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.
“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.
“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.