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.”