K-MAX production is on schedule, says Kaman – Charles D’Alberto

Charles D'Alberto

Kaman announced in June last year that it was resuming production of the unique, single-seat utility helicopter. Kaman Photo

Kaman Aerospace is on schedule to deliver the first K-MAX helicopter from its newly reopened production line in January 2017, K-MAX business development manager Terry Fogarty confirmed at HAI Heli-Expo 2016.

Kaman announced in June last year that it was resuming production of the unique, single-seat utility helicopter, which was initially certified in 1994 and produced until 2003. Rotex Helicopter AG of Switzerland and Helicopter Express of Chamblee, Ga., were named as the launch customers for the revived aircraft. Since then, Kaman has also sold two K-MAX helicopters to Lectern Aviation Supplies Co., Ltd. of China, for a total of five aircraft under contract out of an initial production lot of 10. “We have some others very far along in the process of sales,” Fogarty said.

Kaman is building the K-MAX airframes at its facilities in Jacksonville, Fla. The aircraft will be “stuffed,” flown, and certified at the company’s headquarters in Bloomfield, Conn., where deliveries will take place. The helicopters’ Honeywell T5317A-1 engines are being provided by Mint Turbines, which is converting former United States military engine cores into Federal Aviation Administration-certified, “zero-time” engines using kits provided by Honeywell Aerospace.

Kaman is also “working very diligently to have a [K-MAX flight] simulator in place by the end of the year,” Fogarty said. Currently, Kaman conducts initial K-MAX pilot flight training on the HH-43 Huskie, which has a similar intermeshing main rotor system and can accommodate an instructor pilot with dual flight controls. However, the HH-43 design is nearly 70 years old, and the two Huskies in Kaman’s fleet are nearing the end of their components’ lifespans. Fogarty said that a K-MAX simulator will allow transitioning pilots to spend only around an hour in the Huskie, rather than the five to six Huskie flight hours they log under the current pilot training program.

Kaman continues to work with Lockheed Martin on refining the capabilities of the unmanned K-MAX, which operated for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014, and is now being explored for civilian firefighting and disaster relief missions. In October 2015, Kaman and Lockheed Martin demonstrated the unmanned K-MAX in the firefighting role for the U.S. Department of the Interior near Boise, Idaho. Although the aircraft performed the demonstration successfully, Fogarty said that Kaman and Lockheed continue to develop the aircraft’s computer models in order to better approximate the speed, precision, and judgment of an experienced firefighting pilot. “Trying to get those techniques into software is a bit of a challenge,” Fogarty said. “We’re taking a crawl, walk, run, approach to the program.”

Posted By Charles D'Alberto