When the temperatures drop to below freezing snakes usually seek out a frost-proof hiding place. The Flying Bulls Bell Cobra does this too. Yet instead of indulging in its winter break, the queen of snakes is being bolted, hammered and worked on, so she can once again present her regal self in the spring, for it is during the winter months that she has her annual inspection.
Every helicopter which has completed more than 100 hours of flying, or whose last service was more than a year ago, must be taken to the engineers for some upgrading work. For the Bell Cobra and the team based around helicopter engineer Thomas Schörghofer, this means several hundred hours of work – ‘We have a long checklist which we have to go through, item by item.’
As well as the standard inspection of the helicopter a few extra items are on the list. For instance, 2 tail rotor drive shafts are to be replaced. This safeguards the tail rotor shaft drive, which is connected to the main transmission. The steering rods are to be replaced too. The two rotor blades are controlled via these steering rods. Two small yet essential components.
Thirdly, a small turbine will be installed, with which it will be possible to generate smoke to the left and right of the helicopter at the touch of a button. This smoke system has been specifically constructed and customised to suit the requirements of the Bell Cobra.
All these jobs will keep the Flying Bulls engineers busy for some weeks. Thomas Schörghofer: ‘Helicpoters are more expensive to maintain than airplanes, say. There are more rotating parts, such as the turbines, the main transmission and the rotor.’ Our planning office ensures that all the requisite maintenance work is carried out and all the required parts are replaced. ‘My colleagues always keep an eye on what maintenance is pending and what has to be done. This means we can avert any maintenance work being done on a helicopter in the summer for instance, which would keep it grounded’, explains Schörghofer.
The aim of the engineers is to release the Bell Cobra from its winter break in time for its first appearance in 2016 at the Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbühel.