- 22 May 2023
- Engines - BizAv
McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems was formed in 1984 when McDonnell Douglas acquired Hughes Aircraft (including its Hughes Helicopter arm). Helicopters were subsequently produced under the McDonnell Douglas name until 1997, when McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, and the helicopter production unit was renamed MD Helicopters.
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McDonnell Douglas Turbine Helicopter Overview
By Matt Harris - Editor, AvBuyer Magazine
Two years later, Boeing sold MD Helicopters to RDM Holding, and after a period of struggle in 2005 was purchased by Patriarch Partners, led by Lynn Tilton, and recapitalized as MD Helicopters, Inc., an independent company.
McDonnell Douglas’ MD 500 Turbine Helicopter Range
Prior to the acquisition by McDonnell Douglas, Hughes Helicopter had developed the popular Hughes 500 single Rolls-Royce 250-C20B engine turbine helicopter. The company had built over 5,000 units, including the Hughes 500 Defender military version, since production began in 1963.
Naturally, McDonnell Douglas was keen to continue the success, and production of the MD 500E continued under the McDonnell Douglas name, offering the market a sophisticated, but attractively-priced, option.
During the same year that McDonnell Douglas acquired Hughes Helicopter, the MD 530F Lifter was certified, and provided operators with a ‘hot and high’ version of the MD 500E. For the MD 500F, the Rolls-Royce 250-C30HU engine was selected. Both the MD 500E and MD 500F offered ranges in the region of 250nm.
McDonnell Douglas further added to the MD 500 product line when it achieved certification of the MD 520N in 1991. This model was the first to feature No Tail Rotor (NOTAR), while McDonnell Douglas selected the Rolls-Royce 250-C20R/2 powerplant.
The big advantage of offering NOTAR was the elimination of some of the mechanical disadvantages of a tail rotor, improved safety (since NOTAR helps reduce pilot workload), and also the fact that it is notably quieter than other rotors and produces less vibration.
MD 600 Model
Building on the success and developments within the MD 500 product range, McDonnell Douglas introduced the MD 600N light utility single-engine turbine helicopter. This was a stretched version of the MD 520N, providing capacity for up to eight passengers (compared to five on the MD 520N).
Powered by a Rolls-Royce 260-C47M engine, the MD 600N similarly incorporated NOTAR. In the case of the MD 600N, though, the fuselage wasn’t the only thing that stretched: the maximum range of the aircraft was 380nm – approximately one-third more than was offered by the MD 500 series.
Meanwhile, a six-blade main rotor system ensured a smooth ride for passengers. Certification of the MD 600N was achieved in 1997, the same year McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing.
Twin-Engine Turbine Helicopters
For many years, McDonnell Douglas had its sights set beyond only manufacturing single-engine turbine helicopters, and in 1989 announced its intention to develop a twin-engine product – the MD 900 Explorer.
To achieve its twin-engine goals, the company turned to Pratt & Whitney Canada, selecting the PW206A as the powerplants. Certified in 1994, the MD 900 Explorer transports between four and seven passengers (normally four in executive configuration), and offers a range of approximately 330nm.
By 1997 – the year of the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing merger – the MD 902 was announced which would bring a range of improvements, notably through the use of the more powerful Pratt & Whitney PW206E engine.
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