Helicopters' Versatility Stands Out at 2012 Heli-Expo

An example is a new "super-medium" category unveiled Feb. 12 by Bell Helicopter with its Bell 525 Relentless, a 16-passenger aircraft designed for mission configurations including oil & gas, search & rescue, EMS, and VIP/corporate transport.

The worldwide helicopter industry converged on Dallas during the past weekend to participate in the 2012 Heli-Expo, a major conference sponsored by Helicopter Association International (HAI). HAI's "Salute to Excellence" awards dinner at 8 p.m. Feb. 13 is mainly devoted to safety awards, including the Pilot of the Year Award, the Eurocopter Golden Hour Award, the AgustaWestland Safety Award, and the Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award. HAI Chairman Mark Gibson announced in Dallas that the association's membership had reached a new record of 3,146.

Safety and versatility are key themes of the event. The National Transportation Safety Board has a booth in the expo, and NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman spoke during the HAI Member Breakfast on Sunday. Educational sessions devoted to safety and maintenance topics were on the program each day of the four-day event, which will end Feb. 14.

The International Helicopter Safety Team, co-chaired by FAA and HAI and created in 2006 to achieve an 80 percent reduction in the international civil helicopter accident rate by 2016, sponsored four workshops at the conference, including one on the IHST safety management system and another about research supporting the accident reduction goals.

The wide range of exhibitors and HAI committees participating in the event illustrates the many types of missions for which helicopters are used. Bell Helicopter, for example, took the wraps off its Bell 525 Relentless (http://www.bell525supermedium.net/) on Feb. 12; officials said the 16-passenger aircraft can be used for long-range oil & gas transport, search & rescue, firefighting, emergency medical transport, and VIP/corporate transport. It is the first commercial helicopter in the "super-medium" class and the first to incorporate fly-by-wire controls, according to Bell, which is a Textron Inc. company based in Fort Worth, Texas. Bell's announcement said the Relentless uses the Garmin G5000H touchscreen avionics suite "for enhanced situational awareness and improved pilot integration."

"The new Bell 525 Relentless is a culmination of our research and development efforts, which were informed by a representative product development panel of our customers, including PHi, an industry leader in helicopter operations. Relentlessly listening to our customers and using their feedback to provide them with the right product at the right time has been the winning combination," said John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter. "Having PHi and our other customers engage with us on this unprecedented new aircraft validates our product development strategies – placing our customers at the center of everything we do. We appreciate the collaborative spirit we share with all of our customers who have participated in this innovative process."

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