Eurocopter expects EASA certification in a "matter of days" for the temporary fixes it has developed on the EC225, which should enable the grounded portions of the Super Puma fleet to return to service by "the end of this month or early July".
Speaking at a Paris media briefing on Tuesday, Jean-Brice Dumont, the manufacturer's chief technology officer, said that Eurocopter had "found the full explanation and root cause" for the gearbox issue that led to two ditchings of the EC225 in May and October last year. Groundings by civil aviation regulators in the UK, Norway and Denmark followed.
"I can say it is a matter of days before we get formal approval from the authorities to open the way [for a] return to service," says Dumont.
"Having provided our customers with enough information and material to retrofit [the EC225], the first aircraft will be ready for flight by the end of the month or early July."
Eurocopter's temporary solution involves linking the helicopter's health-monitoring system to a visual alarm in the cockpit. This will warn the pilots that a crack has begun to propagate in the EC225's bevel gear vertical shaft, allowing them sufficient time to make a safe landing.
Guillaume Faury, the airframer's new chief executive, says "the lessons that we have taken out of recent events" are partly responsible for a certification delay to the super medium EC175, announced on Tuesday.
This second postponement, following a previous entry-into-service slip announced last year, is to allow the type and its support network to achieve "maturity" before customers take their aircraft.
The new super medium type will now make its operational debut in early 2014, says Dumont. One of its flight-test articles recently completed oil rig landing trials in Norway as part of the certification effort, he says.
While attaining its type certification remains a "major milestone", says Dumont, it is "not significant as such" compared with the requirement for the aircraft and the logistics underpinning it to be ready for service entry.
Three operators will receive aircraft next year: UTair, Héli-Union and Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen.
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