Maintenance cost studies of rotary wing commercial transport aircraft
Author(s)Ausrotas, Raymond A.; Hsin, Chen-Chung.; Taneja, Nawal K.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Flight Transportation Laboratory
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Introduction: The vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft market has had substantial growth in the period of the last ten years when one considers the overall number of aircraft in use. The military fleet has continued to increase, as have such operators as natural resource (petroleum and lumber) companies, and law enforcement agencies. (See Table 1.) In scheduled passenger service, however, the VTOL- market has not enjoyed sustained growth. Consider Table 2, the type and number of helicopters in passenger service during 1962-1972. Following the cessation of federal subsidies to helicopter operators in 1966 the number of aircraft (and total available seats) has been steadily declining. Table 3 shows the composition of the fleets of the certificated carriers since 1966. Los Angeles Airways has been in bankruptcy since 1969; Chicago Helicopter is now largely a charter operator, although retaining its certificate; New York Airways, after a period of experimentation with the fixed wing Twin Otter (DHC-6) in 1968-1969, finally made it into the black in 1973, flying Sikorsky S-61's; and SFO Helicopter has retrenched its passenger services severely, but is not yet profitable. Why is the state of scheduled passenger operations so bleak? Many answers to this question have been given. For example, it has been said that the aircraft used by the operators have been inadequate: that they have been designed for military use and are ill suited for civilians who have been used to a higher comfort level (especially since most flights taken on a helicopter are in conjunction with a ride on a large, comfortable jet transport). Alternatively, it has been said that the high cost of operating the current helicopter fleet has caused the ticket price to be too high to be attractive to the traveler. Sometimes the operators have been fingered as the culprits -- that they have not priced their product adequately and have structured their networks poorly, i.e., that the failure has been one of management and marketing. And from the purely technology minded, the answer has been that once the properly designed rotary wing aircraft arrives on the scene -- one designed for civilian use and having the proper payload-range configuration -- the market will boom as VTOL aircraft enter city-center to city-center service. Doubtless there is a kernel -of truth in all these explanations, and examples to sustain most of them can be found in the history of helicopter operations in the United States. The intent of the work described in this report was to explore one frequently cited cause of the problem of high operating costs of helicopters in scheduled service - to wit, high maintenance costs of rotary wing aircraft. This attempt was made to allow a look ahead and to predict trends in maintenance costs of future rotary wing aircraft.
December 1974Includes bibliographical references (p. 121-123)
Cambridge, MA : Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Aeronautics & Astronautics, Flight Transportation Laboratory, 1974
FTL report (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Flight Transportation Laboratory) ; R74-7
Helicopters, Cost of operation