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Cologne, February, 2017

On Air, Issue 13: Rotorcraft Special

Editorial - Interview - Featured topic - Figure of the month - News & events


New start for Rotorcraft


The helicopter is the most versatile aerial vehicle ever created. It is used amongst others as a mode of transport for emergency medical services, for VIPs, offshore operations, aerial work and for military activities. The cooperation between EASA, the industry, manufacturers and operators is the key to success for a safer helicopter environment.
The rotorcraft industry is constantly changing: new technologies (e.g. tilt rotors) and new types of operation (e.g. wind farms) offer new perspectives and also new challenges. The momentary decline of the offshore industry is also part of the equation to be taken into account.

Among the new areas which EASA is exploring are: the evolution of the rotorcraft regulatory requirements in an international collaborative context, the expectations of industry and the EASA way towards a more risk based approach. Also, staff exchange schemes with the industry are fostered in order to achieve higher synergy, trust, mutual recognition and understanding.

A specific Rotorcraft Sectorial Committee was recently created and kicked off on the 24-25 January 2017. The group will provide industry inputs into the EASA safety risk management process. The Committee is composed of 25 high level representatives from the European Rotorcraft community and is one of the new EASA stakeholders advisory bodies. The development of the rotorcraft sector in regions of the world such as Asia and the cooperation activities undertaken by EASA over there are also pillars of the EASA model. The Agency is getting organised to address the new challenges and will benefit from this new start.

Massimo Mazzoletti
Head of EASA Rotorcraft department


"The value of the rotorcraft business" - Daniele Romiti in Interview


The new AW169 is now EASA certified, the tiltrotor and unmanned rotorcraft are 2 innovative projects you are working on, in your opinion, how crucial is innovation for your company?
Innovation is key to the capability to stay competitive, to play a leading role and for future overall growth of a company as well as the aviation sector in general. What you mentioned are clear examples of the three different paths of rotary-wing product and technology development we’ve been walking through for years now. Leonardo’s been investing to develop new technologies, concepts, equipment, solutions and tools, demonstrated via existing test-beds or incubators and then installed into all new products while aiming at reducing time-to-market and deliver real benefits, truly enhanced capabilities and ever increasing levels of safety. More and new capabilities, more affordably and with greater safety is what the operators and the market are looking for.

You have a growing International presence in all continents, how do you see the evolution of the rotorcraft market?
Although the whole rotorcraft industry has experienced varying trends across geographies, segments and applications in recent years, it is clear to everybody that the need for vertical lift capabilities is strong and it represents a fundamental transport and utility asset to carry out missions or access confined areas impossible for or unreachable by other means. The value of the rotorcraft business and technology is such that many new comers from emerging markets and fast-developing nations are trying to access this sector and challenge the established presence of traditionally strong players. This opens new scenarios for both competition and cooperation but also new opportunities to perform a quantum leap forward in capabilities, both in terms of conventional helicopters and all new designs and concepts such as tiltrotors, compound and unmanned vehicles and all the relevant features and technologies. Furthermore, competitiveness more and more means an OEM can’t just merely offer a platform. It must develop and deliver total capability solutions combining a capable and safe product with comprehensive through-life-cycle support packages comprising advanced training and cost control. Staying at the forefront of breakthrough technology is therefore crucial to shape the future of the rotorcraft arena as leaders, not just as followers. And this is something relevant not just to the industry and companies but to nations and organizations such as the European Union, for example. 

How do you expect the regulatory framework to adapt to the new challenges coming up with the new products and new markets? /Which areas would you see more regulatory support is needed?
We believe regulatory authorities should devote any possible effort to allow, reasonably and safely, the market, the aircraft operators and the service end-users to maximize the benefits given by any new capability enabler. We do expect also to get some benefits from latest certifications which are expanding safety  threshold compared to old models. Rules and infrastructures need to evolve to align to the new platforms, performance and navigation/mission technologies if we want innovation to step from mere prototyping to real service and generate true benefits.

The Helicopter Division is co-leader of the ‘Green Rotorcraft Integrated Technology Demonstrator’ project, under “Clean Sky” initiative, what is this project about?
The Green Rotorcraft Integrated Technology Demonstrator, which adds to the Clean Sky 2 initiative where we’re focusing on the development of a Next Generation Tilt Rotor, aims at designing, testing and validating a range of rotorcraft technologies and systems allowing significant emission abatement in line with the ambitious and pioneering objectives of the well-known European initiative for the future of aviation. Leonardo is devoting efforts mainly in the fields of noise reduction and efficiency, in particular through active rotors, more electric technologies and low noise flight paths. The shape of rotor blades is a major influence on the overall rotorcraft performance, vibration and noise. Active rotors enables the geometry of the blade to change in flight, providing a larger design space for optimisation. The Active Gurney flap approach we’re focusing in the framework of the Green Rotorcraft project is to provide rotor performance enhancements (3-5%). Leonardo is then actively exploiting opportunities for increasingly more powerful, compact and lighter electrical systems including batteries, generators, motors with new technologies, and preparing for the future integration. For the Green Rotorcraft initiative we’re investigating electric tail rotor drive technologies which can deliver several benefits such as reducing the number of parts, improving mean-time between maintenance, permitting rpm variation for power saving in cruise and heading control, allowing excellent power surge and saving rotor inertia for autorotation. Furthermore, for overall noise abatement we’ve been studying and assessing flight path optimization to minimize noise and pollutant emissions and developing procedures, for example  through VFR/IFR flight tests with 30% reduced noise footprint and tiltrotor-air traffic system coupled simulation. It is worth mentioning that not only we’ve been progressing significantly this year in all of those fields, but also we’re already supplying to the market some of those capabilities such as in the case of the AW169 all-electric landing gear or our GrandNew and AW Family models capable of advanced navigation and combined with mission planning systems allowing minimized environmental impact and greater efficiency.  

EASA has established cooperation agreements with a number of international partners (FAA, TCCA, etc.). How do you (Leonardo) benefit from these agreements and in which directions do you expect them to evolve?                                                                                                                                         Although various agreements already exist, we are in favour of improving and strengthening them. The rotary-wing sector will much benefit from these agreements if they will allow for a mutual, simultaneous recognition of type/kits certification and approvals as we’ve already seen happening in commercial airliners. There might be differences at operational level between some authorities, for example for the use of single-engine helicopters for commercial air transport operations. Nevertheless, keeping a channel of communication between authorities for an open discussion on how best to achieve safety objectives has to be welcomed. Industry can have a key role in this frame, bringing its “on-field experience” of the design, manufacturing and support to operators. Industry can also play an important role to contribute to rotorcraft development and entering into commercial service. We are now close to the introduction of the AW609 as the first tiltrotor with civil certification in the transport category. We believe it will revolutionize the way the market looks at vertical flight, as it will further extend its capabilities in most segments where helicopters are used today. We are actively working with the international civil aviation regulatory community to ensure the current aviation legislation is adapted to allow the capabilities of the tiltrotor concept to be fully exploited. From what we see, the response of the civil aviation community worldwide is very favourable to this approach. In line with this philosophy, within a working group made up by major international rotorcraft OEMs that have joined together on a voluntary basis, we are also contributing to reviewing Part 27/29 certification rules for helicopters and specifications to make certification processes more efficient and seamless, favor innovation, while preserving adequate level of safety, the first priority of all aviation stakeholders.

Born in Genoa, September 27th 1958, Daniele Romiti is a graduate of the Turin Polytechnic University where he doctorated in Aeronautical Engineering. From 1st January 2017, Mr. Romiti is Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters division as the name of the Company is now Leonardo  ( previously Finmeccanica S.p.A). He is married and has three children.


The 10th Rotorcraft Symposium – A view from inside


Last December, on 6th and 7th, EASA hosted the 10th edition of the Rotorcraft Symposium.

This attracted about 240 delegates from all around the world, plus a number of participants and presenters from EASA.
The preparation started well early, in spring last year and was quite special this time, n – EASA would have for the first time hosted the symposium in its new building. Not an easy task, but the efforts were crowned by high level of satisfaction from the participants, and we are all grateful to the organizer, Paola Galmarini, and the colleagues who assisted her.

The Symposium is lectures, presentations and discussions on topics of high actuality, it is people connecting and talking to each other about their business. It is a great opportunity for EASA and the industry to know each other better, to meet and to speak, to listen and to understand real industry concerns. This year we decided to run a number of parallel sessions: after the opening common session, the attendees had a choice from certification and operational topics plus a specific seminar on transmission safety.

Needless to say that those topics encountered very high interest from the delegates. Mentioning all the presentations would take long, a few examples could suffice to give the flavour of the event.

EASA presented the work being progressed by a joint aviation rulemaking advisory committee (ARAC) working group in which it participants aimed to introduce bird strike resistant elements (one for all, the cockpit windshield) in the Part 27 helicopters, which are limited to a maximum take-off weight within 7.000 pounds. These lighter helicopters often have a large canopy windshield, and its strengthening, normally corresponding to a thickness increase, would bring unacceptable deformation to the outside visible scene, other than heavy weight penalisation. The significant increment of the bird population in different areas of Europe and the globe renders bird encounters more and more frequent, presenting an increasing threat in particular to helicopters, operating mostly at low altitude.  The advent of new polymers, characterised by higher strength and easier manufacturing may bring a suitable solution to this kind of issues.

A unique presentation on the same subject from Bell Helicopters, who provided a summary of their studies on bird strike simulation technologies, as opposed to actual bird strike tests which these where shown to well match, and the utilisation of simulation for certification purposes.

It was fascinating and rewarding to get a number of lectures from the Federal Aviation Authorities (FAA) as evidence of mutual recognition and willingness to share experience working together in this symposium. Of extreme interest was their “Safety Continuum” draft policy: this is aimed at tailoring the safety requirements not only to the class of threat, but to newly identified classes of rotorcraft in the same Part 27 domain. FAA perceives that such differentiation has the potential of boosting safety of the lighter ones by facilitating introduction of cheaper, still useful, pieces of instrumentation that would be true life-savers in a number of scenarios. This is going to trigger plenty of interest and discussion in the aviation industry and the authorities.

A specific event was the Transmission forum, magisterially run by our colleague Alastair Healy. The spring of 2016 was darkened by a terrible accident in Norway. While investigations are still ongoing, whatever the triggering cause, it was evident then that the main gearbox suffered a catastrophic failure. Helicopters are unique aerial vehicles and encompass a number of “critical” parts, i.e. those parts the failure took place might create a catastrophic event; and one of the key assemblies of those parts is the main gearbox. These shall be designed, manufactured and maintained with the highest care, to ensure helicopter continue to be the safe vehicle they are and even safer in the future.

A number of studies and researches are ongoing, on material properties, mechanical fracture technology and health and usage monitoring systems, and even completely innovative concepts for future drive systems on helicopter, Tilt Rotor and Hybrid aircraft.

In addition, there were presentations and discussions about the current studies on pilot behaviour when facing technology (like eye tracking), about best practices in the offshore environment,  on flotation stability systems in water and use of simulation, advanced navigation functions, hoist design in line with hoisting missions, ARAC “occupant protection” working group, rotorcraft airbags to improve crashworthiness, flight test techniques as well as certification in icing conditions, cooperation between EASA and CleanSky. But also standard operating procedures in Aerial Work, the development of operational rules for the new tilt rotor generation and a presentation of the new MI-38 Russian helicopter.

At the end, lot of attention was generated by unmanned air vehicles/ Systems (UAV/UAS): their certification challenges and risk based approach.

About 40 presentations, offering food for thoughts to many and in all different fields, and an exercise not closed with the Symposium but starting with it. Several topics had been identified that will deserve further attention like:

• Maturity of rotorcraft regulations versus large airplanes regulations
• pilot “age 60”
• single engine IFR helicopters
• drones challenges and potential risks to Rotorcraft

Topics that will be further discussed and validated by the industry via their committees (e.g. the new Rotorcraft Sectorial Committee) for further elaboration by EASA and the Industry.

The Rotorcraft Symposium has once again proven to be the place where the Rotorcraft community gets together to listen and comment on the newest development of technology, on existing and incoming regulations, on certification and operations and any other topics in connection with them and their concrete needs. We are already thrilled by the idea of setting up the next edition allowing even more people to get access to this major European Rotorcraft event and rest reassured that it will continue to surprise you!



First EASA Rotorcraft Sectorial Committee

news events

Latest News

15 December 2016:  EASA certifies the Airbus A321neo

21 December 2016:  EASA introduces more competency-based requirements for the multi-crew pilot licence advanced-phase training

22 December 2016: EASA certifies the LEAP-1C engine

20 January 2017: eRules — its first deliverable, ‘Easy Access Rules for Continuing Airworthiness’, has been published!

26 January 2017: Rotorcraft Sectorial committee lifts off

27 January 2017: Rulemaking and Safety Promotion Programme 2017-2021
The 2017-2021 Rulemaking and Safety Promotion Programme provides citizens and stakeholders with a comprehensive and coherent vision of how the Agency intends to improve safety and environmental protection while reducing regulatory burden. The document includes the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS). To take into account new developments, the Agency updates the programme every year. This edition thus supersedes previous editions.
Read more about the new EPAS here

Upcoming Events

7-9 February 2017: Global Manufacturing Conference (POSTPONED)

23-24 February 2017: Russian Light Aeroplanes Workshop

22-24 March 2017: RSOOs Conference 2017 

5-8 April 2017: EASA Stand at AERO Friedrichshafen

24-28 April 2017: IMRBPB meeting 2017

27-28 April 2017: 2017 CAAC-EASA Aviation Safety Conference


Details for these and other upcoming EASA events are available here

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