Bell Helicopter's H-1 upgrade programme has taken another step towards the operational evaluation phase (OpEval) with the five test aircraft passing 3,000 flight hours. Bell says that more than 95% of development work is now complete.

OpEval, which is the formal acceptance trial by the US Marine Corps operational pilots and aircrew, is the final milestone for the AH-1Z attack helicopter and the UH-1Y utility aircraft, which will replace the current fleet of AH-1W and UH-1Ns. The H-1 programme provides more than 80% parts commonality for the two aircraft.


"The engineers, maintainers, pilots and supporting staff on our combined contractor/government test team continue to click on all cylinders," says Buck Buchanan, deputy programme manager for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y upgrades. "Crossing this 3,000h milestone is a testament to the reliability of these new aircraft and to the diligence of our flight test team."


Marine Corps test pilots Maj Vic Argobright and Capt Mark Angersbach of the H-1 integrated test team flew through the milestone on their way to the range in AH-1Z No 2.

The achievement follows the first shipboard landings in May. Operating aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan off the Virginia Capes, the two aircraft made 267 landings during nearly 30 flight hours in both day and night operations to test their ability to operate in the shipboard environment.

"With recent completion of shipboard compatibility tests onboard USS Bataan and on-going weapons accuracy tests at Yuma Proving Grounds, we're looking forward to completion of the systems integration phase of our testing and entry into OpEval later this year," Buchanan adds.

The US Defense Department has approved a change to the H-1 programme in April which will involve building all-new UH-1Ys, rather than remanufacturing them from ageing UH-1Ns. The first new build UH-1Ys will start production in 2006 as part of the third lot of low-rate initial production aircraft. First deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2008.

Source: Flight Daily News