Back McDonnel-Douglas MD 900 "Explorer"

McDonnell-Douglas MD 900

The MDX/MD Explorer lifted off for the first time on 18 December 1992 at Mesa, Arizona. This new technology helicopter received type certification on 21 December 1994 from the FAA which was only 23 months after first flight. This was one of the shortest certification periods ever recorded for a new helicopter and was also the first new design passenger and utility rotorcraft certified by the FAA in more than ten years.

The MD Explorer is the first commercial helicopter totally designed using computer-aided design techniques and only after a detailed market survey of over 177 operators asking them what they wanted from a new utility helicopter in terms of flight performance and general layout in a 1800 to 3600kg helicopter.

The Explorer has been built largely from composite materials and is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW 206A turboshafts and has a maximum gross weight of 2950kg. It can lift 1150kg internally, or 1350kg externally and weighs only 1350kg empty. The helicopter incorporates a range of new technologies to improve safety and performance and reduce operating costs. These include the NOTAR yaw control system, composite, bearingless main rotor with five blades. Digital avionics including FADEC, diagnostics and an Integrated Instrument Display System. The liquid crystal Integrated Instrument Display System (IIDS) replaces traditional cockpit instruments by presenting aircraft operating information in a digital format and icon symbology on two six-inch screens. The system also records operating data for on-board health and usage monitoring, providing technicians with accurate information for performing maintenance functions. Direct operating costs are expected to be as little as $370 per hour.

With 14 feet of flat floor space in the rear cabin, the Explorer is expected to undertake a multitude of civil missions from general utility to offshore transportation, corporate flight, tourist flights and air medical services. In the EMS configuration the Explorer can accommodate two patients, two attendants and life support equipment in addition to the flight crew. The first two of an expected 1000 production MD Explorers were delivered in December 1994.

P.Allen "The Helicopter", 1996

MD 900 "Combat Explorer"

TYPE: Light utility helicopter.

PROGRAMME: Initially known as MDX, then MD 900 (proposed MD 901 with Turbomeca engines was not pursued); McDonnell Douglas design; announced February 1988; launched January 1989; Hawker de Havilland of Australia designed and manufactures airframe; Canadian Marconi tested initial version of integrated instrumentation display system (IIDS) early 1992; Kawasaki completed 50 hour test of transmission early 1992. Other partners include Aim Aviation (interior), IAI (cowling and seats) and Lucas Aerospace (actuators). Ten prototypes and trials aircraft, of which seven (Nos. 1, 3-7 and 9) for static tests; first flight (No.2/N900MD) 18 December 1992, followed by No.8/N900MH 17 September 1993 and No.10/N9208V 16 December 1993; first production/demonstrator Explorer (No.11/N92011) flown 3 August 1994. FAA certification 2 December 1994; first delivery 16 December 1994; JAA certification July 1996; FAA certification for single-pilot IFR operation achieved January 1997. Type certificate transferred to MDHI on 18 February 1999.

FAA certification of uprated PW207E engine achieved in July 2000, providing 11% more power for take-off and 610m increase in hovering capability OEI in hot-and-high conditions; first delivery of PW207E-engined Explorer to Police Aviation Services, UK, 27 September 2000. "100th production" Explorer (actually 89th overall, including prototypes) delivered 1 March 2002 to Tomen Aerospace Corporation of Japan for ENG operations by Aero Asahi of Hiroshima. Total fleet time stood at more than 120,000 hours by December 2002.

CURRENT VERSIONS: MD Explorer: Initial civilian utility version, as described.

Details apply to civilian version except where indicated.

MD Enhanced Explorer: Improved version, announced September 1996; originally MD 902, but now known as "902 Configuration". Main features include Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206E engines with increased OEI ratings; transmission approved for dry running for 30 minutes at 50% power; improved engine air inlets, NOTAR inlet design and engine fire suppression system, and more powerful stabiliser control system, resulting in 7% increase in range. 4% increase in endurance and 113kg increase in payload over Explorer. First flight (N9224U; c/n 900-0051, 41st Explorer) 5 September 1997, FAA certification to Category A performance standards (including continued take-off with one failed engine) and single-pilot IFR operation achieved 11 February 1998; JAA certification for Category A performance achieved July 1998. Retrofit kits to convert Explorers to Category A standard. First Enhanced Explorer delivery in May 1998 to Tomen Aerospace of Japan. PW206E replaced by PW207E from late 2000, beginning at c/n 900-0077, allowing further MTOW increase to 2,948kg.

MH-90 Enforcer: Beginning March 1999, under a programme code-named Operation New Frontier, the US Coast Guard used two leased MD 900 Explorers for shipboard anti-drug smuggling operations. Armed with a pintle-mounted M240 7.62mm minigun at the door station. In September 1999 the MD900s were exchanged for two leased MD 902 Enhanced Explorers. These subsequently replaced by Agusta A 109s. Six delivered to Mexican Navy at Acapulco (two each respectively in May and December 1999 and April 2000) for anti-drug operations, equipped with 12.7mm General Dynamics GAU-19/A Gatling guns, and 70mm rocket pods; further four in process of delivery. Weapons qualification trials were completed at Fort Bliss, Texas in November 2000.

Combat Explorer: Displayed at Paris Air Show, June 1995; demonstrator N9015P (No.15), an MD 900 variant. Can be configured for utility, medevac or combat missions; armament and mission equipment may include seven- or 19-tube 70mm rocket pods, 12.7mm machine gun pods, chin-mounted FLIR night pilotage system and roof-mounted NightHawk surveillance and targeting systems. Combat weight 3,130kg; two P&WC PW206A engines. No customers announced by January 2000, but N9015P became one of initial two MH-90s (with third prototype, N9208V).

CUSTOMERS: Market estimated at 800 to 1,000 in first decade; 100th Explorer registered in 2002 (to become seventh for Netherlands police); total of 108 manufactured by December 2002; first delivery 16 December 1994 to Petroleum Helicopters Inc (PHI) which ordered five; second delivery (N901CF) December 1994 to Rocky Mountain Helicopters for EMS duties with affiliate Care Flight unit of Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA) in Reno, Nevada. Total of two delivered in 1994, 12 in 1995, 15 in 1996, one in 1997, four in 1998, 11 in 1999, 16 in 2000, 20 in 2001 and four in 2002; initial (MD 900) series comprised 40 aircraft including three flying prototypes; FW207E engine from 64th production (67th overall) aircraft.

Other disclosed customers include Aero Asahi of Japan (15, of which the first, JA6757, was delivered in July 1995 and seven in service by October 2000), Airfast Indonesia, which ordered two in 2001 for offshore oil support in the Java Sea, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (four, delivered mid-1996), Belgian government (two delivered in 1996, in law enforcement configuration for Rijkswacht/Gendarmerie), Netherlands National Police (eight, plus two options, originally for delivery beginning June 2002 and scheduled for completion by end of 2002 hut all postponed to 2003); German State Police of Lower Saxony operates three, based at Hanover, and State Police of Baden-Württemberg at Stuttgart has ordered five, of which delivery rescheduled from 2001 to 2003, with first received on 4 March 2003, second scheduled for delivery in July, and remainder during the second half of 2003. Guangdong General Aviation Company of Shanghai, China, which ordered one for delivery in 2002; IBCOL Group of Germany (one, delivered in early 1996, operated by Air Lloyd of Bonn), Idaho Helicopters Inc/Life Flight (one, for EMS service at St Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho), Japan Digital Laboratory (one), Luxembourg Air Rescue (one, in EMS configuration), New York Suffolk County Police, Police Aviation Services (PAS) UK (10, of which initial delivery was made in June 1998; Tata Group of India (one, delivered in fourth quarter 2000); Televisa of Mexico (one); Japanese distributor Tomen (two); UND (University of North Dakota) Aerospace (one); and Virgin HEMS (London) Ltd (one, delivered in October 2000). By early 2003, UK Police Aviation Services fleet totalled three, while further six Explorers were owned by forces of Dorset, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Sussex, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

COSTS: US$2.285 million (2002); direct operating cost US$408.11 (2002) per hour.

DESIGN FEATURES: NOTAR anti-torque system; all-composites five-blade rotor of tapered thickness with parabolic swept outer tip with bearingless flexbeam retention and pitch case; tuned fixed rotor mast and mounting truss for vibration reduction; replaceable rotor tips; maximum rotor speed 392 rpm; modified A-frame construction from rotor mounting to landing skids protects passenger cabin; energy-absorbing seats absorb 20 g vertically and 16 g fore and aft; onboard health monitoring, exceedance recording and blade track/balance.

FLYING CONTROLS: NOTAR tailboom (see details under MD 520N); mechanical engine control from collective pitch lever is back-up for electronic FADEC. Automatic stabilisation and autopilot available for IFR operation.

STRUCTURE: Cockpit, cabin and tail largely carbon fibre; top fairings Kevlar composites; no magnesium; lightning strike protection embedded in composites skin. Transmission overhaul life 5,000 hours; glass fibre blades have titanium leading-edge abrasion strip and are attached to bearingless hub by carbon fibre encased glass fibre flexbeams; rotor blades and hub on condition.

LANDING GEAR: Fixed skids with replaceable abrasion pads; emergency floats optional.

POWER PLANT: Baseline MD 900 powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206E turboshafts with FADEC, each rated at 463kW for 5 minutes for T-O, 489kW for 2.5 minutes OEI and 410kW maximum continuous. Transmission rating 820kW for T-O, 746kW maximum continuous, 507kW for 2.5 minutes OEI and 462kW maximum continuous OEI.

Fuel contained in single tank under passenger cabin, capacity 564 litres, of which 553 litres are usable. Single-point refuelling; self-sealing fuel lines.

ACCOMODATION: Two pilots or pilot/passenger in front on energy-absorbing adjustable crew seats with five-point shoulder harnesses/seat belts; six passengers in club-type energy-absorbing seating with three-point restraints; rear baggage compartment accessible through rear door; cabin can accept long loads reaching from flight deck to rear door; hinged, jettisonable door to cockpit on each side; sliding door to cabin on each side.

SYSTEMS: Hydraulic system, operating pressure 34.475 bar.

AVIONICS: Full IFR capability for single- or two-pilot operation.
Comms: Two headsets standard. Bendix/King Silver Crown VHF transceiver, audio control panel, ELT, cockpit voice recorder and Wulfsberg Flexcomm П optional.
Radar: Honeywell RDR 2000 vertical profile colour weather radar optional with IFR package.
Flight: Optional equipment includes Bendix/King Silver Crown VOR/ILS, HSI, ADF, DME, marker beacon receiver, radar altimeter, Loran С and KLN 90B GPS. Coupled three-axis autopilot optional.
Instrumentation: Single- or two-pilot instrument panels incorporate Canadian Marconi integrated instrumentation display system (IIDS) with high-resolution sunlight-readable LCD screen displaying engine and system information including engine condition trend monitoring, exceedance recording, caution annunciators, onboard track and balance of rotor and fan, weight on cargo hook, outside air temperature, digital clock, running time meter and RS-232 download modem interface for personal computer. Other standard instrumentation includes airspeed indicator, encoding altimeter, vertical speed indicator, turn and slip indicator, wet compass and clock. EFIS 40 electronic flight information system and parallel UDS monitor for long-line hook operations from left seat optional.
Mission: Law enforcement panel with space for FLIR screen available.

EQUIPMENT: Standard equipment includes magnetic chip detectors on engines, tiedown fittings, flush-mounted cargo tiedowns, rotor blade tiedowns, right side passenger step, utility beige colour carpet, trim, wall and ceiling panels, soundproofing, tinted windows, map case, recessed hover and approach light, wander and white dome lights in cockpit, white dome light in cabin, utility light in baggage compartment, single 28V DC power outlet each in cockpit and cabin, single colour external paint with two-colour accent stripes, FOD covers, pitot tube cover and cockpit fire extinguisher.

Optional equipment includes dual controls, heated pitot head, rotor brake, pilot-activated engine fire extinguisher, engine air particle separator, maintenance hand pump for hydraulics, external cargo hook with 1,361kg capacity, 272kg personnel hoist, wire strike kit, emergency floats for skids, retractable landing light, port side cabin step, landing gear and rotor fairing canopy cover, heater/defogger, vapour-cycle air conditioner, upgraded soundproofing, passenger service unit with air gaspers and reading lights, window reveal panels, matching close-out panel for aft baggage area, upgraded passenger seats, smoke detector in baggage compartment, jack-point fittings and ground handling wheels.

Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 2004-2005

McDonnel-Douglas MD 900 "Explorer"

Technical data for MD 900 "Explorer"

Crew: 1-2, passengers: 6, engine: 2 x Pratt & Whitney PW 206B turboshaft, rated at 469kW, rotor diameter: 10.31m, length with rotors turning: 11.83m, fuselage length: 9.85m, height: 3.66m, fuselage width: 1.63m, take-off weight: 3057kg, empty weight: 1481kg, max speed: 278km/h, cruising speed: 250km/h, rate of climb: 14.2m/s, hovering ceiling: 3840m, service ceiling: 6100m, range: 530-600km payload: 1360kg

wagner fonseca, e-mail, 12.11.2010reply

Gostaria de saber sobre inspecoes de manutencao, reposicoes de pecas aeronave voando em outro pais,

Ricardo Zuccolo, e-mail, 27.01.2011reply

I am happy to share the high time MD Explorer register G-YPOL, UK Operator which has now passed the 13,000 hr mark.
This was achieved in a 10 year period.
It is also a big compliment to Team PAS who has provided maintenance and support.

Don Hillberg, e-mail, 23.06.2010reply

The tail thruster is air drawn through top of the airframe into a fan and down the boom,The engines exhaust exits the sides aft roof area,Its a funny little bus,Good for some work.

Danny, e-mail, 29.12.2009reply

What do you think about the MD 900 explorer? Do you think it is gonna be a good idea to operate the MD in fire fighting missions?

Mike Clawson, e-mail, 30.10.2008reply

No complaints for HEMS operations in Qatar at 50c w 5-6 people on board and no down loads on fuel.

Zafada, e-mail, 19.07.2008reply

Most likely the hot exhaust is being blasted out of the grill where the tail rotor should be

will, e-mail, 18.07.2008reply

How is this aircraft able to operate with no tail rotorblade?

Ali, e-mail, 17.07.2008reply

Did you try to fly this helicopter in hot weather with less dense like in kuwait temp 50c ,with max weight ,gun ,floation gear and flair system

Jose Pereira Neto, e-mail, 03.04.2007reply

It is the best!

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