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EH 101 demonstrates growth potential
EH 101 demonstrates growth potential
Keywords Agusta, Aircraft, Operating performance, Westland
With deliveries of the EH 101 Merlin HM Mk1 to the Royal Navy already under way, the first civil delivery scheduled for later this year and the first RAF EH 101 Merlin HC Mk3 due to fly in the autumn, GKN Westland Helicopters and Agusta have conducted a series of tests to demonstrate the operating margins that will be available when the aircraft enters fully into military and civil service.
A recent demonstration flight was conducted in Italy on a production EH 101 civil utility aircraft at take-off weights up to 15,500kg 900kg more than the present maximum of 14,600kg. The availability of this over-weight capability so early in the aircraft's service life is seen as confirmation of its considerable growth potential. For utility variants used in military or search and rescue roles the extra capacity provides much greater role flexibility. In typical long-range search and rescue or evacuation missions, for example, use of the extended take-off weight to accommodate auxiliary internal fuel tanks would give the EH 101 an autonomous range of almost 2,000km.
During the test flight the aircraft's handling characteristics reportedly showed no differences from its performance at lower weights. Jerry Tracy, deputy chief test pilot with GKN Westland Helicopters who flew the test with Agusta's Bruno Belucci, said: "The EH 101 was designed for growth potential. This was one of a series of demonstrations of the operational overload in which the aircraft performed faultlessly. There were adequate power margins and the aircraft handled just like a standard aircraft. In the roles for which the EH 101 is currently being considered the flight has demonstrated that there is a significant operational margin of safety".
In another test, the EH 101's emergency evacuation capacity was demonstrated. In a simulated emergency 55 people boarded PP9, the civil utility pre-production aircraft, and were seated on the floor of the 975 cubic feet cabin.
With this number on board EH 101 could fly for approximately 1.5 hours, a key requirement in emergency evacuation or disaster relief operations.
The tests were undertaken in a break from the intensive operational flying programme which is currently taking place in Brindisi, Southern Italy. PP9 and PP8, the civil passenger variant, are engaged in the first part of a 6,000-hour flying programme to demonstrate the aircraft's performance under simulated operational conditions. Each aircraft is flying around 90 hours each month covering a range of civil and military operational profiles.
Reliability of the aircraft is being carefully monitored with the objective of progressively extending the time between overhauls and removals. Improvements are also being made in the use of the health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) as part of a programme to achieve "on condition" maintenance where critical components are removed only when the HUMS information indicates the need for them to be repaired or replaced. In older helicopters removal for inspection takes place at predetermined intervals, in many instances only to find that the components are in good working order and therefore returned to the aircraft. This is a time consuming and costly exercise.
The flying programme is due to have clocked up 3,000 hours by the end of the summer when the aircraft will transfer to Aberdeen in the North of Scotland. A further 3,000 hours will be flown there in hostile, North Sea conditions. By the time the first Royal Navy EH 101 Merlins are fully operational in 1999, EH 101 aircraft will have flown a total of over 10,000 hours, the equivalent of more than 30 years' flying for a typical military helicopter in peacetime.
The EH 101 is in full production in both Italy and the UK with close to 100 aircraft ordered by the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the Italian Navy, a civil customer in the Far East and the Canadian Armed Forces. The Royal Navy has already taken delivery of the first four EH 101 Merlin HM Mk1s.
For further details contact GKN Westland Helicopters. Switchboard: +44 (0) 1935 475222; Direct: +44 (0) 1935 702007; Fax:+44 (0) 1935 702319; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or contact Agusta on +39 331 229595; +39 331 229172; +39 331 229260.