At 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.
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.
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.”
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.
In response to customer requests, Van Horn Aviation posted the instructions for field replacement of bearings in its 206/OH-58 tail rotor blades. Operators and their maintenance personnel can download Customer Support Specification CSS-500 WC-6TG-8 Bearing Installation Rev. B from the VHA Documents page.
Maintenance personnel with proper equipment may replace the bearings in the field using the procedures described in the VHA CSS-500 WC-6TG-8 Bearing Installation document. The procedure requires the use of a hydraulic press to remove bearings, bearing swaging tool and locating fixture (purchasable from VHA), table-mounted arbor press, and manual milling machine or drill press.
Operators may also contact VHA’s repair station, Van Horn Repair for bearing replacement.
Van Horn Aviation posted a new 206B3 Instructions for Continued Airworthiness VMM-206B3-301 revision that includes information for early serial number 206A/B helicopters using shorter rotor blades. Section 62.3.2 of this ICA provides the requirements for 206A/B helicopters with serial numbers 4 through 2211. Depending on the serial number, operators will use one of three procedures to modify their aircraft for the VHA tail rotor blades. Section 62.3.3. provides the mean blade angles required for helicopters of various serial numbers.
Van Horn Aviation was featured in a company spotlight published in the March 2014 issue of HeliWeb magazine, formerly known as The Helicopter Newspaper. The article provides some background on how the company started, describes its current facility and capacity, and looks ahead to future projects.
To read the full article online, click here or to read in PDF format, click HeliWeb March2014-web.
VHR Personnel remove bearings from a VHA 206 tail rotor blade.
Van Horn Aviation recently obtained FAA Repair Station Certificate V7JR502Y, establishing its own repair station. The new Van Horn Repair (VHR) is co-located with VHA’s Tempe, Arizona, manufacturing facilities and will specialize on repairing VHA composite rotor blades.
“The repair station certificate allows us to better service our customers by providing in-house repair and replacement of both warrantied and non-warrantied parts,” said VHA president James Van Horn. “Customers now have a choice when it comes to repairing their VHA composite blades.”
Services provided through VHR include:
• Replacing bearings/bushings
• Repairing limited damage to composite skin
• Replacing abrasion strips
• Rebalancing blades
• Repairing voids in blades
• Other structural repairs as approved by an FAA authorized Designated Engineering Representative (DER)
VHA Quality Manager and FAA-authorized Designated Manufacturing Inspection Representative (DMIR) Marie Dwyer will oversee operations at the VHR repair station. “Having an in-house repair station allows the manufacturing side and repair station side to share information, resulting in improved processes and enhanced customer support,” said Dwyer.
Customers can contact Van Horn Repair through its website, vanhornrepair.com, or by calling
Van Horn Aviation recently shifted its development priorities to focus on the 206 main rotor blade program after the MD500 main rotor blade flight test program was cut short by unexpected unavailability of the test aircraft.
From August through early December 2013, the VHA flight test team achieved successful track and balancing of newly redesigned MD530F main rotor blades, high-g maneuvers, and forward flights to 130 kts during flight testing on an MD530F at MD Helicopters’ Mesa, Ariz., facility. However, MD Helicopters determined they had other priorities for the aircraft and terminated the program before all flight testing required for FAA certification could be completed.
The knowledge and experience gained from the MD530F flight test program will be carried over to the 206 main rotor blade program. VHA intends to resume certification testing of the MD500 series main and tail rotor blades after purchasing its own test helicopter in fourth quarter 2014.
For more information, visit our MD500 Main Blade Development page.
VHA plans to resume testing of its successful MD500 series main rotor blades after purchasing its own test ship in 4th quarter 2014.
Van Horn Aviation recently shifted its development priorities to focus on the 206 main rotor blade program after the MD500 main blade flight test program was cut short by unexpected unavailability of the test aircraft.
From May through August 2013, VHA and MD Helicopters personnel prepared the loaned MD530F for flight test, installing strain gages and other instrumentation on the aircraft and the VHA composite main rotor blades. Following successful hover tests at the VHA facility in August, the instrumented MD530F returned to the MD Helicopters facility for forward flight tests. Over the next four months, the VHA flight test team achieved successful track and balancing of newly redesigned blades, high-g maneuvers, and forward flights to 130 kts.
VHA had expected to complete flight test testing on the loaned MD530F to FAA certification standards and bring the rotor blades to market early in 2014. However, MD Helicopters determined they had other priorities for the loaned aircraft and terminated the flight test program in early December.
This was the third round of flight testing since the program began in April 2011. VHA’s challenge was to replace the current metal symmetrical airfoil main rotor blades with a NASA-developed laminar flow composite airfoil while implementing minimal control system modifications. The MD500 series’ non-hydraulically boosted control system and tailored collective stick balance spring proved to be particularly sensitive to changes in main rotor blade design. During the VHA MD500 main rotor blade development program, VHA engineers completed several design modifications including trim tab alteration, root fitting changes and center of gravity (CG) adjustments.
The ability to fly the latest iteration of the VHA composite blades to 130 kts on a helicopter with a maximum cruise speed of 134 kts proved the success of the VHA design. The knowledge and experience gained from the MD530F flight test program will be carried over to the 206 main blade program. While the loss of the MD530F test ship forces refocusing of VHA priorities, VHA intends to resume certification testing of the MD500 series main and tail rotor blades after purchasing its own test helicopter in fourth quarter 2014.