Success Stories: Erickson S-64 Air Crane full composite main rotor blades

Erickson Inc. developed a more resilient, and cost-effective composite rotor blade for its S-64 Air Crane® helicopter with materials from Toray Advanced Composites. A six-blade heavy-lift helicopter certified in the 1960s, the S-64’s existing aluminum blades used expensive, antiquated WWII extrusion equipment that required time-intensive hand shaping and twisting in manufacture.

Erickson partnered with Toray Advanced Composites to develop a cost-effective composite rotor blade with lower maintenance costs and higher performance than legacy blades. At the time, FAA-approved composite materials for blades and their processes continued to be cost-prohibitive. Toray Advanced Composites helped Erickson identify and receive qualification for materials and processes to develop higher performance rotor blades with significantly reduced manufacture and maintenance costs.

The Approval Process

Partnering early in the process with Toray Advanced Composites saved Erickson time, resources, and money. Toray’s BT250E-6 resin system was identified as the ideal candidate for Erickson’s design. Toray provided both carbon and glass reinforced composite materials in uni-directional and woven reinforced formats of the resin system for comprehensive NIAR testing and qualification. Key to this approval was demonstrating out of autoclave (OOA) processability, considerably reducing cost, tooling, and manufacturing time. All materials were qualified as autoclave and OOA capable with a 126°C (260°F) cure.

From Toray Advanced Composites