New versions of two older helicopters, Vertical Aviation Technologies' S-55QT Whisper Jet and Helipro International's Offshore S-61 Short, were displayed for the first time at the show. Certification of both conversions is imminent.

Florida-based Vertical Aviation has completed flight testing of a five-blade rotor on its turbine conversion of the Sikorsky S-55, following delays caused by damper problems. One S-55QT with the AlliedSignal TSE331-10 engine, large windows and "glass bottom" cabin floor - but retaining the original three-blade rotor - is in service with tour operator Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters.

A second Papillon aircraft has been modified for flight testing of the five-blade rotor, which allows RPM to be reduced to 92% in the cruise to cut noise. Vertical Aviation president Brad Clark says the company is working on tail rotor improvements that would reduce noise further.

The offshore version of Heli-pro's shortened Sikorsky S-61 first flew on 12 February after completion by British Columbia-based Rotor-Dyne Services. The $4-5 million, 19/26-seat aircraft is aimed at a perceived gap in the market between the S-61N and Eurocopter AS332L Super Puma.

Engineering director Vic Greenfield says Rotor-Dyne is trying to interest Vancouver-based scheduled helicopter airline Heli-jet Airways in the S-61 Short, displayed in 22-seat airline layout, to supplement its 12-seat S-76s.

Washington-based Helipro has converted six S-61Ns to its Short version for logging use. The first Offshore S-61 Short is the seventh to be converted by removing 1.2m from the fuselage to reduce empty weight and improve payload.

Source: Flight International