Robertson Fuel Systems (RFS), a HEICO Company, and Vector Aerospace have moved a step closer to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification of their Crash-Resistant Fuel Tank (CRFT) for the Airbus AS350 light single helicopter family.
Following the successful completion of a 50ft drop test that demonstrated the tank’s ability to withstand impact without any leakage (thereby helping to prevent post-crash fires), flight testing of the AS350 CRFT is now underway at Vector’s Langley facility in British Columbia, Canada.
Commenting on the successful testing landmark, RFS chief executive officer Newman Shufflebarger said, “Witnessed by the FAA, the successful drop test was a critically important milestone that cleared the way for flight testing and certification to be completed this year.”
A Colorado congressman has recently introduced legislation, the Helicopter Fuel System Safety Act (H.R. 4574), that would require crashworthy fuel systems on all newly manufactured helicopters, regardless of the aircraft’s original certification date. The legislation was proposed in the wake of an AS350 Flight for Life crash in Colorado in 2015 that investigators deemed survivable but for a post-crash fire.
In addition, the FAA Reauthorization Act now includes an amendment that requires the FAA to make helicopter owners aware of fuel system retrofits and urge them to install retrofits “as soon as practicable.”
In association with the successful drop test milestone, Robertson and Vector have also announced the launch customers for the AS350 CRFT. Elvis Moniz, vice president of business development for airframe and avionics solutions at Vector, stated, “We are excited to announce that our longtime customers Air Methods Corporation (AMC) and WeatherTech Aviation LLC will be our launch partners for the AS350 CRFT, and we look forward to supporting their operations.”
The CRFT is being developed by RFS and Vector as a direct replacement for all AS350 models, including the H125 (AS350 B3e), as well as for the EC130 B4. The unique design features a robust crash-resistant fuel bladder, and uses several innovations including a magneto-resistive fuel quality transmitter to keep the tank from being compromized in the event of an accident.