March 04, 2013
Guy Norris Los Angeles
Five years ago, when Rolls-Royce delivered the first RR300 to Robinson Helicopters, many believed the advent of the new-generation engine marked the beginning of the end for its predecessor, the ubiquitous M250.
Yet, partially thanks to the RR300, the fortunes of the M250 are improving markedly. A new, high-powered variant of the family, the M250-C47E, which leverages advances made for the RR300, is being unveiled at this week's Heli-Expo show in Las Vegas. Originally introduced by Allison in the early 1960s, the turboshaft is gaining a new lease on life as Rolls marks the delivery of the 31,000th unit.
“In terms of production, we've seen a 20% year-on-year increase for both the RR300 and M250 from 2011, and 2013 is sold out,” says Greg Fedele, Rolls-Royce senior vice president for helicopters. “We've seen an upturn in the vertical-lift market, specifically the Bell 407 and Robinson R66, and we're ramping up production.”
To date, more than 500 RR300s have been delivered to Robinson's Torrance, Calif., production facility, says Fedele who adds that long-anticipated additional applications may finally be realized. An agreement to use the powerplant for a proposed reengined Bell 47 program has been signed with Scott's-Bell 47, and “we are in discussions with another airframer on another new application for that engine,” he adds.
The memorandum of understanding with Scott's-Bell 47 (SB47), a Minnesota-based upgrade and modification specialist, covers the potential development of a new-build version powered by the RR300 turboshaft. Since acquiring the type certificate from Bell in 2010, SB47 has had ambitions to put an updated variant of the venerable helicopter back into production. SB47 is a sister company of Scott's Helicopter Services, the world's largest operator of the Bell 47, as well as Texas Helicopter, an FAA-approved parts supplier and supplemental type certificate (STC) holder for the Model 47. The study agreement with SB47 follows the long-standing development of an STC to reengine the Bell 47 with the Rolls M250 turbine.
The launch of the -C47E follows “requests for more hot-and-high performance and increased power across the envelope,” Fedele says. “It's a new series of engine that incorporates the RR300-derived Value Improvement Package (VIP) kit and a dual-channel, full-authority digital engine control (Fadec). We're increasing the power rating to 700 shp (an 8% increase over the current series), and we can increase this even more if an airframer asks.”