Qinetiq’s Sea King helicopter XZ575 has successfully completed the first flight using advanced composite main rotor blades. Lasting for around four minutes, the flight was a significant milestone in the evaluation of the Carson Helicopters’ blade for the UK Sea King helicopter with the new blades producing data indicating significant performance gains.
The flight was the culmination of many months of work carried out across Qinetiq and the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre at Boscombe Down and was supported by the MOD’s Sea King and Future Rotorcraft Capability IPTs and Agusta Westland.
Andrew Sleigh, Qinetiq’s Group MD for Defence and Technology said: ‘This is thought to be the most significant modification made to a helicopter in the UK by a non-aircraft manufacturer. Because the new blades had not been certified by any organisation independent of the manufacturer, they were fitted for the trial as a Qinetiq modification – one of the most significant aircraft modifications ever made by us.’
Based on Carson Helicopter’s longer version of blades used on the Sikorsky S61 helicopter, these were the first set of blades produced by Carson for the UK Sea King helicopter. The rotor blades use advanced aerofoil sections, increased twist and a swept tip to produce significant performance gains. A similar blade to that being tested by Qinetiq has shown a 2000lb increase in hover capability.
The Qinetiq Carson blade test programme is intended to examine aircraft handling, performance and vibration characteristics and has now undertaken 22 hours of flying. The trial is due to be completed later this month.
Initial results from the test programme, which are supported by theoretical modelling carried out by Qinetiq, indicate that the Carson blades have the potential to significantly increase performance and increase the operational flexibility of the Sea King.