The latest announcement from Erickson follows on from FAA certification earlier this year for composite main rotor blades for the S-64E model; the composite blades are designed to add performance advantages for the helicopter, particularly in hot and high conditions.
Billy Johnson, Chief Engineer at Erickson Incorporated, commented on the certification: “It was quite difficult, but extremely satisfying, to see this project through to completion. There are a lot of blood and sweat and tears in those blades.” Other advantages of the composite design include savings on fuel consumption, reduced vibration – which means less wear and fatigue on the whole airframe, and blade interchangeability between the E and A models of aircraft.
A journey to certification for the Air Crane blades
It was in March 2020 that Erickson first announced FAA certification for its composite main rotor blades. The process began as far back as 2008, when Erickson began to work closely with the FAA and various industry partners to develop the blades. In 2013, Erickson collaborated with Helicopter Transport Services so that the new blades could be used on the older CH-54 aircraft as well. In 2015, in order to maintain closer control of the manufacturing process, the company actually built a new facility from scratch to house the process. Following the initial certification by the FAA, CEO Doug Kitani commented: “The Composite Main Rotor Blade program shows our commitment to innovation and next-generation programs for the modernization of the S-64 Air Crane helicopter and legacy fleet. As an OEM provider and air operator, Erickson continues to push the envelope to find new and reliable solutions to keep our customers flying longer and safer.”