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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rotorcraft Outlook Panel: 2013

Question 1: What technological advancements do you anticipate will most impact helicopter operations in 2013?

 

Dave Marone

From the early days of aviation, fuel starvation, unpredictable weather and mechanical failure drive the overwhelming majority of aviation mishaps. The risk mitigation factors in helicopter operations remain fairly constant; keep the machine mechanically sound, keep fuel in the tanks, and provide a high state of situational awareness for the pilot. As technology continues to evolve, manufacturing quality should continue its positive trend. Today’s modern aircraft are manufactured to be incredibly safe, and they are. But in the challenge of maintaining complex equipment, human error is introduced. Training and quality systems can take advantage of some technological advances, but in the end, discipline and attention to detail will remain key drivers for safety.  

Fuel and weather management are both matters of situational awareness. Technology has highly automated fuel management, reducing pilot workload and increasing safety. Today’s integrated avionics, digital flight bags and autopilot systems provide pilots with real-time situational awareness, nearly eliminating the dangers of orientation in IMC, flight into known terrain, inadvertent flight into embedded thunderstorms, or other weather phenomena that would leave a pilot in a highly compromised position. And, whereas early generation autopilots would quit on you just when needed most, today’s systems are worthy of a pilots trust. Technological advancements have delivered big on safety, and we look forward to future risk reduction as technology further simplifies and automates the human-machine interface.

Dave Marone
Vice President
Sales and Marketing
BLR Aerospace

 

Eiji Kawaishi

The pattern we’ve seen over the past five-plus years will continue: With the continued strong growth of the global helicopter retrofit market, it’s more likely that operations in 2013 will be impacted by currently-available, highly-effective technologies than by new or emerging technologies.

All rotorcraft platforms—Airborne Law Enforcement, Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, Special Mission, Training, etc.—will realize significant operational improvements by replacing dated and obsolete equipment.

AgustaWestland’s AW169 made its first flight in May 2012.
From radio, to audio, to SVS, replacing bulky, heavy components with lighter, integrated, innovative systems with high functional density will result in reduced pilot workload, enhanced flight safety, and reduced operating costs. An example of this is Cobham’s Audio-Radio Control and Display Unit (ARCDU), a component capable of controlling all aircraft communications while delivering 40 percent weight savings and 60 percent space savings with a power consumption reduction of 55 percent. 

Cobham Aerospace Communi- cations, with some of the most robust and reliable navigation and communication technologies in the aviation industry, continues to offer unmatched capabilities and service to the OEM and retrofit markets.

Eiji Kawaishi
Vice President
Cobham Aerospace

 

Dmitry Petrov

All helicopter manufacturers look for high-tech solutions to improve their models, and Russian Helicopters is no exception. We are continuing to invest in new technologies to bring maximum benefit to our customers—by making our helicopters safer and more efficient, reducing cost per flight hour, increasing versatility and operational performance in all weather conditions. 

In practical terms, this means that we work with leading companies around the world to make their technologies available to buyers of our helicopters, and we also collaborate on R&D, for example to adapt advanced technologies to helicopter construction or develop new technologies from scratch.

One area that we see as particularly promising is the use of composite materials, which are lighter, stronger and more resilient than more traditional inputs, and also reduce manufacturing and operating and servicing costs—essentially a win-win situation for both us and our customers. We already use composite materials to build more than half of the body of the Ka-62, for example, and we expect to make increasing use of these technologies in our helicopters going forward.

Dmitry Petrov
CEO
Russian Helicopters

 

Lutz Bertling 

The continued role of heli- copters in society will depend upon our ability to further enhance their safety and effectiveness, while also reducing their environment impact. 

From the operational safety point of view, the industry took a positive step a few years ago when the presidents of major helicopter manufacturers – including Eurocopter – signed a letter urging all rotary wing aircraft operators to work towards the International Helicopter Safety Team’s (IHST) goal of reducing helicopter accidents worldwide by 80 percent in the next 10 years. After studying the root causes, the IHST found that there are four principal areas of focus to reduce accident rates: safety management systems, training, equipment and scheduled maintenance that adheres to manufacturers’ standards.

Our industry must continue developing innovative ideas to improve safety, as illustrated by Eurocopter’s first-ever integration of data from the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) air navigation network into an existing helicopter display system. With the incorporation of WAAS data into a helicopter’s instrument panel, it becomes possible to land on hospital helipads, oil rigs or sites not equipped with ground navigation aids – even in poor weather conditions.

Reducing the environmental footprint of helicopters also should remain a priority. Even in today’s financially challenging times, the manufacturers of rotorcraft must continue their research and technology investments that will lead to lower noise and reduced fuel consumption. This should include enhancements in aerodynamics – optimized rotor blade configurations and airframe designs are two examples – and the application of active noise reduction systems that benefit from improvements in electronics, sensors and actuators. A full-cycle approach to the environment must be a priority in future generations of helicopters, taking into account a wider view that also includes hazardous materials, recyclability and renewable resources.

Lutz Bertling
President & CEO
Eurocopter Group
Communications

Eurocopter unveiled its EC130T2 variant in February 2012.

Dan Komnenovich 

Aircraft performance enhancements and technical advance- ments by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will continue to significantly impact helicopter operations. In the 1960s and 1970s, the major costs of rotorcraft were its airframe and powerplant with a smaller percentage devoted to avionics, instrument panels and weapon systems. Today that trend is changing with more widespread adoption and use of digital multi-functional instrument panels, advanced communication avionics and navigation systems, and laser-guided weapons. Also, the increased use of turbine engines on lighter helicopter models allows for a large amount of power and a low weight penalty.  

These advancements also include increased use of unmanned aircraft in both the military and civil sectors and smaller aircraft that require less fuel and fly longer to improve coverage and reduce cost. The military is now using UAS (unmanned aerial systems) for cargo delivery in Afghanistan to keep the warfighter supplied and eliminate manned ground convoys.

With increased reliability and safety, UAS also are capable of taking on expanding roles—a precursor to the introduction and use of UAS in domestic airspace. The improving technology and mature robotics that enable unmanned aircraft to benefit the warfighter also will enable UAS to benefit commercial operators for such roles as pipeline patrol, search and rescue, surveillance, photography and forestry.

Through its LIFT program that especially serves the helicopter market and rotorcraft OEMs, Aviall is dedicated to enhancing the industry with its many supply chain solutions, including the forecast and on-time delivery of products that feature these technical advances.

Dan Komnenovich
President & CEO
Aviall

 

Sikorsky’s S-92 assembly line in Coatesville, Pa.
Steve Walford 

2013 finds the rotorcraft industry on the precipice of change with respect to new technological advancements. Manufacturers are experimenting with rotor applications, fuel alternatives, composite solutions, and avionics software. These technological advancements will all impact new aircraft as the manufacturers compete to develop and market the most advanced rotorcraft. That being said, the ability of MRO companies to apply some of these new technologies to older fleets may have the most short term impact as operators take advantage of new technological advancements to economically upgrade proven fleets.  

Steve Walford
Vice President
of Customer Services
Vector Helicopter Services-North America

 

Jim Sensale 

The continuing introduction of digital electronics, composites, and elatomerics into basic helicopter components and engines that are more reliable, accurate and less susceptible to corrosion, wear, fatigue and vibration than the mechanical systems that have been in place since rotary wing flight began (for example FADEC controls on engines in lieu of mechanical, composite rotor blades and hub components in place of aluminum and steel, elastomeric bearings replacing metal spherical ones).  

Jim Sensale
AIS President and Founder

 

George Ferito 

New technology, especially avionics, in the cockpit can be expected to generate additional training challenges for both the pilot and the training provider. 

Transitioning to all-glass cockpits will require targeted training for older, experienced pilots as well as the less-experienced rotorcraft airman. With the generational shift in pilot resources taking place today and in the near term, turbine experience is and will be at a premium. FADEC-equipped rotorcraft will help mitigate some issues such as engine starts, but a turbine skill set can only be developed through experience and/or comprehensive training. Also, more and more EMS and public service operators are engaging in NVG operations. There are now efforts under way to use NVGs during nighttime firefighting.

Specialized, non-type-specific training required to support NVG operations is now available in an AS350 flight training device (FTD) and the FAA will soon qualify additional FlightSafety simulators for NVG training and checking. Also, increasingly sophisticated engines require more frequent and more advanced formal training to keep maintenance technicians current.

George Ferito
Director, Rotorcraft Business Development
FlightSafety International

 

Question 2: What issue or issues concern you most about the immediate and long-term future of the rotorcraft industry?

 

Eric Erickson

The most pressing issue for the rotorcraft industry will continue to be the effects of spending reductions on both the military and commercial side of the business. This will continue to drive manufacturers and operators toward Donaldson’s high-performance filtration systems that optimize their return on investment (ROI), while minimizing maintenance requirements. We are seeing more aircraft development programs specifying advanced inlet protection from the inception of their planning stages, thereby protecting vital engine components from the start. Donaldson also continues to be the leading aftermarket supplier of state of the art technology in the particle separator and barrier filter markets. 

Eric Erickson
General Manager
Donaldson St. Louis

 

Dan Komnenovich

Of great concern is the reality that the rising costs of aircraft, spares and fuel are driving behaviors that can impact safety in our industry as operators look for ways to reduce costs and remain in business in today’s economic conditions. The International Helicopter Safety Team reports higher accident rates among general aviation, training fleets and smaller operators than for larger commercial missions such as EMS, law enforcement and tours. The industry must partner with government and other stakeholders to reduce risk, improve safety and lower the accident rates.

We at Aviall believe our LIFT program adds value for helicopter operators by reducing costs and improving efficiency with benefits that include more product lines, local stocking of high-demand parts, inventory management, electronic ordering, and the support of Aviall personnel in our 40 customer service centers around the world.

Our industry also must facilitate the introduction of younger people to replace those who are retiring after many years of dedicated service. The amount of knowledge and experience that is leaving our industry today is significant, and we do not now have adequate numbers of people coming into these career fields. We must encourage, train and promote young men and women to replace these pioneers who have served our industry so well.

Dan Komnenovich
President & CEO
Aviall

 

George Ferito

Unlike their fixed-wing brethren, many rotorcraft operators continue to conduct pilot training in the aircraft. With helicopter operations, 25 percent of all accidents occur during training. While larger operators are recognizing the safety and much-improved results to be realized by using simulation-based training, many smaller operations are reluctant to step up to the industry’s best training practice. There’s a reason all of the major energy companies engaged in offshore operations insist upon simulator training for flight crews assigned to fly their employees.

 George Ferito
Director, Rotorcraft Business Development
FlightSafety International
 

 

Dmitry Petrov

It probably comes as no surprise that, as one of the major global players in helicopter manufacturing, we are generally optimistic about the future of the industry. One issue that we think will be key to the sector’s long-term prosperity is collaboration among major players. This is something that will shape the way that global helicopter building looks tomorrow.

As such, collaboration with other leading global companies is something that we pursue as an active part of our strategy. At the 2012 Farnborough International Airshow, for example, we announced an agreement with AgustaWestland to develop a 2.5-tonne class helicopter. This built on earlier agreements with our colleagues at AgustaWestland, including the establishment of a 50:50 joint venture manufacturing plant at Tomilino outside Moscow in 2010.

We also collaborate with component manufacturers to bring advanced technologies to our helicopters. For example, engine technology is an important way to bring down running costs for our customers and improve the flight characteristics of our helicopters. Working with manufacturers at the cutting-edge of engine technology ensures that our helicopters meet the highest international standards.

Dmitry Petrov
CEO
Russian Helicopters

 

Peter Lewis

In one word? Availability and how to avoid increasing difficulties in having OEM equipment serviced. Our business is providing parts on exchange and keeping consignment inventories equipped worldwide for our customers flying the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin and EC155 models. If you take a look out how the handful of major OEMs are no longer mass producing items for the Dauphin, it’s hardly surprising that our business is increasing as legacy components become scarcer, even if many are still theoretically in production. We see many parts requiring two years and longer to be manufactured, so that is as bad as obsolescence in the operator’s reality when they need to fly.

Working hand in hand with OEMs can be an uphill battle, but we’re getting there, some just take longer to understand the concept of product support. Our commitment is to simply be more efficient than the airframe OEM and the equipment suppliers. It takes a lot of forward thinking and planning, but as our company is still expanding healthily, we’re clearly filling a niche that needs our presence.

Peter Lewis
CEO
Alpine Air Support

 

Dave Marone

Over the past 20 years, the increasing cost of aviation fuel has added 30 percent or more to the direct operating cost of most helicopters. Regulatory burdens and the expense to ensure against litigation combine to further drive cost up. And finally, the available pool of skilled pilots and mechanics continues to drain, adding upward pressure on salaries. Without cost containment, the demand for helicopter services will soften, challenging basic industry economics.

 

Dave Marone
Vice President
Sales and Marketing
BLR Aerospace

 

Jim Sensale

The amount of profit generated by operators being squeezed more and more by the ever escalating cost of fuel, insurance, repairs, overhauls replacement parts with little ability to raise their prices and still remain competitive.

 

Jim Sensale
AIS President and Founder

 

Question 3: What is your company doing to improve safety in helicopter operations? How has your organization strengthened its training programs?

 

Lutz Bertling

Safety is the number one priority for Eurocopter. We believe helicopter safety not only involves responding to the requirements of today’s operations, but meeting the needs of emerging missions – such as the maintenance of wind energy farms that are being located further and further offshore.

Eurocopter foresees promising possibilities for further enhancements in man-machine interface, which we are incorporating in our new helicopters now being developed; along with the evolution of back-up capabilities – including a supplementary electric motor on single engine rotorcraft to facilitate an autorotation landing in the event of a main engine failure, which we have tested in full-scale conditions.

Garmin panel on the Bell 525 Relentless.
Another major Eurocopter focus is on expanding the worldwide network of training centers for crews and maintenance personnel through significant investments in these resources. Here, the emphasis is on full-flight simulators for realism – with some 20 of these systems in operation worldwide, along with the location of training facilities as close as possible to operators’ locations.

Safety also extends to maintenance and support, where Eurocopter continues to apply its innovation. This includes our implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags for life-cycle management of helicopter parts, components and systems. In operational use, personnel on the ramp would remotely download data from an RFID equipped helicopter after its landing – rapidly accessing information for maintenance, flight times and cycles, as well as in-flight events.

These are just a few examples of our total commitment to safety, which is backed by significant company investments and supported by the dedication of resources from throughout Eurocopter.

Lutz Bertling
President & CEO
Eurocopter Group
.

 

George Ferito

FlightSafety is enlarging its helicopter footprint with new simulators and new locations for a growing list of helicopter types. As the helicopter market matures and comes to recognize the value and safety proposition to be realized by subscribing to simulation-based training, FlightSafety will support its rotorcraft customers with new simulators and additional capacity in existing programs. Our new helicopter visual displays use all-glass mirror screens with greatly enhanced fidelity throughout the entire helicopter flight regime. New scenario-based training curriculums and Operational DayFlow classroom programs offer refreshed and even more effective training experiences for the rotorcraft pilot.

George Ferito
Director, Rotorcraft Business Development
FlightSafety International

  

Jim Sensale

Kamov Ka-62 made its debut in 2012.

AIS has a strong commitment to making sure that any and all parts that we sell and or offer for sale are NOT from a source that may affect their safety and ability to perform and or exceed manufacturer and FAA specifications. AIS policy is NOT be part of any transaction that involves any flight critical component or sub component that has been involved in an incident or has incomplete back to birth. All flight critical components and instruments that AIS is and are associated with and or offer for sale are First inspected, repaired or overhauled by a manufacturer and FAA / EASA approved facility and has full traceability back to original manufacture.

Jim Sensale
AIS President and Founder

 

Dmitry Petrov

Safety is of paramount concern for Russian Helicopters, and we have traditionally maintained extremely high standards in this field. Using proven technologies and tried-and-tested materials is one of the fundamental aspects of our approach. We are, as I have said, always looking to improve our helicopters by making use of advanced new technologies, but we also have to be sure that any new elements that we include have been thoroughly tested to ensure the highest levels of safety.

We also constantly monitor and seek to improve our production technologies, and to ensure that all our workers are well trained and conversant with rigorous standards. This not only guarantees a safer environment in our manufacturing facilities, but also means that our helicopters meet 21st-century quality standards and expectations—such as, for example, being able to operate around the clock in all climactic conditions.

Training is usually included as part of the deal when signing contracts with new customers. We see this as a particularly valuable added-value service for our customers, and are currently building a specialized training center outside Moscow to provide training for customers on all of the models that we produce.

Dmitry Petrov
CEO
Russian Helicopters

 

Dave Marone  

BLR’s FastFin Tail Rotor Enhancement and Stability System was designed to improve helicopter safety and operational capability. Recently awarded Aviation Safety Product of the Year by a leading industry publication, BLR is proud to contribute to the safe operation of hundreds of helicopters worldwide. BLR’s development projects remain focused on performance innovation and enhanced safety.

 

Dave Marone
Vice President
Sales and Marketing

BLR Aerospace

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