Design office stumbling block forces Belgian manufacturer to abandon efforts to have helicopter certificated in UK

Belgian light helicopter manufacturer Masquito Aircraft may pursue French approval after the collapse of certification efforts with the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Masquito is also drawing up plans to certificate its piston engine separately and sell to third parties including fixed-wing light aircraft owners.

Masquito, based in Geluveld near Yprés, had been pursuing certification of its two-seat M80 light helicopter under the Very Light Helicopter (VLH) category with the UK CAA since 1999, initially with design authority assistance from the UK Popular Flying Association (PFA). The company had successfully completed around 50h of ground tests on the 450kg (990lb) M80 and started hover tests earlier this year. The company was forced to abandon further certification efforts under the CAA, however, as it lacks design office approval (DOA). The CAA says "we have to be convinced an aircraft will meet our standards."

"We are between a rock and a hard place, as to get DOA we would have to reorganise and put in place lots of costly systems and procedures, but without it we cannot continue," says Masquito managing director John Pescod. The CAA was unavailable for comment.

Masquito has held talks with the French airworthiness body DGAC, which says it will use the UKVLH regulations as a template but will not insist on DOA, says Pescod. The company expects the aircraft to be approved as a pre-built kitplane initially before it applies for full validation under European certification specifications for very light rotorcraft (formerly JAR-VLR).

The M80 would require modifications, such as replacing the overhead stick with a T-bar and installation of a full perspex cabin, to meet initial DGAC requests. Work has stopped on the project, much of which is carried out by component supplier Ropa Metaalbewerking under an equity swap deal.

Masquito is continuing development of its 120shp (90kW) M2.6 four-stroke piston engine, in an effort to ease cashflow problems caused by the certification delay, says Pescod.

The air cooled engine has completed around 20h of bench testing so far and Masquito aims to certificate the engine by the end of next year. The company has received considerable interest from fixed-wing light aircraft owners as the fuel injected powerplant is projected to weigh around 55kg.

Source: Flight International