AgustaWestland has equipped six UK Royal Air Force AW101 Merlin HC Mk3A helicopters with BERP IV rotor technology as part of an ongoing drive to invest in next generation blade improvements.

The manufacturer is investing in active blade technologies and hopes to ground test an active blade segment as part of its involvement in the European Clean Sky programme to deliver greener aerospace technologies. The company will then complete downscaled wind tunnel modelling and ultimately fly an optimised rotor.

The first BERP IV blades flew in September 2006 and have now completed a flight test programme during which the AW101 was flown at speeds up to 198kt and at altitudes of 13,000ft. The company says that BERP IV blades have also been flown at weights up to 16,500kg, equivalent to 1,900kg above the normal Merlin gross weight and 900kg over the current AW101 maximum gross weight.

The new blades have been developed under a jointly funded programme with the UK Ministry of Defence. The technology incorporates new aerofoil sections and an advanced aeroelastically tailored structure. The changes deliver 10kt of additional cruise speed and 650kg of extra lift compared to standard Merlin blades.

AgustaWestland says it is exploring other solutions including compact hub absorbers, active dampers and active pitch links. Under the REACT programme (Rotor Embedded Actuator Technology) the company is working with the UK Government and three UK universities to study flexible trailing edges and the supply and transfer of power to the rotor blades.


Source: Flight International