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Monday, March 9, 2015

Airbus Helicopters Creates First Rotorcraft FCOM

By Joseph Ambrogne

Image courtesy
Airbus Helicopters.

Even with next-generation airframes coming off the assembly line, some OEMs are revamping their internal processes. Airbus Helicopters, whose X4 is arguably the most highly anticipated design of 2015, has made its own safety contribution by publishing the first helicopter flight crew operation manual (FCOM) for the EC225 LP for offshore missions.

This airframe is a long-range passenger transport helicopter that, in its offshore configuration, carries 19 passengers and two pilots. The FCOM expands on the EC225’s safety offerings by focusing on the actions of its pilots. First, it describes when and how to manage the various “upper” modes of the EC225’s autopilot in each phase of a mission profile. Second, it offers guidance on Crew Resource Management (CRM). The FCOM is meant for use both on the ground and in-flight, so its sections have been reorganized for quick reference.

According to Airbus, the benefits of the FCOM are twofold. First is the collaboration between manufacturer and operator that went in to its creation. As the designer of the EC225, Airbus is best placed to fully explain and pass on the best understanding of the capabilities of its airframe. But it may not understand the real-world demands faced by pilots flying offshore missions as well as the operators who employ them. To ensure both perspectives were considered, Airbus held working group sessions between its own staff of reference test pilots, designers, pilot instructors, and flight operations specialists; and a Joint Operators Review (JOR) comprised of participants from Bond, Bristow and CHC.

The second benefit of the FCOM is standardization. Though operators won’t be required to use the FCOM, they are encouraged to use it as a template for developing their own in-house procedures. Even if they do, the final products will vary from company to company. But each operator’s version will benefit from the best-known methods collected in the source document.

Manufacturer-issued FCOMs aren’t a foreign concept in aviation; commercial fixed-wing operators, including Airbus, have been using them for years. But the EC225 LP is the first helicopter to receive such a document, and Airbus hopes that the trend will catch on. It plans to create follow-up manuals for other mission profiles, such as SAR, and other airframes; an FCOM for the EC175 is slated for later in 2015.

Editor's Note: An updated FCOM was recently announced. Click here for the brief. Be aware that Airbus has also changed its naming convention. So EC225 = H225

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