All VHA products are designed, tested and manufactured to rigorous standards set forth by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) and Parts Manufacturing Authority (PMA) regulations. Every VHA rotor blade design must pass a series of FAA-mandated tests, including materials coupon testing, fatigue testing, and flight testing. Some rotor blades must also pass an acoustics test. Engineering drawings are inspected and approved by FAA officials at the Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) in Los Angeles.
As part of the FAA certification for the 206B main rotor blade and 206/OH-58 tail rotor blade, VHA was required to test the helicopter’s overall noise level with the VHA blades installed. Acoustics testing performed with the tail rotor blades in 2009 showed that VHA blades decreased noise levels by 41% compared to the OEM metal blades.
As a requirement for FAA certification, VHA designed a fatigue test fixture to pull, push and twist the blade, simulating ground-air-ground cycles and other flight forces that a
blade endures during its life. Engineers at the FAA assign the service life based on the number of blades tested and the number of cycles the blade endured during the test.
Dynamic components like rotor blades must be flight tested as part of the certification process to ensure safety and performance. VHA conducts company flight tests while proving prototype concepts, then completes flight testing of conformed blades with FAA-approved test plans and with FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER) test pilots for certification.