Monthly Archives: February 2024

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Schweizer Looks to Future as It Continues To Rebuild

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With new manufacturing certifications in place, the OEM looks to ramp up production and support

Schweizer Helicopter has had a busy year, according to CEO David Horton. Last March, the light helicopter manufacturer received its unlimited production certificate from the FAA, which supplanted the limited production certificate it received in August 2020. This authorization allows the Fort Worth-based OEM full production of the S300C and S300CBi piston-powered helicopters without FAA oversight of each aircraft.

Additionally, the manufacturer has received approval for a crash-resistant fuel system STC in response to Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) SW-17-31R1. The first installation on a new-production Schweizer will take place by April and it is retrofittable. This approval also allows the company to resume U.S. sales of its helicopters.

After Schweizer was acquired from Sikorsky in 2018, the company has worked to restart its production line for the venerable helicopter. Horton noted that it has delivered a dozen helicopters since 2021 and has several in its backlog. One of Schweizer’s goals this year is to expand its global sales force to strengthen its order book.

The airframer is also taking steps to improve the manufacturability of its parts. “When the helicopter was designed and built in the 1950s and 1960s, the manufacturing capability was limited and therefore you used a lot of castings in the production of these helicopters,” explained Horton. “We want to move away from castings as we can and go to machined parts,” which have lower lead times and would ultimately lower end costs for the customer.

It is also developing a digital flat-panel instrument display, which the company said will reduce weight by up to 15 pounds.

Schweizer has also worked to address what it describes as its customers’ number-one concern: spare parts. Over the past four years, the company restarted its supply chain and invested $15 million in parts and tooling.

Horton noted that the OEM today has parts on its shelves to fill 90 percent of all orders when received. “We’re maybe not at the apex where we feel like it’s 100 percent covered all the time, but we feel really good about where we are at with regards to supporting the fleet and having spare parts.”

To bolster its worldwide service network, the company authorized three new locations: HeliEast in Poland, Heli Holland in the Netherlands, and the UK’s Unionlet, which also has a track record of helicopter supply and support in Africa.

In November, the company completed the first example in its OEM Certified Helicopter Program, which was established to bring new life to existing Schweizer airframes. The program comes in two levels, the first being ‘Refresh,’ which includes ensuring all life-limited components have at least 50 percent of their remaining time, at least 60 percent life remaining on the engine, all required inspections and repairs, overhauled landing gear dampers, new cabin and door Plexiglas, and touch-up paint.

The second level is “refurbish,” which involves disassembling the entire helicopter and providing a more extensive slate of repairs such as new interior, Plexiglas, wiring,  main and tail rotor blades, and hoses, as well as a factory-fresh or overhauled engine and cleaned and certified oil coolers. It is also stripped and repainted inside and out, and comes with a one-year, 1,000-hour warranty.

“When you buy a used helicopter, you are always taking some level of risk,” Horton told reporters during a Heli-Expo press conference. “Our intention of doing this is to take a lot of that risk out of buying a used helicopter.”

Thus far, he said the Fort Worth-based company has delivered four renovated Schweizers. With between 1,200 and 1,500 active helicopters in the company’s worldwide fleet, which has tallied more than 17 million flight hours, Horton believes there is an ample supply of potential airframes for the upgrade program.

The company also partnered with an insurance company to establish a dedicated coverage program offering prenegotiated rates and benefits unavailable to other piston helicopter manufacturers.

Looking ahead, Horton sees a path to bringing back the turbine-powered Schweizer 333.

“We still believe there is a future for the triple three. I believe in the next 18 months we will secure an order big enough to where we can start production. That will be our next big undertaking.”

Further on the horizon is the 444, a rendering of which Horton showed on Tuesday at the show. While he acknowledged that the aircraft—in the absence of development funding—is just a paper design, it serves a vital role.

“I think for any company, having something that you can push for to the future is really a great thing,” concluded Horton. “If you’re not really driving towards something, what are you doing?”

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Leonardo Lands Substantial New Orders

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The company announces 50 orders at Heli-Expo

Leonardo announced orders and commitments for 180 new helicopters on Tuesday at Heli-Expo.

The Helicopter Company (THC), owned by Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, placed a firm order for 20 AW139 intermediate twins and inked a multi-year framework agreement for more than 130 Leonardo helicopters.

Air ambulance and helicopter services company Metro Aviation will take 30 AW09 singles in its role as distributor for the model in the U.S. and Canada. Metro also is supporting the AW09 by developing interiors and STCs for the aircraft and offering service and training for it. Metro operates a fleet of 170 helicopters and airplanes in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

Long-time Leonardo distributor for the UK and Ireland, Sloane Helicopters, has agreed to order nine AW09s, along with two AW109 Grand New and two AW109 Trekker light twin models. Sloane has delivered more than 110 Leonardo helicopters since 1995 and also represents the company’s Agusta VIP brand.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency has ordered four Leonardo AW189 super-medium twins through Galaxy Aerospace to meet its long-range search-and-rescue (SAR) mission requirement. The agency already operates three AW139 intermediate twins. The new helicopters will be delivered in 2025 and 2026. More than 140 AW189s have been ordered and 90 delivered worldwide.

LifeFlight Australia has committed to three more AW139s, in addition to orders for two others announced in late 2023 for its joint venture with StarFlight. These helicopters will boost LifeFlight’s AW139 fleet to 16 aircraft. Leonardo has delivered more than 130 helicopters to Australian customers and has an installed fleet of 60 AW139s there flying parapublic missions.

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New Fuel Efficiency Certification Rules Apply to Bizav

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The U.S. rules apply to new type certificates and modified airplanes

Some business jets and large turboprop airplanes are included in new FAA final rules that enact Environmental Protection Agency-prescribed fuel efficiency certification requirements. The rules take effect on April 16 and apply to certain subsonic jet airplanes with a maximum takeoff weight greater than 5,700 kilograms (22,500 pounds) and to certain turboprop airplanes with a mtow greater than 8,618 kilograms (19,000 pounds).

Under this final rule, an airplane is subject to these certification requirements: (1) at new (original) type certification; (2) upon manufacture of any covered airplane after Jan. 1, 2028; or (3) when a modification to a covered airplane meets fuel efficiency change criteria specified in the regulations. Exempted are piston airplanes, airplanes used for firefighting, amphibious airplanes, non-pressurized airplanes, certain specialized operations airplanes, and out-of-production airplanes currently in service.

The new FAR Part 38, Appendix A, rule contains the certification testing methods that OEMs or modifiers must perform to determine the fuel metric value that a specific airframe design must comply with to obtain fuel efficiency certification. See also Advisory Circular 38-1. According to the FAA, the airplanes covered by the new regulations are responsible for 9 percent of domestic transportation emissions and 2 percent of total U.S. carbon pollution.

Sixty comments were submitted and 14 generally supported the rules as proposed. Nine, including ALPA, Boeing, Gulfstream, NBAA, GAMA, and Embraer supported the rule but offered suggested changes.

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Airbus Puts SAF on Display with A350-1000

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The aircraft is fueled with a 35 percent blend of sustainable aviation fuel

Airbus’ A350-1000 takes to the skies this week during the flying display at the 2024 Singapore Airshow, as the Franco-German manufacturer continues its campaign to promote sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The OEM conducted a refueling demonstration on Sunday at Changi Airport in Singapore, pumping 12.8 tonnes of a 35 percent blend of SAF with conventional jet-A fuel into the widebody. The additional fuel brought the total amount in the A350 to 21.8 tonnes of the SAF blend, enough to accommodate the series of demonstrations during the flying displays throughout the week.

Shell Aviation supplied the fuel under the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification EU requirements and provided through the HEFA-SPK (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids synthetic paraffinic kerosene) pathway, which uses feedstock from cooking oil and tallow.

The demonstration is part of a larger effort to help push the industry toward the adoption of 100 percent SAF. “Airbus is committed to supporting and developing the SAF ecosystem, and this is part of what we are doing,” said Hélène Burger, Airbus’s head of international cooperation and sustainability for the APAC region.

The current availability of SAF represents just a tiny percentage of what the industry eventually will need, Burger explained. He noted the importance of continuing to educate regulators, fuel producers, distributors, and operators about the need for SAF and the safety of its use.

All Airbus aircraft can operate with a blend of up to 50 percent SAF. Testing continues to move toward 100 percent SAF, with which Airbus already has accomplished initial trials on the A380 four-engine model. The company plans an array of tests—from hot to cold weather trials—to demonstrate that 100 percent SAF could become a seamless drop-in.

Airbus has set a target for all of its aircraft to be capable of operating with up to 100 percent SAF by 2030—a critical component of the overarching industry goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. On average, SAF can reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent over an aircraft’s lifecycle (from production to end use) compared with fossil fuels.

In addition to airshow displays, Airbus already has begun to help its customers transition to SAF by delivering its aircraft with a 5 percent SAF blend at no additional charge.

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P&W Seeing MRO Benefits from Singapore Technology Accelerator

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STA has spurred some 30 innovations to improve MRO processes

Pratt & Whitney already is reaping benefits from its recently established Singapore technology accelerator (STA), citing more than 30 innovations that have emerged from the initiative to maximize maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) productivity. In 2022, the company announced a collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board to establish the technology accelerator program.

The STA works with more than 20 Singapore companies to develop new technologies in the commercial aviation sector. Its projects have focused on automation, advanced inspections, connected factories, and digital twins, P&W said, noting that the innovations are being applied across its four Singapore-based MROs.

“STA is a focal point for the innovative thinking and enterprising spirit of our employees, applied to scale technologies across our MRO facilities faster and better,” said Gilbert Sim, P&W’s director of aftermarket global operations technology and CORE (customer-oriented results and excellence). “We will continue working with MRO facilities and centers of excellence in Singapore and throughout the network to deliver more technology insertion projects.”

As the technologies undergo evaluation at the Singapore facilities, P&W plans to roll them out throughout its global MRO footprint to improve throughput and turnaround time, the engine maker said.

Beyond STA, P&W has worked with centers of excellence around the world to develop and deploy other advanced repair capabilities in emerging fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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Airbus reports €65 billion in revenue for 2023

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Airbus has reported its final year results for 2023 showing revenues of €65.4 billion (EBIT adjusted €5.8bn) across the year with strong performances from commercial airliners and helicopters.

Across the period Airbus delivered 735 commercial aircraft and received orders for 2,319 new airliners growing its order backlog to 8,598 aircraft.

Airbus Helicopters received orders for 383 aircraft.

Airbus Space and Defence also saw revenues increase by 15% representing €15.7 of the overall revenue.

Looking forward to 2024 Airbus plans to increase wide-body production to 4 A330s per month this year, 10 A350s per month by 2026.

A220 production will also continue to ramped to 14 aircraft per month by 2026.

Airbus’ most popular family line, the A320 family, will see production hit 75 per month across all the final assembly network by 2026.

Airbus is targeting 800 commercial aircraft deliveries in 2024.

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Embraer, Saudia Technic To Cooperate on Mx and Training

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Agreement includes collaboration on business aviation support

Embraer Services & Support and Saudia Technic have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on maintenance and training capabilities. The agreement, reached at Riyadh’s World Defense Show 2024 on February 4, aims to enhance cooperation on civil aviation, namely the E2 jets family and Embraer Executive Jets maintenance.

“Through this memorandum of understanding, we embark on a journey of collaboration and growth,” said Saudia Technic CEO Fahd Cynndy. “The aerospace industry in Saudi Arabia is thriving, and together with Embraer Services & Support, we are poised to make remarkable advancements. This partnership will propel us towards new horizons, shaping the future of commercial aviation and paving the way for excellence in maintenance.”

Saudia Technic performs services in line, base, components, and engines across the aviation industry.

“We are very pleased to sign a broad memorandum of understanding with Saudia Technic,” added Carlos Naufel, president and CEO of Embraer Services & Support. “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the fastest-growing aerospace industries worldwide, and Embraer Services & Support is well-positioned to advance in the region by working in partnership with Saudia Technic.”

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Dassault Falcon 6X To Make Singapore Airshow Debut

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The twinjet received EASA/FAA certification in August

Dassault’s Falcon 6X will make its first Singapore Airshow appearance starting next Tuesday, when the 2024 edition of the airshow opens to trade attendees. The wide-cabin, ultra-long-range twinjet will be on static display alongside a Falcon 2000LXS at the Asian show, the French aircraft manufacturer said.

The 6X received simultaneous certification from EASA and the FAA in August, and the first delivery was to a customer in late November. The company noted that the airplane features the largest cabin cross-section of any purpose-built business jet.

Following its showing in Singapore, the 6X will continue its “worldwide tour” through other stops in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia-Pacific, according to Dassault. The twinjet has already done similar tours in America, Europe, and the Middle East.

“Operators who have flown the 6X as it has made its way around the globe praise the unparalleled quietness, comfort, and spaciousness of the cabin,” said Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Éric Trappier. ”The 6X also retains the peerless handling, versatility, and short-field capability typical of all our Falcons.”

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Strong start to 2024 for Airbus with 30 deliveries

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Airbus has started 2024 with a bang delivering 30 aircraft to 18 customers around the world in the first month of the year.

Deliveries included 28 single-aisle airlines made up of 2 A220-300, 13 A320neo and 13 A321neo airliners to customers including easyJet and Wizz Air.

Airbus also delivered 2 A2330-900 wide-body airliners to ITA and Condor.

Orders for January totalled 31 with Ethiopian Airlines ordering 11 A350-900 and Delta Airlines ordering 20 A350-1000s.

The strong start follows a year which saw Airbus out perform Boeing with 735 deliveries compared to the Seattle manufacturers 528.

Airbus continues its march towards its first 1,000 delivery year which could come soon as production of almost all models continues to be ramped up.

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EASA Issues Airworthiness Directive over Airbus A380 Fuselage

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The Airworthiness Directive released by EASA says the following on the fuselage of the Airbus A380:

“It has been determined that, during the assembly process of the centre fuselage of several A380
aeroplanes, the splicing installation on the affected areas had not been performed in accordance
with the drawing definition.”

“Necessary shims, to reduce the misalignment of the upper and lower frames, have not been installed or are mislocated, which means, that at certain frames, a possible gap might not have been filled or that shims have been wrongly installed between the lower frame and the splice.”

“This condition, if not detected and corrected, could lead to built-stress in the junction of affected
frames, increasing fatigue potential, possibly resulting in reduced structural integrity of the centre

“To address this potential unsafe condition, Airbus issued the SB, as defined in this AD, to provide
inspection and rework instructions.”

“For the reason described above, this AD requires inspection of the affected areas for missing or
mislocated shims and, depending on findings, accomplishment of rework and/or repair.”

All eyes will be on whether this issue develops or not.