20191023-hdb-helicopter pic

Bobby Baker, left, an engineer with Safari Helicopters, and Brian Alley with Carbon Fiber Composites stand next to a Safari 500 Helicopter, nearly all of which is made in West Virginia.

HUNTINGTON — A new helicopter resulting from a collaboration of Carbon Fiber Composites, Safari Helicopters and the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University is now commercially available and has had its first sales.

“What makes the Safari helicopter different is it is composed almost entirely of composite materials and is one of the only helicopters on the market to utilize an entirely composite freestanding tail boom, which allows for simpler and less expensive repairs,” said Brian Alley, owner of Carbon Fiber Composites in Ona, West Virginia.

Composite materials typically consist of fibers such as carbon or glass blended into plastic to give it strength and density without added weight. Composite materials are important to the aviation industry because they provide structural strength with better fuel efficiency and performance.

The Safari helicopter made its debut at the 2018 Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture, the world’s largest annual convention for aviation enthusiasts that takes place in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The company’s team returned to Oshkosh this year to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities by providing rides for convention participants and potential buyers. Carbon Fiber Composites is now manufacturing all of the composite components entirely in West Virginia to fulfill orders for the new aircraft.

“This new aircraft is an example of a company identifying a niche market and taking advantage of RCBI’s resources to grow its business right here in West Virginia,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI’s director and CEO. “From our startup support, to design engineering prototypes to manufacturing assistance, RCBI has been helping to build and diversify West Virginia’s economy for 30 years by supporting businesses like Carbon Fiber.”

For more information about grant opportunities or other support from RCBIAero, contact Jim Smith at jsmith@rcbi.org or 304-781-1688.

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