VHA receives FAA STC for composite Bell 206B main rotors
Rotor blade manufacturer Van Horn Aviation (VHA) has received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for composite main rotor blades fitting the Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter. The new VHA 206B main rotor blades have been approved with an 18,000-hour service life, which is more than triple the life of the current OEM metal blades.
“This STC is the culmination of more than five years of design, prototyping, and testing, including extensive flight and fatigue testing,” said VHA CEO James Van Horn, who designed the blades and flew as copilot/flight test engineer during most of the certification flight testing. “Our goal was to produce composite main rotor blades that would reduce operator cost and increase durability. During flight testing, we saw and felt some improvements in responsiveness with the composite blades compared to the metal blades. We believe the JetRanger operators will be pleased with our composite blades.”
The VHA 206B main rotor blades use the same carbon fibre materials and construction methods similar to the company’s successful 206B/L tail rotor blades, which have been available as an STC/PMA aftermarket component since 2009. Both blades feature carbon fibre skin and spars, an efficient NASA-designed laminar-flow airfoil, and tapered tip. The 206B main rotor blade also contains a combination of stainless steel and nickel abrasion strips that cover the entire length of the blade for erosion and lightning strike protection. The VHA blades use the identical installation configuration as the OEM blades, allowing direct replacement without hub modification.
“We put the main blade, root, inboard and outboard sections through months of fatigue testing,” said VHA President Dean Rosenlof. “Composites are inherently durable and resist fatigue throughout normal flight parameters, so we tested the blades with simulated hail damage, induced manufacturing defects, and various extreme repairs. We won’t say that the blades are bullet-proof, but they’re close.”
The fatigue testing allowed VHA to certify its composite 206B main rotor blades with an 18,000-hour service life with overhauls required every 2,800 hours. List price is $79,500 per blade.