Oceania Operators Strap on VHA 206B Main Rotor Blades

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The AusJet JetRanger awaiting installation of its new VHA 206B main rotor blades.

Three operators in Australia and New Zealand installed VHA 206B composite main rotor blades within three weeks of each other in late February/early March 2017. VHA President Dean Rosenlof traveled to Australia to meet with operators and assist with the first installations of VHA 206B main rotor blades on the continent. About four weeks after the installations, we checked in with the operators to see how the blades are flying.

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New VHA blades on the AusJet JetRanger, easily discernible by the single trim tab.

 

First Installation and Flight – AusJet
Jason Ellis, Sales and Customer Service Manager for Heliwest Services, a Bell Customer Service Facility (CSF) reported that his customer, Australasian Jet (AusJet) in Melbourne, was “very happy with the blades and with the on-site service provided by Heliwest and VHA.” Both Ellis and Rosenlof were on site during the AusJet installation at Essendon Airport and assisted with installation, tracking, ground tests, and first flights. While Rosenlof traveled to Brisbane for a second installation, Ellis remained in Melbourne to ensure no further work needed to be done.

“The pilots’ initial feedback was that flying the machine is more responsive with reduced pilot inputs,” said Ellis. “I’m confident that the VHA main rotor blades will be as well received in the market as the highly successful Van Horn tail rotor blades.”

Steve Spinaze, CEO of I Source Logistics looks over a new VHA hi-viz 206B main rotor blade with VHA President Dean Rosenlof.

Second Australian Installation – I Source Logistics
In Brisbane, Rosenlof met with the staff of Sikorsky Helitech, a Bell CSF, to provide installation, maintenance and overhaul information for VHA blades. Helitech also hosted a meeting between Rosenlof and about six Australian 206 operators, including Steve Spinaze, CEO of I Source Logistics in Thursday Island, Queensland. Spinaze was the second operator to install the VHA 206B main rotor blades in Australia, although the timing was such that Rosenlof had to leave before installation was completed. After some initial tracking issues, which Rosenlof and other VHA personnel helped troubleshoot from the U.S., Spinaze gave the new VHA blades a positive pilot report.

“Finally flew home with the new wings,” Spinaze wrote on the VHA Facebook page. “Definitely faster, comes off the ground more eagerly, lower TQ for a given weight. Bring on the 5000 hour overhauls.” (Currently the 206B main blades require 2800-hour overhauls, but VHA is working with the FAA to increase the TBO intervals to 5000 hours by the end of 2017).

New Zealand Tour Operator Volcanicair
Volcanicair, a tour operator based in Rotorua, New Zealand, installed VHA composite main and tail rotor blades on their JetRanger in early March. According to Tim Barrow, Volanicair Chief Pilot and Director, the composite blades are “certainly raising a bit of interest.”

Volcanicair’s 206B outfitted with new VHA mains and tails.

“The tail rotor authority is excellent by comparison and mains run smooth as well,” wrote Barrow in an email to Rosenlof. “There may be a very slight speed advantage but that’s hard to judge until we have been operating it for a while. We also think it’s quiet by comparison with less noticeable blade slap, which is great.”

Total Commitment to Operators
The Oceania operators bring total sets of VHA 206B main blades to more than a dozen flying around the world. About two dozen more have been sold but have either not been installed or we haven’t heard from the operators (which may be a good thing!). We appreciate these early adopters and are actively seeking feedback to improve current and future blades. For example, operator feedback caused us to redesign our main blade crates, create a custom trim tab tool, rewrite tracking procedures, and design a new rotor tie-down strap (available in mid-2017).

“We are proud to support 206 helicopter operators around the world,” said Rosenlof. “We recognize that many Australian operators fly in challenging environments and situations, and we’re looking to them to help us make our product even better as we roll their feedback into the 206L LongRanger main blade program. We’re excited about bringing more products to the market that will help 206 operators in Australia, New Zealand, and around the world lower costs and increase performance.”

VHA Achieves First Flight of 206L Main Blades

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The VHA engineering and test staff celebrated first flight of our composite 206L main rotor blades on February 8, 2017, completing ground tests, hover flight, forward flight reaching speeds of more than 100 knots, and turns with up to 45 degrees of banking during the test session at Falcon Field in Mesa, Ariz. The tests mark the beginning of the flight testing required for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) approval.

First Flight MVI_0223.Still001“While our LongRanger main blade is based off of the (206B) JetRanger blade that we certificated last year, we made some modifications to the design beyond just the 22-inch increase in length,” said VHA president Dean Rosenlof. “So the 206L is essentially a new blade. We’re thrilled that our LongRanger blades performed well enough to go from ground to hover to 100 knots and turns in our first test session.”

Like the VHA 206B main rotor blade, the VHA 206L blade features carbon fiber skin and spars, an efficient NASA-designed laminar-flow airfoil, 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 206L main blade, however, is 22 inches longer than the 206B blade to match the OEM LongRanger metal blade length.

First Flight MVI_0225-Still001“The blades felt good and very stable, even through translational lift,” said VHA CEO James Van Horn, who flew as co-pilot on three test flights. “We made only slight track and balance adjustments after installation, and were able to fly the blades through a few operational procedures—including reversals and an autorotation—with confidence. The next few weeks of flight testing will allow us to get a better feel for how the blades will fly.”

We expect FAA certification of the LongRanger main rotor blades by the end of 2017 with a 20,000-hour service life (four times that of the OEM metal blade) and overhauls every 5,000 hours. The VHA blades use the identical installation configuration as the OEM blades, allowing direct replacement without hub modification. The overhaul will include removal and replacement of the root grip plates, root bolts and nuts, and bushings, plus repaint. The overhaul is estimated to take no longer than two weeks, cost approximately $3,500, and be performed by authorized rotor blade repair stations around the world.

Van Horn Aviation Working to Increase Main Blade TBO and Provide Local 206B Main Blade Overhaul Capability

Rotor blade manufacturer Van Horn Aviation (VHA) is taking several steps to minimize downtime due to overhauls on the company’s composite 206B main rotor blades. In addition to working with several composite rotor blade repair stations around the world to provide authorization for main blade overhauls, VHA is also conducting fatigue tests to increase the time between overhauls (TBO) to 5,000 hours.

“We have been hearing from potential customers that they assumed only we or Bell Helicopter would be able to complete the overhauls on the main blade,” said VHA president Dean Rosenlof. “That’s not our intention. When we finalize the tools and procedures required to overhaul our 206B main blade, we’ll reach out worldwide to repair stations with composite rotor blade repair capability. We’ve already started talking to repair stations here in the U.S. and in Australia. We want blades to be overhauled as locally as possible to reduce or eliminate additional downtime.”

Having received the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) in February 2016 and Transport Canada STC in November 2016, the composite VHA 206B main rotor blade currently features an 18,000-hour service life (more than triple the life of the original metal blade) with overhauls every 2,800 hours. While beginning certification tests for the 206L LongRanger main rotor blade, the VHA engineering and test staff are already working on the fatigue tests required to bring both the 206L and 206B main blades to 20,000 hours service life and 5,000 hours TBO. Increasing the TBO to 5,000 hours will match the service life of the OEM metal blade.

“We are placing a high priority on increasing the TBO of the main blade to 5,000 hours, which should happen by the end of the year, but certainly before the first operator reaches the current 2,800-hour mark,” said Rosenlof. “At 5,000 hours, operators will have a choice of going through a two-week overhaul on our blade or buying a new set of metal blades for roughly 20 times the price of the overhaul.”

The VHA 206B main rotor blades feature carbon fiber skin and spars, an efficient NASA-designed laminar-flow airfoil, 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 VHA blades use the identical installation configuration as the OEM blades, allowing direct replacement without hub modification. The overhaul includes removal and replacement of the root grip plates, root bolts and nuts, and bushings, plus repaint. The overhaul is estimated to take no longer than two weeks and cost approximately $3,500.

View the Press Release Here

Hummingbird Helicopters Installs First Set of VHA 206B Main Rotor Blades

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Greg Ashe, Bob Hoag, Hunter Olney, Jim Van Horn, Dean Rosenlof, Henry Morris, and Pablo Ejarque in front of the launch helicopter for the 206B VHA main rotor blades. Photo by Jason Colquhoun

Van Horn Aviation (VHA) CEO Jim Van Horn and President Dean Rosenlof traveled to Valley Center, Calif., to witness the first installation and flight of VHA 206B main rotor blades on a customer’s helicopter. Bob Hoag, owner and operator of Hummingbird Helicopters, has been flying VHA tail rotor blades on his JetRangers for several years and enthusiastically offered to be the launch customer for the main blade. Hummingbird Helicopters specializes in agriculture aerial application, servicing difficult-to-reach crops and noise-sensitive areas where residential developments have sprung up next to crops.

Bob and Pablo Install

Heliblade owner Pablo Ejarque assists Hummingbird Helicopters owner Bob Hoag with the installation of VHA main rotor blades. Photo by Dean Rosenlof

Pablo Ejarque, owner and operator of HeliBlade, Inc.—an authorized distributor and service center for VHA composite rotor blades—FAA DER (designated engineering representative) pilot Greg Ashe, Hummingbird pilot Hunter Olney, associate Henry Morris, and journalist Jason Colquhoun were also present for the installation. From installation to first flight took less than two hours, and no weight, pitch link, or tab adjustments were required for successful flight.

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Hummingbird Helicopters owner Bob Hoag finishes installing the first set of VHA main rotor blades on his JetRanger. Photo by Dean Rosenlof

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The Hummingbird launch helicopter returns from its first flight with the VHA composite main rotor blades. Photo by Dean Rosenlof

The VHA 206B composite main rotor blades are available exclusively through Aeronautical Accessories (aero-access.com or 1.800.251.7094). List price is $79,500 per blade. The blades have an 18,000-hour service life with overhauls required every 2,800 hours. For more information on our main rotor blades, visit our 206B Main Rotor Blade page under Products.

 

VHA Receives FAA STC on 206B Main Rotor Blades

Blade TopVan Horn Aviation (VHA) has received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for composite main rotor blades fitting the Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter. The new VHA 206B main rotor blades have been approved with an 18,000-hour service life with 2,800 hour overhauls.

“This STC is the culmination of more than five years of design, prototyping, and testing, including extensive flight and fatigue testing,” said VHA CEO James Van Horn, who designed the blades and flew as copilot/flight test engineer during most of the certification flight testing. “Our goal was to produce composite main rotor blades that would reduce operator cost and increase durability. During flight testing, we saw and felt some improvements in responsiveness with the composite blades compared to the metal blades. We believe the JetRanger operators will be pleased with our composite blades.”

For more information on the VHA 206B Main Rotor Blade, click here.

 

VHA Completes Certification Testing on 206B Main Rotor Blades

VHA 206B Main Rotor Blade top view1At the end of January, VHA engineers shut down the 206B main rotor blade fatigue test for the last time and confirmed that all FAA certification testing for the project was complete. Currently compiling data and preparing all of the necessary documentation, the certification team anticipates submitting the final certification paperwork within the next few weeks.

We are excited about the opportunity to bring a new composite main rotor blade to the 206B market. We’re already working on the 206L main rotor blade program, and the OH-58 main rotor blade will not be too far behind.

For more information on the VHA 206B main rotor blade from a pilot’s perspective, please read Jason Colquhoun’s article, “Evolution of a Rotor Blade” in Vertical Magazine.

 

VHA Receives Japanese STC for 206B Tail Rotor Blades

The Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) issued JCAB STC No. STC-434-TYO on August 31, 2015, approving the use of the VHA 206 series replacement tail rotor blade (per FAA STC SR02249LA) on Bell 206B helicopters registered in Japan. Currently the JCAB STC is approved for the Bell 206B JetRanger and is not yet approved for the 206L LongRanger. VHA is working with Bell Helicopters and a Japanese launch customer to extend the STC to the 206L3 and 206L4 LongRanger models.

Visit our Documents page to download a copy of the JCAB STC.

VHA Receives TIA on 206B Main Rotor Blade Program

Greg Ashe and James Van Horn Conduct Flight Tests of the VHA 206B Main Rotor Blades in June 2015.

VHA has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) on its composite main rotor blades for the Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter. The FAA generally issues TIA after examining the technical data and determining that a component meets required regulations for issuance of a Supplemental Type Certification (STC). VHA recently completed flight testing of its 206B main rotor blades after seven months of baseline, company, and certification flight tests in Arizona, California and Colorado.

“Achieving TIA on a flight critical component such as a main rotor blade is an important step in the certification process and nearly ensures STC issuance,” said VHA president James Van Horn. “Our composite main rotor blades have demonstrated that they meet the current 206B performance charts and in a few cases, even exceed them. While we’re not planning to publish new charts, we believe the JetRanger operators will be pleased with the performance of these new blades.”

Flight testing began in October 2014 with baseline testing of the OEM metal blades on a Bell JetRanger 206B3 outfitted with the VHA tail rotor blades. The VHA flight test team conducted first hover of the 206B main blades on December 12, 2014. After several weeks of testing and a slight design change to the blades, the team completed company testing in March 2015 and began certification flight testing in Mesa, Ariz. An aggressive flight test program included strain survey and performance testing in Mesa; acoustics testing in Bakersfield, Calif.; height/velocity (HV) testing in Flagstaff, Ariz.; and high-altitude performance in Leadville, Colo. During the program, the flight test team logged extensive flight time in various conditions.

“The carbon fiber blades are definitely stiffer than the metal blades, which produces a different feel in the controls,” said FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER) test pilot Greg Ashe, who flew the majority of the flight tests in the VHA program. “The VHA blades are more responsive to the controls, and provide better performance in certain maneuvers.”

VHA Conducts Baseline Testing, Gets Ready for 206 Main Blade Flight Tests

The VHA test helicopter conducts baseline sling load testing with a 500lb load, November 2014.

VHA engineering and flight test personnel began baseline testing in October 2014 in preparation for 206B main rotor blade flight tests. Involving a series of maneuvers at different speeds and configurations, the baseline testing allows the test engineers to obtain a set of data for a particular helicopter fitted with specific equipment. The baseline data can be used to compare with data obtained during flight testing of the new components.