power distribution and rectifier unit that protects the high-voltage network, as well as the power harnesses.

Airbus developed the high-energy-density battery pack, which is rated at 800 volts DC and can deliver 350 kilowatts of power. The European airframer also made aerodynamic and acoustic modifications to the TBM900 testbed aircraft, as well as developing the flight control computer.

The partners introduced the EcoPulse program four years ago at the June 2019 Paris Air Show. As part of efforts to decarbonize aviation, it is being supported by France’s CORAC Civil Aviation Research Council, the DGAC aviation regulator, and the France Relance government economic recovery plan. It has also received some funding from the European Union.

The program is intended to demonstrate how a new propulsion system architecture using a single independent electrical power source can support multiple electric motors. The demonstration work will evaluate the operational advantages of integrating a hybrid-electric distributed propulsion to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and noise.

In March, Daher confirmed that by 2027 it plans to offer hybrid-electric versions of its TBM aircraft family. “The flight campaign will give Daher invaluable data on the effectiveness of the onboard technologies, including distributed propulsion, high-voltage batteries and hybrid-electric propulsion,” said Daher’s chief technology officer Pascal Laguerre. “We’re working to converge practical and significant know-how on design, certification, and operation to shape our path toward more sustainable aircraft for the future.”

The Airbus sustainable aviation portfolio includes the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft and plans for hydrogen-powered airliners through its ZeroE program. “High-energy density batteries will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, whether for light aircraft, advanced air mobility or large hybrid-electric aircraft,” commented the group’s chief technical officer Sabine Klauke. “Projects like EcoPulse are key to accelerating progress in electric and hybrid electric flight and a cornerstone of our aim to decarbonize the aerospace industry as a whole.”

Daher and its partners are presenting the EcoPulse demonstrator at the Green Aero Days event being held in Pau, France, on December 6 and 7.

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Thai Airways plots 90 aircraft order, targets widebodies

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Thai Airways International (TG, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi) is in talks with manufacturers and lessors about a new order for up to 90 aircraft, which would be heavily skewed towards widebody aircraft, Bloomberg has reported citing internal sources.

The new commitment – which is likely to include a mix of firm orders, options, and purchase rights – could comprise around 80 widebody aircraft directly from the manufacturers. The airline is also in talks about a lease of a much smaller number of narrowbodies. While the exact terms of the transaction remain under confidential negotiations, sources said the airline could select around forty B787s from Boeing.

The Thai flag carrier is rapidly recovering from the Covid-19 crisis. With tourism in Thailand rebounding, the airline has posted four consecutive quarterly profits and aims to rebuild its fleet to and above the pre-pandemic level.

During its Covid-related restructuring – which will formally be over in 2024 – Thai Airways shrank its fleet and currently operates three A330-300s, sixteen A350-900s, six B777-200ERs, seventeen B777-300(ER)s, six B787-8s, and two B787-9s. It also operates twenty A320-200s, of which ten remain on the AOC of Thai Smile, which will soon be merged into the mainline carrier.

As an interim solution until the deliveries of the to-be-ordered aircraft begin, the carrier is actively pursuing new leases and recently revealed a plan to add a further 23 aircraft by the end of 2025, including eight more A350-900s (two of which are due for delivery by the end of 2023), two A330-300s, one B787-9s, and twelve A321s.