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Top 10 most read Vertical stories of 2023

By Vertical Mag | December 19, 2023

Estimated reading time 11 minutes, 52 seconds.

We can’t wrap up 2023 without carrying on the tradition of highlighting the top Vertical stories of the year. Below are our top 10 most read stories of the year measured by pageviews. (Click on the story titles to read the original articles.)

10. FAA pilots fly Leonardo AW609 for first time as certification enters ‘final stage’

Leonardo said the AW609 will revolutionize air transport thanks to its rotorcraft-like versatility and airplane-like performance. Leonardo Photo

Moving toward the final stages of certification testing, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilots flew the Leonardo AW609 tiltrotor in February 2023. This marked the first time the regulator’s pilots had flow the type. During a HAI Heli-Expo 2023 press briefing, Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo’s helicopter division, said the flight, performed in AC4 — the production representative development aircraft — was a pre-TIA (type inspection authorization) activity.

9. Canadian CH-149 Cormorant crash stemmed from seat in ‘false lock position’: DND

The wreckage of a CH-149 helicopter rests on pavement after a crash in March 2022. Canadian Department of National Defence Photo

The Canadian Department of National Defence’s (DND) Airworthiness Investigative Authority issued its final report on a March 2022 crash that destroyed a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter. The authority determined the crash was a result of a sudden, unexpected drop in the pilot’s seat height, instigating a series of events that resulted in serious injuries to two of the helicopter’s six occupants and minor injuries to four occupants.

8. Bell 360 Invictus 95% complete, awaiting T901 engine for ground runs

The Bell 360 Invictus is designed to fly at speeds of at least 180 knots. Bell Photo

In February 2023, Bell announced that its candidate for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program is more than 95% complete. Bell is expecting its 360 Invictus to fill a “capability gap” the Army has identified for reconnaissance and security missions following the retirement of the Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. Vertical editor-in-chief Oliver Johnson checked in with the company earlier this year.

7. Execution is the name of the game for Bell with ‘generational’ V-280 program

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied Sikorsky-Boeing’s protest to overturn the FLRAA decision in April 2023. Bell Photo

Following the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s April 2023 decision to uphold its selection for the U.S. Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program, Bell said it is ramping up staffing and capacity as it looks to build momentum in the development of its V-280 Valor. The company spent much of the last decade working toward the FLRAA contract win, and Bell CEO Lisa Atherton said this work has secured the company’s future.

6. Arizona aerial troopers ready for action  

A Bell 429 on patrol over Bartlett Lake, northeast of Phoenix, Arizona. Brent Bundy Photo

Covering a wide array of operational conditions, the Aviation Bureau of the Arizona Department of Public Safety responds 24/7 with a growing fleet of Bell 429 helicopters. Vertical contributor Brent Bundy writes about the important work that Arizona troopers carry out using their fleet of helicopters in this extensive feature article published in April 2023.

5. Bell 360 Invictus now targeting first flight in 2024

The competitive prototype of the Bell 360 Invictus is about 95 percent complete, Bell said. Bell Photo

Due to the delay in arrival of the General Electric T901 engine for the 360 Invictus, Bell told Vertical in June 2023 that it is pushing its first flight of the aircraft to 2024. The company said it was making “great progress” with the 360’s competitive prototype, and work is ongoing to “flight test” the 360 digitally in the System Integration Lab at Bell’s Flight Research Center.

4. The helicopter industry searches for the next generation

Yellowhead Helicopters operates 42 Bell and Airbus aircraft, and typically hires four or five freshly licensed pilots each year. Heath Moffatt Photo

The helicopter industry has been predicting an impending labor shortage for years. By all accounts, it’s here. Vertical contributor Lisa Gordon talks about the difficulties that many operators are experiencing in finding qualified pilots, and the industry bottleneck that’s preventing pilots from progressing in their careers.

3. Bell powers ahead with ‘once-in-a-generation’ V-280 Valor program

The Bell V-280 Valor is the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), selected over the Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X compound coaxial helicopter. Bell Photo

Bell’s V-280 Valor landed another spot in the top 10 most read story of 2023. Vertical contributor Gerrard Cowan talked to Frank Lazzara, the company’s director of FLRAA  sales and strategy, about how the U.S. Army’s contract will impact Bell’s manufacturing facilities and technological ambitions for the coming years. Lazzara calls the contract a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for Team Valor, a company like Bell, and technology like advanced tiltrotors.”

2. The ‘new’ heavy-lift utility helicopters

The first U.S. Army Black Hawk to hit the civil market were UH-60A models, but Rich Enderle of Arista Aviation said buyers can expect to see L models dominating the government auctions going forward. Skip Robinson Photo

Over the past decade, the fleet of heavy-lift helicopters dedicated to fire and utility work in North America has been undergoing a transformation. As the U.S. Army has divested Sikorsky UH-60A and L model Black Hawks and Boeing CH-47D Chinooks, these military workhorses have made their way into the civilian world as public use or restricted category aircraft. Vertical contributor Elan Head tells us how these heavy-lift helicopters are performing in firefighting and utility operations — and reshaping the market in the process.

1. Dropped iPad implicated in fatal Rotak Chinook helicopter crash

The CH-47D operated by Rotak Helicopter Services crashed in the Salmon River during firefighting operations on July 21, 2022. NTSB Photo
The CH-47D operated by Rotak Helicopter Services crashed in the Salmon River during firefighting operations on July 21, 2022. NTSB Photo

Coming in as the top most read story in 2023, we take a closer look at the fatal 2022 Rotak Chinook helicopter crash. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have demonstrated that an Apple iPad likely jammed against the co-pilot’s left pedal prior to the fatal crash in Idaho last year. Apple iPads and other so-called electronic flight bags (EFBs) have become common equipment in aircraft cockpits, used for flight planning, as a supplemental navigation aid, and to replace paper documents, among other purposes.

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