RotorWay International launched today at AirVenture 2009 in Oshkosh the Eagle 300T two-seat turbine helicopter, which is expected to fly for the first time early next year and enter into service in 2012.

RotorWay, which now produces the A600 Talon two-seat piston helicopter, signed at last year's AirVenture a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Rolls-Royce to discuss potentially using the new RR300 turbine engine for a new single-engine helicopter. RotorWay and Rolls-Royce announced today the RR300B1 has been formally selected to power the Eagle 300T.

RotorWay executive vice-president of worldwide certification William Adams explains "the MoU has now become a done deal with Rolls-Royce" and the two manufacturers are now preparing the helicopter and engine for first flight. The first aircraft which will be used in the test flight programme is on display at AirVenture 2009.

Adams says RotorWay is starting to accept this week $5,000 deposits for the helicopter. RotorWay has not disclosed a purchase price.

Adams expects first flight in six to eight months as this is how long it will take to "get the systems in place" and install the engine. "The cost of a mistake is a year and we don't want to make a mistake," he says.

He estimates it will take 24 months for FAA part 27 certification but warns that "the FAA drives that train". The RR300 has already been certified and is now flying as part of the flight test programme for the Robinson five-seat R66 helicopter. The much smaller Eagle will be the first turbine helicopter in the two-class sector and is targeted at the training market.

Adams claims "every single flight school on Earth will want this" because turbine training can only be done on much more expensive helicopters, typically the Bell 206 Jet Ranger. He says the Eagle 300T will allow student pilots to get the turbine time required by most commercial helicopter operators at a fraction of the cost. "We're very happy to fill the niche of initial turbine training," Adams says.

Rolls-Royce's director of marketing and strategy for helicopter engines, Matt Haugk, says the RR300 is part of an initiative by the manufacturer to offer turbine solutions for a sector of the market that has traditionally been only served by pistons.

"We think we need a good alternative for the avgas situation," Haugk says, explaining the availability of 100 low lead is already limited in some important markets and will continue to decline.

The RR300 was first launched in 2007 for the R66. Haugk says Rolls-Royce now has MoUs in place with three other helicopter manufacturers in addition to Robinson and RotorWay that have not yet been converted into contracts.

Rolls-Royce also launched last year a larger version of the turbine engine, the RR500, which is available for both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Haugk says Rolls-Royce has MoUs in place with Poland's PZL and Mooney for the RR500 and is talking to several other manufacturers but has not yet formally secured a launch customer.

There are now over 2,400 RotorWay piston helicopters operated in 52 countries worldwide. Adams says the Eagle 300T "is the next logical step for us".

He says RotorWay currently produces five A600 Talons per month at its factory in South Africa. It also sells about 120 helicopter kits per year from its facility in Arizona, with 40% of the kits being shipped to the US.

Adams says RotorWay, which has mixed US and South African ownership, plans to initially assemble the new Eagle 300T in Arizona. But he adds that a second assembly line in South Africa may later be opened and RotorWay will seek EASA certification in concurrence with FAA certification.

Source: Flight International