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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Editors' Choice: Safety Enhancements

Continued focus on safety in helicopter operations will always be important. Our editors have searched for, and found, several products and services that can help improve your safety focus.

L-3's SRVIVR CVR Meets Mandate

L-3 Electrodynamics is introducing the SRVIVR family of cockpit voice flight data recorders (CVFDRs), a state-of-the-art crash survivable recorder designed to meet FAA’s mandate for flight recorders. Offering the smallest and lightest CVFDR on the market today, SRVIVR is available with a variety of air vehicle interfaces, providing flexibility on a broad range of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. It is available as a CVR, FDR, or Combi unit and complies with EUROCAE ED-112. It provides up to two hours of audio, 25 hours of flight data at 64 to 2048 wps, TSO-C177 data link recording, and a rotor speed interface. SRVIVR was also designed to interface directly with digital cockpit display systems via ARINC-429, RS-422, or Ethernet, potentially eliminating the need for a separate flight data acquisition unit. SRVIVR is scheduled to be approved to TSO-C123b, TSO-C124b, and TSO-C177 by mid-2010. L-3, 1-847-660-1790, www.l-3com.com/edi/srvivr.htm

Smart Global Solutions Offers Risk Management Tool

UK-based Smart Global Solutions introduced its software suite for risk management at Helitech 2010. The risk management system (RMS), marketed as Smart Insight, is hoped to help helicopter operators comply with the 2012 requirement for safety management systems (SMS). Smart Insight is a broader software tool that can encompass all risk areas of a business—safety, financial, legal, employee-related etc. Managing Director Darren Edwards insisted that the system is template-based and thus flexible. According to Edwards, it can be tailored to exactly match the owner’s processes. Hazards are looked at from the prevention and reaction sides. The system is made of 11 modules for auditing, tracking, reporting etc. The risk module (which includes an ICAO-compliant SMS manual) is available pre-loaded with hazards, threats, threat controls, events, mitigation, etc. recognized by the aviation industry. In terms of safety management, “I have a document” is no longer a sufficient answer, Edwards told Rotor & Wing. Rather, “you have to prove you adhere to these procedures; this is what we try to assist,” he emphasized. To report occurrences (i.e., safety incidents), forms can be designed by the owner. Submissions can be anonymous. Occurrences go to junior or senior managers, depending on how serious they are. Edwards explained that Smart Insight is providing management with live data depicting how the company is actually performing. This is made possible by the hazard occurrence reporting and flight data monitoring modules. Auditing is the key module. The results of auditing include actions, which then go to the “tracker” module. “It tells you which task is being performed by whom,” Edwards explained. In helicopters, “it will help the operator have an SMS in place and prove it adheres to it,” he said. Should a small operator choose to use Smart Insight, “we would host the implementation,” Edwards said. The operator would thus have its SMS up and running in three to six months. Prices, probably with a leasing scheme as an option, are not defined yet. Edwards added that Smart’s RMS could be used for the in-the-works international standard for business aviation-helicopter (ISBAO-H) code of best practices.—By Thierry Dubois

Smart Global Solutions, +44 0208 619 0600, www.smartglobalsolutions.com

Appareo Systems Launched GAU 3000

Appareo Systems announced the newest product in its award-winning ALERTS flight data monitoring (FDM) system earlier this year, the GAU 3000. The GAU 3000 extends the capabilities of Appareo’s other FDM equipment by adding a modular infrastructure that enables operators to choose the right hardware package for their needs. The GAU 3000 continues Appareo’s history of building small, lightweight flight data monitoring equipment and adds to that legacy by incorporating EUROCAE ED-155 compliant crash-survivable flash memory and ARINC 429 support for avionics such as radar altimeters, glass cockpit displays and GPS navigators. With ARINC 429 support, the GAU 3000 will serve as a centralized hub to record any and all data generated by an all-digital aircraft. For legacy aircraft, the GAU 3000 will still record important flight data independently of the ship’s electronics using Appareo’s inertial sensing suite comprised of accelerometers, gyros, compasses and a 16-channel WAAS GPS. The GAU 3000 weighs less than 3.5 lbs and consumes just over one-half a cubic foot of space. Available accessories will include an imaging unit for capturing high-resolution cockpit imagery, a wireless high-speed data module for simplified transmission of flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) data. Appareo Systems, 1-701-356-2200, www.appareo.com

UtiliChart 5100 and RT-600 DF Make Powerful Combo

The Aeocomputers UltiChart 5100 moving map system, in conjunction with the Rhotheta RT-600 direction finder, are a great combination of tools to aid in search and rescue of persons/aircraft/vehicles/vessels. The Aerocomputers moving map has always been a solid performer with easy, intuitive controls, greatly reducing TFO workload, while enhancing situational awareness. The RT-600 is a direction finder that overlays a highly sensitive directional signal onto the moving map. The signal comes from a personal locator transmitter, aircraft ELT (both old and new frequencies), or other emergency location devices. The stubby belly-mounted antenna houses the electronics, freeing up panel space. Oxnard, Calif.-based AeroComputers designed UC-5100 to meet the needs of law enforcement, public safety, and military clients. Through integration with the aircraft’s onboard camera/IR sensor and other systems, the crew can keep attention focused on accomplishing the mission, not on the operation of the hardware. Proven in the field by more than 150 agencies worldwide, the UC-5100 mapping system sets a high standard for managing tactical operations in public-use aircraft. The RT-600 (SAR-DF 517) by Rhotheta was designed specifically for use on board all aircraft, including helicopters. It is a direction finder system for airborne SAR that operates on all frequency bands used for rescue missions, including emergency frequencies 121.500 MHz, 243.000 MHz and 406.028 MHz (Cospas-Sarsat) as well as channel 16 of the marine band. Emergency beacons that operate on the Cospas-Sarsat frequency 406.028 MHz can be identified and localized. No additional equipment is required in the aircraft since the electronic direction finding components are integrated into the antenna. The display and control unit consists of an 80-mm round instrument, and the graphic LCD display permits convenient viewing of localization and Cospas-Sarsat information.

AeroComputers, 1-805-985-3390, www.aerocomputers.com and RHOTHETA USA, 1-435 578 1270, www.rhotheta.com

EMS FLEET Tracker Watches Over Your Team

Effective fleet management is a critical factor in maximizing the safety and efficiency of helicopter operations. FLEET Tracker from EMS Aviation (formerly Sky Connect) offers a complete tracking and communications solution that is especially popular among offshore oil and emergency medical providers. FLEET Tracker is the only system of its kind able to provide a GPS flight plan with a map that displays the pilot’s flight plan, giving dispatchers and others fleet situational awareness. Its comprehensive customization of landmarks and map overlays is also unique. The system’s MMU-II is the smallest cockpit dialer available and includes highly customizable options for pre-stored messages, forms and phone numbers.

EMS Aviation, 1-877-821-8429, www.emssatcom.com

Hughes Offers Nav Expertise

Houston-based Hughes Aerospace Corp. offers performance based navigation (PBN) services designed for both helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. Hughes is uniquely positioned to offer not only RNAV/RNP, but uniquely qualified to deliver the more precise three dimensional paths of WAAS LPV and GBAS GLS navigation procedures. The superior accuracy of WAAS/GBAS provides lower minimums and a higher margin of safety than un-augmented GPS. The Hughes team has global experience with successful PBN design and implementation, consistently delivering significant value to their customers in all environments—arctic, offshore, desert, jungle and congested metropolitan areas. Hughes Aerospace provides a completely integrated system, tailored to meet the specific needs of its clients. These turn-key solutions involve PBN crew training, aircraft equipage and FAA/ICAO regulatory compliance. Hughes also offers a host of other services such as FAA/ICAO-compliant obstacle surveys and air traffic PBN integration training. They also offer aircraft and facility weather, navigation, voice and data equipment, including VHF, satcom and 802.11. Hughes was selected to participate in the PBN Roadmap for several counties, and is currently working with the FAA in the design and implementation of the first public WAAS LPV heliport procedures in the world.

Hughes Aerospace, 1-281-591-4729, www.hughesaerospace.com

Lockheed Martin’s DEVECTOR

As people keep finding more creative ways to put themselves in dire positions, search and rescue providers are challenged to fly missions into increasingly dangerous situations. Two of the biggest problem areas are reduced visibility, caused by brownouts, fog, rain or whatever; and in-flight obstacles—towers, wires, structures, etc. While some technologies and vision aids including forward-looking infrared (FLIR), shortwave infrared image (SWIR) sensors, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), millimeter wave radar (MMWR) and others have given flight crews some much-needed support, they all have their drawbacks. Namely, the lack of sharp detail and accurate obstacle range and elevation information. These shortcomings often point to what pilots are calling “blobology” images—formless color blobs displayed on the helicopter’s MFD. Flight crews know something is out there, but they’re just not sure what or where it is. Lockheed Martin’s new-generation Degraded Visual Environment Correlation Tracking & Obstacle Recognition (DEVECTOR) could just be the light at the end of the tunnel. Currently undergoing active flight testing, DEVECTOR uses advanced 3-D synthetic vision technology spawned from a high-resolution digital terrain elevation data (DTED) database and hazard detection sensors to create synthetic images that help flight crews operate more safely in significantly degraded visual environments. Used alone, or in combination with LIDAR and RADAR, this fused vision/sensor system will provide a huge leap forward for those operating aircraft in marginal environmental and weather conditions. Lockheed Martin, www.lockheedmartin.com

Cobham’s HeliSAS:

Finally, an Autopilot for Small Helicopters

Most pilots will agree that an autopilot is a great, safety-enhancing device to have aboard an aircraft. But in the helicopter world, autopilots have been a luxury reserved for big-ticket ships, such as the Bell 412, Eurocopter EC155 and Sikorsky S76. But it appears that will change within the next few weeks as Cobham, the Mineral Wells, Texas-based avionics firm, closes in on FAA certification for HeliSAS, its two-axis autopilot system.

HeliSAS—an acronym for helicopter stabilization and augmentation system—is a two-axis system that controls the helicopter’s pitch and roll attitude. Yaw and power inputs remain entirely with the pilot.

HeliSAS consists of four main components. Two of them are servos, which physically connect to the control tubes that link the cyclic to the pitch and roll sides of the swash plate. The third is the flight control computer, which serves as the electronic interface between the servos, the aircraft’s avionics, and the fourth component—a slim control head mounted in the instrument panel.

As an autopilot, HeliSAS offers heading (HDG), navigation (NAV), back course (BC), altitude (ALT) and vertical speed (VRT) hold. When coupled to the Garmin GNS-530, SAS and NAV modes, along with one or the other vertical hold commands, directs the aircraft along published instrument approaches. Once again, power and yaw inputs are pilot-controlled.

In SAS mode, the system takes an “electronic picture,” so to speak, of the cyclic’s position, as sensed by the pitch and roll servo arms at the time of activation. HeliSAS then keeps the cyclic in that position until the SAS function is disengaged by on/off buttons on the control panel, or either one of the cyclic grips. It is so precise, it will even hold a fairly stable hover.

Should the pilot change the position of the cyclic slightly, HeliSAS assumes it is inadvertent, and returns the cyclic to its original orientation. But if the cyclic is moved to a greater degree, the SAS will assume that the pilot is executing an evasive maneuver and disengage, thus immediately restoring full control to the pilot.

A second benefit of the SAS is its ability to recover the aircraft from an unusual attitude. If the pilot should become disoriented, HeliSAS will gently return the aircraft to straight and level flight, power permitting.

HeliSAS requires physical attachment between the two servos and the tubes that connect the cyclic to the pitch and roll actuators. Engineers solved this requirement by mounting the 3.4-lb pitch and roll servos under the front seats, and attaching them to the cyclic control tubes with connecting rods. The HeliSAS computer then marries the system to the aircraft’s avionics.

At 15 lbs total, HeliSAS does not create a significant weight and balance issue. In fact, it was designed with light helicopters, such as the Bell Jet Ranger and Robinson R44, in mind. And while a price for the unit has yet to be etched in stone, Cobham plans to keep acquisition costs well below $75,000, and installation time around 24 man-hours. FAA certification is expected near the end of 2010.

Cobham currently has HeliSAS installed aboard a Bell 206B Jet Ranger belonging to Edwards &Associates (E&A), the Piney Flats, Tenn.-based subsidiary of Bell Helicopter that specializes in custom helicopter completions. E&A, and its sister company Aeronautical Associates, are working with Cobham to ensure simplicity in installation and integration across a variety of airframes.

Jim Shirey, product line manager at Cobham, invited me to try HeliSAS at E&A’s facility. He paired me up with E&A test pilot Mike Milhorn for a morning flight around eastern Tennessee. As advertised, our right hands rested in our laps as HeliSAS maintained the selected parameters, even when buffeted by light mountain winds and turbulence. Our only job was to set and guard our power and pedal positions. Hovering at 20 feet AGL without touching the cyclic was just plain magical.

For our ILS approach to runway 23 at Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI), Milhorn activated the SAS, NAV and ALT modes, which rolled the aircraft into a gentle left turn to capture the localizer. Upon intercepting the glide slope, the system switched from ALT to VRT mode, where Milhorn reduced our power, and let HeliSAS descend us on a book-perfect final approach all the way to decision height. From all appearances, HeliSAS looks like a nice aftermarket product for the light helicopter market. It isn’t the four-axis autopilot found on the big, expensive ships, but Cobham has proven the technology, and feels confident that it will work on just about any helicopter on the market today. See a video of us flying the Cobham HeliSAS at www.rotorandwing.com —By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large

Cobham, 1-817 897 8830, www.cobham.com

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