For many years the Robinson R22 has been the standard light training and personal helicopter, but Fama Helicopters Africa (Hangar 6, Stand A1) hopes that the new Fama K209 will provide a better-performing and more modern alternative.
Designed and built by Fama at Modena in Italy, the stylish K209 is powered by a single gas turbine – the proven Solar T62, which is more traditionally employed as an auxiliary power unit for much larger helicopters and aircraft.
Using a turbine has a number of benefits, such as allowing the use of jet fuel, paraffin or diesel as a fuel. More importantly, the turbine engine allows pupils to progress straight to a turbine rating without having to convert later in their instruction course.
Compared with the R22, the K209 is a more modern machine, featuring a single large ‘glass’ cockpit display in the roomy cockpit. The design incorporates a capacious 100kg baggage pod behind the two-person cockpit, and an in-flight centre-of-gravity trim capability thanks to fore and aft oil reservoirs.
The helicopter’s tube structure is filled with nitrogen and is fitted with a gauge, allowing any cracks to be detected without having to visually inspect the structure. Much of the structure is carbon-fibre, as are the rotor blades. The latter have a theoretically unlimited lifespan.
Performance-wise, the K209 outstrips its rivals thanks to the 162hp generated by the T62 engine. This equates to excellent hot-and-high performance with two on board, a relevant factor in many parts of Africa, not least of which in the local region around Pretoria.
Fama is working on a four-/five-seat derivative. Rather than use a larger turbine engine, it will employ two of the current engines, thereby allowing the new aircraft to be used for twin-turbine instruction.
The K209 on display here at AAD is the first aircraft in South Africa. It arrived in April to allow certification, which has now been completed. Three more K209s are now en route to South Africa, including the first of the retractable undercarriage variants.
Fama Helicopters Africa is the local agent for the type, based at Wonderboom airport near Pretoria. The co-located Powered Flight helicopter school is already using the first K209 for training, and will take on more of the type to augment its R22 fleet.
Fama Helicopters is also working with Zulu Aviation to establish a facility to assemble the helicopters from major components. This will help to relieve some of the burden on the Italian factory, which is currently facing a long waiting list.
The list price for the fixed-undercarriage version is €180,000 (approximately R2.5 million), and €200,000 (approximately R2.83 million) for the retractable-undercarriage helicopter. Operating costs are in the region of R3,300 per hour.