In May 2015, Queensland operator Airwork Helicopters, one of Australia’s leading helicopter flight training schools, successfully gained approval from CASA to manufacture tail rotor blades for Bell 206 helicopters.
Department staff from the SEQ North regional office have been working with Airwork Helicopters since 2010. They were instrumental in helping Airwork with an early stage grant that helped get the project started, developing a business plan and preparing them for a professional and successful Business and Industry Transformational Incentive application.
The Kevlar and carbon fibre blades offer a 30 per cent cost advantage with twice the life over the standard Bell 206 blades.
The new blades also offer a higher margin of safety due to their increased strength and higher thrust for an equivalent power setting as well as a very substantial noise reduction—a popular option for helicopter operators that fly in and around noise sensitive environments such national parks and built up areas.
Airwork Helicopters has commenced production of the blades at their factory at Caboolture Airport on the northern outskirts of Brisbane.
CASA certifications are recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration, thus opening up access to valuable overseas markets. Founder and CEO Myles Tomkins said he is already in advanced negotiations to export to European and US markets which will help promote the Australian aviation industry overseas. CASA is also in discussions with European Aviation Safety Authority and North American Aviation on Airwork’s behalf.
Mr Tomkins hopes to employ additional highly skilled technical staff and increase numbers from 12 to 20.
Mr Tomkins has acknowledged the efforts of CASA, assistance from the Queensland Government, Auto Avia Design’s engineering expertise, along with thousands of hours of dedication and hard work by his team.
Obtaining CASA approval is the first step in Airwork’s long term growth strategy to develop a world-class facility in advanced composites manufacturing at Caboolture Airport. It is now actively evaluating additional production opportunities for both helicopter and fixed wing aircraft composites structures and components.
Airwork’s accomplishment further establishes the region’s developing helicopter precinct from the Australia TradeCoast to the Sunshine Coast.