So as Thursday slipped by this week and most were thanking the fact it was almost the weekend 🙂 over in the US the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and CASA (Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority) in the early morning (Australian time) signed / passed the expanded Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) implementation procedures. Well something to that effect anyways its all inter-governmental stuff which is a bit beyond me as an engineer, but the upshot is that it basically increases the scope and provides implementation of airworthiness approvals automatically accepted by the US from sunny downunder, Australia, yup thats us :). The even bigger deal though, at the same time as signing this agreement/implementation procedures thing, they also completed the validation of the first Australian approval (STC – Supplemental Type Certificate) which I have had alot to do with over the last.. well lets say its been going awhile 🙂
The approval relates to the replacement of the all metal Tail Rotor Blades on a Bell Helicopter 206 helicopter with composite ones. The really neat part is that the blades are certified and produced here in Australia and that it is the very first CASA STC for a rotorcraft that has been accepted by the FAA – that's a really big deal 🙂 it basically means the company here Australia (Airwork Helicopters / AMT Helicopters) can freely sell these composite replacement tail rotor blades into the US market – for once the playing field has been equaled (well nearly 🙂 ) The validation process has been going on for awhile, but it became quite clear towards the end that the FAA were very happy with the high level of certification documentation that was associated the CASA STC – thanks to me 😉 … ok ok,, Auto Avia Design 🙂 🙂 and I suppose CASA had a bit to do with it 🙂
There is already alot of interest from other Australia organisations keen to get various aviation approvals (CASA STC's) here validated through the bilateral agreement. So, whilst manufacturing may appear to have pretty well flat lined in Australia, there are glimmers of hope and when the playing is open for both parties we can really become competitive and get our great ideas and products out there.
For those who may not know, Australia automatically accepts airworthiness approvals from the US (FAA) basically you can buy a camera kit to swing off ya helicopter from Fort Worth in US and its automatically approved – however and its a big one- this in the past has not been reciprocal, we could not automatically get our sweet as aircraft mods automatically accepted over there, in fact, by the time you actually went thru the process of trying it become more cost effective just to do it all in the US – that sucked. So this now implemented Bilateral agreement, whilst does not automatically accept CASA STC's it comes very close, the FAA will 'validate' the CASA STC's meaning they can review them and then give them a FAA STC – noting that a FAA STC is pretty useful since it means you can pretty well sell your FAA STC'd product anywhere in the world, much like the green-back is accepted everywhere, so are FAA STC's.
So, well done to Myles Tomkins (also Chad and John White) at AMT Helicopters/Airwork Helicopters in QLD, without their drive and persistence it would have never gotten past CASA 🙂
Also plenty of Kudos to the QLD government who provided some helpful funding at the start from a innovation fund, after nearly 7 years I bet they were wondering whether they would ever see any return on the funding 🙂
To all you folk out there who choose to beat around in Bell 206 helicopters, grab yourself a set of these blades when your metal ones come up for life replacement, besides buying Australian you are getting a great product with some pretty impressive certification backing it up 🙂
It will be also great to see the Civil Aviation Safety Authority – CASA promoting this agreement and also the first STC cab off the rank 🙂
The official press release can be found on the Airwork website