Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

KAMAN AEROSPACE'S lead customer for the K-MAX external-lift helicopter, Erickson Air-Crane, has returned its leased aircraft to the manufacturer, citing a change in company philosophy. Kaman says that Erickson never voiced any dissatisfaction with the aircraft, on which it had accumulated 225h.

Oregon-based Erickson says that it has returned the two leased K-MAXes, one of which was never used operationally, because it wants to focus on expanding its heavy-lift operations using the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane. Management changes prompted the company to abandon plans for a two-tier, two-aircraft, operating philosophy.

Erickson's K-MAX programme manager Greg Schilling says that the decision to return the aircraft was "purely political". The K-MAX "...does way more than even [Kaman] said it would. It is maintenance-free, easy to operate and lifts really well. It is an excellent logger. Nothing compares to it for repetitive lifting," he says.

The helicopter-logging specialist was an enthusiastic supporter of the concept of a purpose-designed, single-seat, single-engine, external-lift helicopter and originally wanted all the initial production run of six K-MAXes to use on "clean-up" jobs which were uneconomical for the larger Skycrane. Kaman instead decided to place the aircraft on one-year, 1,000h leases with five North American launch operators. Three K-MAXes continue in service with three US operators.

Source: Flight International