The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) market can be a lucrative one for a company lucky enough to interest foreign buyers. The MD Explorer, offered by MD Helicopters, has found modest success in a variety of sectors, both military and civilian. It is actively included in the current MD Helicopters lineup alongside the venerable MD500 line and the MD600. The MD900 is currently represented by the upgraded standard, the MD902, which continues the established traits of the product through affordability, reliability, and performance for the LUH market.
The MD900 series is a multi-role platform, configurable to meet customer demands. As such, it can be arranged to serve in such markets as security, law enforcement, military, VIP / general passenger transportation, light cargo transportation, Search-and-Rescue (SAR), Special Operations (SPECOPS), MEDEVAC, and the oil & gas industries.
As built, the helicopter utilizes a sleek design look with its elegantly sloping nose and smooth contours. The two pilot positions (side-by-side seating) at front have redundant control systems and the wide-view glass panes offer exceptional vision and enhanced situational awareness out-of-the-cockpit. Aft of the cockpit is the passenger compartment which is typically arranged to carry six. A twin side-by-side engine arrangement is featured over the cabin roof and this is used to drive a five-bladed composite main rotor overhead while powering a "NOTAR" ("NO TAil Rotor") system at the rear (the MD900 design lacks a traditional tail rotor unit). The tail stem is elevated with the shaft running straight aft and terminating with the NOTAR unit. Atop the tail is a twin-finned rudder. The undercarriage is of simple four-point skid arrangement.
Internally, the cockpit supports the Genesys Aerosystems Integrated (GAI) IDU-680 series EFIS/EICAS/MFD all-digital "Glass Cockpit" sporting four large displays. A center console provides access to shared control systems between the two pilot positions. The passenger section can be arranged to seat six in twin three-seat, face-to-face configuration or changed to carry a medical litter with accompanying staff, wider seats for luxurious VIP transport, or six-person-seating with additional cargo space aft for offshore industry work.
The MD900's anti-torque capability, normally handled by a tail rotor to offset the natural occurring force in propeller-/bladed-type designs, is provided for by the patented NOTAR system. This system utilizes more precise direction control to accomplish the same effect without the complexity or danger of exposed spinning blades at ground-level. Furthermore, the NOTAR system reduces operating noises which are critical to operations at some airports and over populated cityscapes.
The MD900 line began with the original MD900 "Explorer" production model and this form was furnished with 2 x Pratt & Whitney PW206A, PW206E, or PW207E turboshaft engines. Arriving next was the MD901 "Explorer" offering which proposed a switch to 2 x French-originated Turbomeca "Arrius" turboshaft engines along with a tri-angel undercarriage but it appears that lack of interest has doomed this mark.
The MD902 represents the current (and upgraded) production standard of the MD900 line by MD Helicopters. These carry 2 x PW206E or PW207E turboshaft engines and feature enhanced Integrated Instrument Display Systems (IIDSs). Older MD900 models can be upgraded to this standard.
Dedicated military versions have included the MH-90 "Enforcer" which was used from 1998 until 2000 by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) service for interdiction duties. The MD969 "Combat Explorer" became a militarized, fully-armed platform for direct-contact work. The "Swift" is a new model being proposed by MD Helicopters for the U.S. Army's ongoing "Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft" (FARA) program.
Most in-service MD900 helicopters operate in the law enforcement and air ambulance roles.