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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dallas from 500 Feet

Up-close look at Honeywell Sentinel, Observer and Sky Connect Tracker III.

 

Honeywell provided Rotor & Wing the opportunity to experience its Sentinel and Observer displays up close as part of a Feb. 11 demonstration flight on a Eurocopter AS350BA during Heli-Expo in Dallas. Never one to turn down a chance to fly, I climbed in and sat next to senior test pilot Ronald Wayman, who started up the controls and booted up the avionics units.

Looking out the window of the AS350 at the Dallas skyline. The demo flight included an obstacle avoidance exercise in flying toward control towers.  Photos by Andrew Parker

Wayman described Sentinel and Observer as “multifunctional tools.” Sentinel is an MFD and navigation system designed specifically for helicopters. Its 5.7-inch screen is well-suited for operators that have little or limited space in the cockpit.

With Observer, he explained, “you can put flight plans in it—directly into the system or you can build them on your laptop. It will show TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) information, give you a graphic display of the terrain you’re flying over, and let you know if that terrain’s going to be in conflict by a graph—not any type of audio, but we get that from an onboard EGWPS,” or enhanced ground proximity warning system.

Honeywell Sentinel (left) and Observer screens in the cockpit of the Eurocopter AS350.

Wayman demonstrated the capabilities of the TCAS system by flying toward a series of tall control towers. When nearing the towers, an audio alert warned the pilot to take evasive maneuvers, while the display turned from yellow to red as we got closer. Wayman then displayed the functions of the EGWPS, slowly losing altitude over a lake near Executive Airport. When we got close to the ground, audible alerts and warning lights told the pilot to pull up.

The company’s helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (H-TAWS) was also displayed on a Honeywell KMD-500. Another interesting avionics unit aboard the AS350 was Sky Connect’s Tracker III, which supplies voice, text messaging and automated tracking for helicopters. “You can pre-program text messages in there to tell [ground controllers] how many passengers you’ve got and where you’re going. It’s another tool for tracking,” Wayman noted.

Honeywell’s experimental Eurocopter AS350BA on the tarmac at Dallas Executive Airport (RBD).

While airborne, he sent a message to the ground, receiving an immediate “Message sent successfully” notice, followed a few seconds later with a returned message from the ground: “We are watching you.”

Following the demo, representatives from Sky Connect showed our just-completed flight path on a laptop, noting the ease of viewing the tracking information post-flight.

For more information and to view a video of the Honeywell AS350 test flight involving Sentinel, Observer and Sky Connect, visit www.aviationtoday.com/rw/heliexpo2012

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