Innovative Auckland company, Innova Composite Helicopters NZ, is preparing for commercial production that will see its staff numbers and revenue dramatically increase.
Innova showed its revolutionary, all-composite helicopter at the Helicopter Association International’s 2015 Heli-Expo in Orlando and received significant expressions of interest.
Nina Heatley, Innova NZ engineering manager, said the interest came from around the world, making this truly an international trendsetter and product.
``We have proven there is a market for composite helicopters – people want something new and a bit more modern – and now we have to do the hard work of getting certified, and arriving in Texas at the next Heli-Expo (in 2017) to show what we have accomplished,’’ she said.
The first Innova NZ model, the C630, must be type certified by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority and United States Federal Aviation Administration. The company has started the process and expects to receive certification in early 2018.
It would then begin commercial production of its five-seat C630, powered by a Rolls Royce RR300 turbine engine, while continuing engineering and certifying additional helicopter models.
Innova, based at the North Shore Airfield, is now creating tooling to build the first conforming helicopter and is planning to build two more aircraft by the end of 2017.
The Innova helicopter’s fuselage and main and tail rotor blades are made entirely of rigid carbon fibre composites, using the same technology found in America’s Cup yachts, high-end sports equipment and new aircraft such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
The design and composite materials create increased structural strength and provide unparalleled impact, corrosion and fatigue resistance. The helicopter has no external rivets providing an exceptionally smooth outer surface and thus reducing the drag.
The helicopter is more durable, can be built efficiently and has the lowest operational costs in its class. ``The helicopter is very robust,’’ said Nina. ``It can absorb a lot of energy without significant structural failure. We have used carbon fibre composites on the outer shell for impact toughness, and E-glass for isolating and protecting the electrical components from lightning.
``We have aimed to create a useful life for drive-train components in the helicopter that are superior to other competitors in the market. The air frame will have no life limit when placed into service; yet another problem for our competitors,’’ she said.
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) has helped Innova NZ develop business connections, and will continue to work with the company. As part of its regional partnership with Immigration New Zealand, ATEED will provide support for obtaining skilled workers – when InnovaNZ starts recruiting.
``It’s an exciting project for the composites industry and manufacturing in general in New Zealand,’’ said Nina. ``We have had overwhelming support from the aerospace sector and our colleagues in the composites industry. We are excited to see the aviation industry strengthen and grow in New Zealand.’’