Perth’s Heliwest Services, in collaboration with US-based Van Horn Aviation (VHA) and Bell Helicopter subsidiary Aeronautical Accessories, have installed a pair of composite main rotor blades to an Australian-registered Bell 206B JetRanger, which are said to extend the service life by as much as four times over the manufacturer’s original metal blades.
Certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in February 2016, the VHA 206B composite main rotor blades feature a carbon fibre skin and spars, a more efficient NASA-designed laminar-flow airfoil, a tapered tip and a combination of stainless steel and nickel abrasion strips that cover the entire length of the blade for erosion and lightning strike protection.
“The key benefit for operators fitting these new blades is the subtle enhancement of performance, but the main benefit is their extended life and the lower direct operating cost per flight hour,” said Heliwest’s sales and customer service manager Jason Ellis.
“An OEM JetRanger blade has a 5,000-hour life, whereas the Van Horn JetRanger life currently is at 18,000 hours but that’s expected to increase to 20,000 hours.”
The collaboration worked with Australasian Jet at Essendon to complete the main rotor blade installation, ground tests and first flight from the airport. The first flight of VHA’s composite blades fitted to Australasian Jet’s 206B JetRanger, VH-VBX, took off from Essendon on February 23 for a flight over Melbourne.
“Being more rigid than the original metal blades, initial feedback from pilots who flew with the composite blades said the helicopter was more responsive required reduced control inputs,” said Ellis.
“We recognise that many Australian operators fly in challenging environments and situations and we’re excited about bringing another product to market that will help 206 operators in Australia lower costs and increase performance.”
VHA is expecting to receive FAA certification for its 206L LongRanger main rotor blades by the end of 2017 which will have a 20,000-hour service life.