Nearly two decades ago, Jon Bourke joined Helicopter Express and quickly became our chief pilot. His experience includes piloting throughout Europe, the Caribbean, and North, Central, and South America.
Recently, Jon’s feature article Taming the Squirrel was featured in Vertical, an online magazine that features the latest in helicopter news. His article explores that success of BLR Aerospace, which highlights a very different approach to improving aircraft performance.
In the rotorcraft industry, BLR is best known for its “FastFin” kits for Bell medium helicopters, which deliver improved hot-and-high performance and tail rotor authority using a tail boom strake and modified vertical fin. Although Bell Helicopter was initially wary of the FastFin system, it proved to be so effective and popular with customers that Bell licensed use of BLR’s supplemental type certificate (STC) for the technology and has made it standard on all new Bell 412EP and EPI helicopters. I have first-hand experience with the FastFin system through my position as chief pilot of Helicopter Express in Atlanta, Georgia, as a number of the Bell 205 A-1s in our firefighting fleet are equipped with BLR’s modifications. So, I’ve long been familiar with what the company’s engineers can offer for those who work on the backside of the power curve.
In addition to 205 A-1s and other Bell models, the Helicopter Express fleet includes a number of Airbus Helicopters H125 (formerly AS350 B3e) and earlier AS350 B3 aircraft. We use these for firefighting, external load work, and short-haul search-and-rescue operations across the western United States, including the Rockies, the Teton and Wind River Ranges of Wyoming, California’s Sierra Crest, and Washington’s Mount Rainier and North Cascades — all very rugged areas that can leave a pilot short on control margin very quickly. Our pilots frequently perform difficult rescues at pressure altitudes up to 14,500 feet and density altitudes as high as 18,000 feet, where any performance advantage counts.
Read more at Jon’s full article: Taming the Squirrel