Thursday, April 21, 2011

Army officials sing praises of UH-72A Lakota at Army Aviation show this week in Nashville

Posted by John McHale.
Army officials were delivering heaps of praise upon EADS North America during a press conference this week for their performance regarding production of UH-72A Lakota. Army leaders from Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said at U.S. Army Aviation Association of America AAAA annual forum in Nashville, Tenn. that they have been able to return 23 National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to combat deployment thanks to the on-time and early deliveries of the UH-72A Lakotas from EADS North America in Arlington, Va.

The 23 Black Hawks returned to service is critical, said Col. Neil Thurgood, Army project manager, Utility Helicopters at the press conference. "It is almost the equivalent of an assault battalion," he added.

For more on the Lakota's avionics read "Army helicopters get avionics face-lifts."

A major reason the that the Lakotas are meeting their delivery goals is that the requirements have not changed, which often happens in a program, causing the integrators and industry partners to have to keep re-designing to keep up with the changes, which equates to delays, Thurgood said. The Army will still make modifications as components go obsolete, but the requirements will not change, he added.

The Lakota was developed through industry-funded research then sold to the Army in a commercial transaction, said John Burke, vice president, EADS North America. Burke also made his comments during the press conference.

They key is that Eurocopter has the largest commercial helicopter fleet in the world, and was able to leverage the commercial technology used in those programs, Burke continued. Also it helps that the Army's "acquisition leadership is focused on where it's going not where it's been," he added.

The UH-72A is produced in Columbus, Miss., at EADS North America's American Europcopter business unit's rotary-wing center of excellence. Production of the Lakota, which is based on Eurocopter's EC145 multi-role helicopter produced in Germany, has been duplicated in Columbus.

The transfer of production to the U.S. was "extremely smooth and EADS did not miss one delivery," Thurgood said.

The Army has a total acquisition target of 345 helicopters through 2015 and 154 have been delivered to the National Guard so far, Thurgood noted. The National Guard will receive 210 of that final total, he added.

The upgraded Lakotas will be used by the National Guard for reconnaissance, border protection, command and control and air movement operations that support U.S. homeland defense, and security missions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

AMC/AEEC attendance up as avionics engineers are bullish on market

Posted by John McHale
Attendance at the Avionics Maintenance Conference (AMC)/Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) event this week in Memphis Tenn., was up by nearly 20 percent over last year's event, according to AMC organizers -- this is particularly noteworthy considering this is the first year they charged $500 per person to attend. However, the positive vibes I was getting from avionics suppliers, airframers, and airlines about the market health is probably a big factor in the improved turnout.

Attendees are particularly excited about opportunities in new aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner while the retrofit market looks promising for electronic flight bag (EFB) designers as airlines and operators beging to upgrade their fleets to eb compatible with future air traffic management mandates such as SESAR in Europe and NextGen in the U.S.

Airline representatives were more reserved, expressing concern over rising fuel prices. During AEEC committee meetings there was growing doubt about the whether or not SESAR and NextGen
-- when fully deployed -- will have similar architectures and nomenclature, making it the transition to these systems much easier on the airlines.

The monumental task of just getting different European countries on the same page within the SESAR initiative seems daunting -- let alone harmonizing with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) NextGen program.

The airlines are also looking for solid avionics roadmaps from SESAR and the FAA so they will know what to adopt, when to adopt it, and how much it will cost.