By Woodrow Bellamy III | March 7, 2017
Sikorsky’s S-92 helicopter now has the ability to transmit in-flight health usage and monitoring systems (HUMS) data in real time to Louisiana-based helicopter operator PHI’s operations center. Sikorsky, PHI, Metro Aviation and Outerlink Global solutions collectively announced that PHI started operating its first flight with passengers on the first day of Heli-Expo capable of performing real time HUMS transmissions.
According to Sikorsky, with this new capability, PHI operators can view, assess and track important aircraft health data and provide additional information to aircraft crew and ground support teams to enhance operational and maintenance decisions. Implemented with an open architecture-based system solution, connectivity with additional existing global satellite networks is intended to support the global S-92 fleet.
The new capability is enabled by Metro Aviation subsidiary Outerlink Global Solutions newest console for customers of the IRIS system, a comprehensive, lightweight, monitoring, recording and next-generation satellite communications system providing voice, video analog and digital aircraft system information. The system includes a full-duplex communications service combined with what Sikorsky says is the rotorcraft industry’s first satellite-transmitted, real-time flight data monitoring system for civilian helicopter operations.
Sikorsky’s S-92 is equipped with 140 different sensors, capable of tracking more than 5,000 different performance parameters. During a press conference unveiling the new capability on the first day of Heli-Expo, the three companies said the functionality has been in development for several years, driven by a series of industry acquisitions and partnerships lead by Metro Aviation.
In 2015, Metro launched its IRIS system for datalink, flight data recording and L-band satellite broadband connectivity for tracking and monitoring aircraft and their emergency medical patients in real-time. IRIS consists of two avionics “boxes” and antenna, which enable the real-time HUMS capability through L-band satellites, according to Metro Aviation CEO Mike Stanberry.
“When I think where HUMS was on flight data monitoring and flight following 15 years ago, and where it is today, it’s absolutely amazing, when I think about where real-time HUMS could be in 10 years, in 15 years, it is flat exciting,” said Lance Bospflug, PHI’s president and chief operating officer.
At the Sikorsky booth during the unveiling of the new technology, a PHI pilot explained that while the technology is capable of sending continuous streams of data, PHI does not find that capability useful and that it only triggers the real-time HUMS capability when needed. He described the real-time HUMS on the S-92 as the tip of the iceberg, stating that to start the project, PHI has identified seven parameters that are all cautionary advisory lights that indicate problems to be immediately addressed. In the past, PHI’s operations center would have waited on radio communication from a pilot to address such a situation. Now the team’s operations center can see exactly what the pilot is seeing and look at the HUMS data transmission in real-time to assess whether it’s a problem they can continue flying with or something that requires an immediate landing.
“The system also has a dialer as part of the box so the pilot staff and crew can dial anywhere in the world. That’s also being done over satellite as well,” said Stanberry.
Currently PHI is only operating the real-time HUMS capability on one S-92, but plans on spreading it across its entire fleet in the future.