Rotorcorp Named Winner of 2023 Presidential Award for Export Achievement by USA Department of Commerce

Rotorcorp, the largest seller of parts, engines, and overhaul kits for Robinson helicopters, today was named a 2023 winner of the President’s “E” Award for Exports. Created in 1961 by an Executive Order of President John F. Kennedy, the “E” Award is the highest recognition that any U.S. organization can receive for significantly contributing to the expansion of U.S. exports. The award was presented to Rotorcorp President Sean Casey by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at a ceremony today in Washington, DC.

The “E” Award requires that a company demonstrate four consecutive years of sustained export revenue growth.  Multi-year growth of this nature is difficult enough to achieve in a normal business environment but was made even more challenging during the 2019-2022 consideration period by the unique obstacles resulting from the COVID–19 pandemic.  Supply chain issues, staffing shortages, logistics slow-downs, extended lead times along with the general economic uncertainty stemming from the pandemic posed significant headwinds for all of this year’s awardees.

Additionally, the broad implementation of sweeping sanctions against the Russian Federation following that country’s further invasion of Ukraine has closed a significant market for Robinson Helicopters. Rotorcorp grew its export business in other countries to mitigate the curtailment of the Russian market.

U.S. companies are nominated for the “E” Awards through the U.S. Commercial Service office network in 108 U.S. cities and more than 75 countries which helps U.S. companies export. Criteria for the award are based on four years of successive export growth, usually accompanied by a rising percentage of export sales within total sales. An applicant’s demonstration of an innovative international marketing plan that led to an increase in exports is a significant factor in making the award. Following nomination by a local Commercial Service Office, the “E” Award Committee, which is chaired by the Department of Commerce, and includes representatives from ExIm Bank, and the Departments of Labor, State, and Transportation makes the final award recommendation

“The ‘E’ Awards Committee was impressed with Rotorcorp’s record of export sales to more than 45 international markets. The company’s commitment to eCommerce development to facilitate international sales was also particularly notable,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Rotorcorp’s achievements have clearly contributed to national export expansion efforts that support the U.S. economy and create American jobs.”

Global since its inception in 2011, the Authorized Robinson Helicopter Company Service Center has grown to serve over 3,000 customers who rely on Rotorcorp to keep their Robinson R22, R44, and R66 helicopters flying safely. Throughout the arc of the pandemic, Rotocorp laser-focused on its export-reliant strategic plan and meeting the needs of critical-industry Robinson helicopter operators in law enforcement, aerial agricultural application, and energy sectors around the world. These critical-industry customers literally help keep us safe, put food on our tables, and keep the lights on. 

“We are truly honored to be one of the companies to receive the 2023 “E” Award,” Casey said upon receiving the award. “With more than half of our revenues now derived from International sales,  the “E” Award is validation of our commitment to better meet the needs of our international customers through a well-developed export strategy and continued investments into our systems, processes, and the growth of our professional team.”

In addition to Rotorcorp’s eCommerce store, which makes it easy for customers to buy parts online in multiple languages, Rotorcorp’s customer service team is fluent in English and Spanish. This makes it easier for international customers to call or email the company to get help and technical advice when they need it. In December of 2022, Rotorcorp delivered major components and engines to the Uruguay National Police as part of a winning contract the company was awarded. Faced with continued extended lead times from both the airframe (Robinson) and engine (Lycoming) manufacturers, Rotorcorp worked with both company’s leadership team to drastically reduce the time these critical public safety aircraft would be down for service. “We are very pleased with how Rotorcorp advocated on our behalf,” said Eduardo Cheker, director of aviation for the Uruguay National Police. “They helped deliver the items we needed on time and helped keep our public safety mission flying,” continued Cheker.      

ITP Aero to Deliver New GE CT7 SAF-Tested Engines for NH-90 Helicopters

Within Feindef, the International Defence Exhibition being held in Madrid, ITP Aero has announced that during 2023 it will deliver, from its Albacete facilities, new GE CT7 engines, which power the NH-90 helicopter of the Spanish Ministry of Defence, tested with SAF (sustainable aviation fuel). This milestone is part of ITP Aero’s commitment to the decarbonisation of aviation, and was announced during an event attended by representatives of the Spanish Ministry of Defence.  

General Coll, head of rotary wing air systems at the DGAM’s sub-directorate general for programs, said: “The fact that ITP Aero can carry out bench tests on the engines that will be installed in our NH90 helicopters using SAF fuel is undoubtedly a very important first step towards standardising the use of this type of fuel in our aircraft engines, which will have an impact on reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere and, consequently, on preserving the environment, an objective with which the Armed Forces are aligned and committed.”

General Gómez Blanco, deputy director of fighter and RPA engineering at MALOG, said: “The use of Sustainable Fuels in Aviation is the most solid option to boost the decarbonisation of the aeronautical sector in the short term. The trials announced today by ITP are a significant boost to the engineering activities that will consolidate the use of these fuels in Armed Forces helicopters. These activities are fully in line with the tests being carried out by the Spanish Air and Space Forces in collaboration with the most important Spanish companies in the sector, including ITP, of course.”.Álvaro Santodomingo, director of defence at ITP Aero, said: “This milestone is a further step in our commitment to continue advancing the use of SAF on Spanish Ministry of Defence platforms and is in line with our commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Together, we are positioning Spain as a major player in the use of SAF, and we are proud to be able to do so now hand in hand with the Ministry of Defence.

This milestone joins other projects for the use of SAF that ITP Aero is promoting in different platforms of the Spanish Ministry of Defence. In this regard, it should be noted that ITP Aero is part of the Air and Space Army’s BACSI (Connected, Sustainable and Intelligent Air Base) programme with the aim of increasing the effectiveness, productivity, efficiency and sustainability of air bases. As part of this project, the Eagle Patrol flew for the first time with SAF during the air parade of the last Columbus Day. ITP Aero designed an instrumentation system to help validate the use of SAF in the engines that power the Eagle Patrol’s C-101 aircraft. The technology developed by ITP Aero was able to automatically measure the temperature of the engine gases, helping to validate their proper operation with SAF.

Erickson S-64 FAA Certified for NVG Ops

An Erickson S-64F Air Crane helicopter was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for night vision goggle (NVG) operation on April 6, 2023. The approval is a
key component of Erickson’s integrated NVG program, which aims to offer customers increased flexibility and expanded operational capabilities. This added proficiency presents the opportunity for increased tactical planning and agility in aerial firefighting and a variety of civil protection operations.

NVG Program Milestones

Erickson partnered with Aviation Specialties Unlimited (ASU) to modify an S-64F to perform NVG operations. Concurrently, Erickson pilots received NVG training and certification through ASU. Aircraft modifications and pilot certifications were completed in March, with FAA aircraft certification in April.

Erickson NVG night firefighting training with multi-agency coordination. Photo courtesy of Crook County Fire Department.

A critical element of Erickson’s NVG program is ensuring
that the NVG flight crew maintain currency in accordance
with current FAA regulations, though it is the policy of the Erickson training department that pilots exceed the FAA’s minimum requirements to maintain a high level of proficiency. Erickson conducted NVG training in accordance with this policy at its annual spring training event in Oregon.

As part of the currency flights, prior to conducting operational training, flight crews completed Helicopter Night Vision Goggle Operations (HNVGOs), in accordance with the FAA regulations. Upon completion of those activities, the flight crews initiated their Night Fire Fighting training. During the training, they performed a variety of drops using multiple coverage level options. A variety of filling techniques performed in the S-64 included ground fill, Pond Snorkel hover release into an open water source, hover fill, as well as tank fill operations.

This was a multi-agency event, with the FAA and U.S. Forest Service on-site, observing the training. In addition, the Crook County Fire Department was also on site, providing ground fill for the S-64 tank and simultaneously conducting required helicopter coordination training and signoffs.

Regarding Erickson’s NVG capabilities, ASU Director of Operation Tony Tsantles commented, “I had the pleasure of working with Erikson pilots personally; they are professional and prepared to conduct operations around the clock now. That is exciting, not just for themselves, but for their supported customers as well!”

Program Development

Erickson’s approach to the NVG program development demonstrates the company’s “safety-first” mentality. Program participants were able to operate outside of a fixed timetable, which resulted in the removal of any perceived pressures and allowed for optimal coordination, planning, and risk mitigation.

Erickson’s Director of Operations, Ray Touzeau, commented on the development of the NVG program: “Safety is the first and foremost aspect of the NVG training program. Erickson’s goal is always to be the master of our craft, with safe and effective operations being the marker of success.” Touzeau also explained that risk mitigation strategies such as employing extensive training and following detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), regulatory protocols, and procedures will be paramount in achieving NVG safety and performance objectives.

The Future of Erickson’s NVG Operations Program

Erickson’s recent dedication to developing a comprehensive NVG program is fueled by feedback from long-term customers, coupled with a commitment to remain at the forefront of aerial firefighting technology and current industry trajectories.

Touzeau commented, “Erickson’s historical strategy has been to ask customers what they want, and then work with them to make it happen. Our goal with the NVG program will be to continue implementing the program, while soliciting customer feedback to determine where potential for enhancement exists.”

Armed with customer feedback, Erickson plans to continue exploring additional strategies, integrations, and technologies to enhance competencies and optimize situational awareness in all operations, to include the NVG program.

TARMAC Aerosave and Donecle Sign Drone Aircraft Inspection Agreement

Aircraft and engine lifecycle management provider TARMAC Aerosave and Donecle, a manufacturer of drones specifically for aviation maintenance purposes, have signed an agreement to develop automated aircraft inspections.

Donecle, based in Toulouse, France, develops a range of automated solutions to optimise visual aircraft inspections. The Donecle system consists of a fully automatic flight — without a pilot or GPS — coupled to image analysis software and a secure platform for digital inspection monitoring.  

As part of its innovating and permanent client satisfaction strategy, TARMAC Aerosave considered the Donecle solution with great interest. 

Without being a substitute for maintenance procedures or mechanics, drones make it possible to carry out inspections in less than two hours — such as general visual inspections (GVI), lightning strike inspections, paintwork and regulatory marking inspections — thus making faster aircraft delivery to clients possible – whether on exit from storage or from maintenance.  It is a valuable decision aid tool.

A successful test campaign was conducted by the two partners on the TARMAC Aerosave site in Toulouse-Francazal. The solution is currently fully operational for narrow-body aircraft in hangars. Developments are now focusing on the capacity to carry out inspections outside and on wide-body aircraft.

The large number of aircraft accommodated by TARMAC Aerosave, the varied types, the regular flow of arrivals and departures and the three Tarbes, Teruel and Toulouse sites, allow Donecle to develop its products for every environment.

Black Widow Helicopters Orders 12 Foresight MX HUMS; Installing as Standard Equipping on UH-60’s

Black Widow Helicopters has announced an order for 12 shipsets of GPMS
International’s Foresight MX, the industry’s most advanced health and usage monitoring
system (HUMS). In addition, every UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft delivered through Black Widow’s
leading digital modernization program will be standard equipped with Foresight MX. With the
agreement, Black Widow Helicopters also becomes a GPMS Certified Installer, providing a
premier installation option for the growing number of Black Hawk operators around the world.

“We selected Foresight MX to provide operators the best HUMS experience possible to monitor
their Black Hawks” said Alex Freidin, vice president of commercial and flight operations of
Black Widow Helicopters. “Foresight reduces operating costs by monitoring aircraft and
engine vibrations and identifies trending components with an easy-to-understand user interface.
With Foresight’s advanced analytics and predictive Remaining Useful Life capability for trending
components, operators are able to mitigate unscheduled and AOG events, resulting in lower
operating costs and increased aircraft availability.”

According to Todd Powers, vice president of sales for GPMS, Foresight MX goes beyond
HUMS. “In addition to the predictive HUMS, Black Widow UH-60 clients benefit from
Foresight’s touchless cellular data uploads, flight data monitoring (FDM), exceedance
monitoring, automated power assurance checks, and “one move” rotor track and balance
capability. At just over 17 lbs. installed, operators benefit from our award-winning, lightweight,
integrated, and future-proof technology versus typical federated and heavy legacy systems from
multiple solutions and vendors. We’re proud and honored to be on Black Widow Helicopters
UH-60A and soon on their UH-60L Black Hawks.

Freidin continues, “HUMS is a key part of the United States Forest Service roadmap and it’s
included in their MATOC requirement for a “modern helicopter.” We’re focused on delivering
state-of-the-art Black Hawks to our clients with full-width, touch-screen glass cockpits for a
superior pilot experience, and with Foresight MX HUMS as standard equipment, an exceptional
experience for the maintenance and operations teams. It gives our clients the competitive
advantage in an ever-increasing UH-60 Black Hawk market and more importantly, aside from
the commercial and economic benefit, a massive safety enhancement.”

Schools in U. S. to Receive $10 Million in FAA Grants to Develop the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals

Twenty-three schools will receive $10 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help attract and train students for careers as pilots and aviation maintenance technicians. 
Twelve of the schools will receive $5 million from the FAA’s Aircraft Pilots Aviation Workforce Development Grants program. The schools can use the funding to create and deliver curriculums designed to prepare students to become pilots, aerospace engineers or drone operators. 

Grant recipients include: 

  • AOPA Foundation Institute, Frederick, Md.: $498,100 
  • Black Pilots of America, Seattle, Wash.: $500,000 
  • Broward College, Pembroke Pines, Fla.: $500,000 
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.: $345,711 
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona, Fla.: $484,803 
  • Kentucky Office of Employment & Training, Frankfort, Ky.: $500,000 
  • Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Inc, Mount Royal, N.J.: $171,231.80 
  • School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Penn.: $197,180 
  • Sling Flying Club, LLC, Torrance, Calif.: $499,865 
  • Tuskegee Museum, Detroit, Mich.: $500,000 
  • University of Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie West, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands: $499,301 
  • William Jessup University, Rocklin, Calif.: $303,808.20 

The other $5 million will go to 11 schools as part of the FAA’s Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers Workforce Development program. These grants will help build back the pipeline of maintenance professionals; approximately 20,000 fewer people are working in the aircraft maintenance sector than before the pandemic. 

Grant recipients include: 

  • Aviation Technical Services Inc., Everett, Wash.: $459,206.29 
  • Cape Cod Community College, Plymouth, Mass.: $463,304 
  • Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cincinnati, Ohio: $423,594 
  • F & E Aviation Maintenance, Miami Springs, Fla.: $500,000 
  • Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield, Ill.: $500,000 
  • Nashua Community College, Nashua, N.H.: $456,051 
  • Pearl River Community College, Poplarville, Miss.: $500,000 
  • San Luis Obispo County Community College District, San Luis Obispo, Calif.: $484,299 
  • Tarrant County College District, Fort Worth, Texas: $282,345.71 
  • Technical Education Services Inc, Norfolk, Va.: $431,200 
  • The Fulton Leadership Academy, East Point, Ga.: $500,000 

Recipients can use the funding to establish new educational programs; provide scholarships or apprenticeships; conduct outreach about careers in the aviation maintenance industry; and support educational opportunities related to aviation maintenance in economically disadvantaged areas.  

Bluetail Raises Additional $2.2 Million Series A  from Venture Firm AZ-VC to Accelerate Growth

Bluetail, an SaaS aircraft records platform for private aviation, has announced that it closed an additional $2.2 million Series A investment. The round was led by AZ-VC, an Arizona-based venture capital fund that is uniquely focused on supporting emerging technology companies throughout the state.

With its triple-digit growth in 2022, 600M+ in aircraft records managed, and a growing customer base of private, corporate, and charter operators, Bluetail will use the additional funds to expand and scale its market presence, introduce new revolutionary products and integrations, and bring further automation enhancements to its industry-leading solution. All this serves to improve asset value, drive significant cost efficiencies, and reduce friction in maintenance transactions.

“Despite the wildfire spread of software during the 21st century, some pen-and-paper industries are still absent of modern solutions, private aviation included. Bluetail is redefining aviation records management with a cloud platform that is a true 10x solution,” stated Jason Pressman, AZ-VC. “We are eager to support the founder’s ascension as they bring innovative solutions to an industry that is primed for disruption.”

“We are extremely proud that AZ-VC has recognized the value of our significant market growth, expansion of the aircraft records software category, and our unlimited potential as the business aviation industry continues to see the ROI benefits of our platform and digital scanning services,” stated Roberto Guerrieri, CEO of Bluetail.

This current funding is in addition to a previously announced round of $2.1 million from Brookstone VC and angel investors.

VSE Aviation Acquires Precision Fuel Components

VSE Corporation a provider of aftermarket distribution and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for land, sea and air transportation assets for government and commercial markets, has acquired Precision Fuel Components, in an all-cash transaction. The company says the transaction is immediately accretive to their Aviation segment.

Founded in 2001, Washington-based Precision Fuel is a market-leading provider of MRO services for engine accessory and fuel systems supporting the business and general aviation market. Precision Fuel specializes in supporting small turbine rotorcraft fuel controls, governors, sensors, bleed valves, and fuel pumps, along with radial engine components and Bendix-Stromberg carburetors. Precision Fuel is a member of the Honeywell Authorized Warranty and Repair Station (AWARS) network.

VSE says the acquisition expands their specialty distribution and MRO capabilities in B&GA and rotorcraft market. By combining VSE Aviation’s existing part distribution and MRO services with Precision Fuel’s engine accessory and fuel system MRO services, VSE Aviation customers will have access to differentiating, full-service, on-demand repair and distribution solutions.

The move also accelerates VSE’s customer acquisition within B&GA market, building upon recent organic wins. This transaction provides VSE Aviation access to new rotorcraft and fixed wing operator customers and expands VSE’s MRO capabilities within new engine platforms. This acquisition will allow for significant cross-selling opportunities, positioning VSE Aviation to expand its market share within niche, B&GA market adjacencies.

“We are pleased to welcome the Precision Fuel team to the VSE Aviation family,” said John Cuomo, president and CEO of VSE Corporation. “This transaction represents an important strategic investment for our Aviation segment, one that expands our repair capabilities across a diverse base of global rotorcraft, fixed wing, and B&GA customers. Precision Fuel’s value-added, high-margin MRO solutions will complement our existing service capabilities, while positioning us to further enhance our unique value proposition.”

Leonardo and Safran Partner for AW09 Single-Engine Helicopter Propulsion System 

Leonardo and Safran Helicopter Engines recently joined forces to further enhance the capabilities and competitiveness of the next generation AW09 single-engine helicopter. The production aircraft will feature the 1,000 shp class of power Arriel 2K engine, the newest generation of the Arriel family.

Adrien Daste / Safran

The selection of the new engine guarantee the most efficient level of industrialization, global supply and supportability for customers. The combined Leonardo and Safran Helicopter Engines support network will provide innovative, simplified and competitive maintenance solutions and cost of operations, sustained by tailored PBH (Power-By-The-Hour) and SBH (Support-By-the-Hour) contracts as well as a large range of digital services. 

Leonardo and Safran Helicopter Engines boast a longstanding and now further expanding partnership spanning from propulsion systems for light twins up to super medium class helicopters. The two companies also share now the highest level of interest and commitment for the single-engine commercial market and its future evolution.

“Since the integration of Kopter into our organization and the introduction of the AW09 into our product range, we have firmly maintained our commitment to deliver to the market exactly what it expects from a single engine of the latest standards backed by an efficient and responsive global support network,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, MD of Leonardo Helicopters. “The decision to select this propulsion system is totally consistent with this strategy and we look forward to working with our partner to bring the most modern single engine on the commercial market.” 

Franck Saudo, Safran Helicopter Engines CEO, commented: “We are proud that Leonardo has placed its trust once again in Safran Helicopter Engines to power its latest light helicopter. We will bring to the AW09 our strong expertise in single-engine helicopter applications together with the specific feature of the engine. The Arriel 2K engine is the latest version of the well-known Arriel engine family and will clearly bring high level of capability, reliability and ease of operations to the AW09.”

The new propulsion system is already installed on the latest AW09 prototype, PS4 (Pre Series 4), which is about to start flight test activities at Kopter’s facility in Mollis. PS4 includes all developments implemented and tested on P3, the previous prototype, allowing to reach the AW09 final configuration. PS5, the next and final prototype is planned to follow later in 2023. 

The AW09 programme performed major steps forward in 2022 in parallel to the integration of the production propulsion system, including flying the new & final main rotor blades and agreeing the type certification basis with EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).

The AW09 will continue to be developed by Kopter in Switzerland with the contribution of joint Leonardo-Kopter teams. Kopter is set to become a Center of Competence for new light helicopters and an incubator of new technologies for vertical flight. As such, it will contribute to the development of new hybrid and electrical propulsion systems and will play an important role in the framework of Leonardo’s Be Tomorrow 2030 strategic plan, which aims to be in the leading position on the civil rotorcraft market and modern air mobility.

The single-engine AW09 offers increased modularity, modern electronic systems, high digitalization and the largest cabin and cargo hold in its category. Its superior characteristics — including fast cruise speeds and hot-and-high capabilities — are combined with a low noise signature resulting from the newly-developed dynamic assembly and shrouded tail-rotor.

Safran Helicopter Engines is the propulsion market leader for single-engine helicopters. The Arriel is one of Safran’s best sellers with over 15 000 engines in operation. Every day the engine enhances its reputation as a safe and reliable partner, especially for operators flying demanding EMS, search and rescue, law enforcement, maritime surveillance missions and aerial work.

CEO Suzanne Markle Elected to National Aviation Board

The Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) has appointed Suzanne Markle, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA), as one of its six new directors of the board. Markle will serve a four-year term.

In this capacity, Markle will help shape the future at trade schools that train students to enter one of the most important and in-demand career fields in the country: aircraft and avionics maintenance technicians. 

According to Boeing’s 2022-2041 Pilot and Technician Outlook, 134,000 new mechanics and avionics pros will need to join the field over the next 20 years to meet the growing needs of the aviation industry. Many of these openings are due to upcoming retirements, as ATEC estimates 38% of current aviation mechanics are at least 60 years of age — and if these retirees aren’t replaced, airlines will be forced to reduce the number of flights they operate. 

“Every day, the FAA handles 45,000 flights carrying 2.9 million passengers, and every one of them depends on the experience of skilled technicians to ensure their flights are safe, efficient, and on time,” says Markle. “With so many senior technicians about to retire, attracting new talent to fill these positions is crucial, and that means we need to rethink how the skilled trades are presented as career options to students of all ages, genders, and interests.”

As president and CEO of PIA, Markle oversees the strategic direction and operation of all PIA locations and programs. She is a member of the nomination committee for the National Aviation Hall of Fame and was appointed by the DOT to serve on its Women in Aviation Advisory Board. She holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Seton Hill University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education from California University of PA, and a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University. Markle has been with PIA in various capacities since 1999.

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects about 13,000 annual job openings for aviation maintenance and avionics positions over the next decade. With an average annual salary of $65,550 — and with PIA graduates’ typically starting their careers at $20 to $24 per hour — aspiring technicians can enter this rewarding and stable career field while incurring significantly less student loan debt than a traditional four-year college.