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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thommen, Trakka in the Spotlight

By Peter Donaldson

New competitors have recently enlivened a market dominated by Boeing’s Spectrolab, and Helitech 2013 provided Rotor & Wing with an opportunity to examine Thommen’s HSL-1600 and Trakka Corp.’s Trakkabeam A800 – two very different solutions to the same set of problems.

The HSL-1600 looks the more conventional of the two with its large diameter parabolic reflector that forms the output of the 1,600-watt short arc xenon bulb into a beam. A self-contained unit, it has no separate components except the hand control unit and associated cabling. Stepper motors move it in elevation and azimuth and digital control enables faster movement in all directions, “keep out” zones to protect heat-sensitive aircraft equipment such as antennas and precise coordination with camera pods. It can also be removed and reinstalled without realignment, says the company.

Its other party trick is an integral IR filter that slides around the bulb housing on command, the whole mechanism remaining inside the searchlight housing.

The Trakkabeam A800 is slimmer in profile, a clue to a different operating principle. Instead of a large diameter reflector, it shines the short arc xenon bulb’s light through a system of lenses. This, says European sales manager Christian Steward, provides a much more uniform distribution of light within the beam, eliminating the dark spot at the center and the peripheral fade associated with reflector searchlights.

Another unique feature of the A800 is its small diameter filter wheel that contains, in addition to an IR filter, an amber filter to improve penetration of fog and a visible red filter. The latter eliminates the vertigo sensation that looking up at white light can induce in people working underneath the helicopter and having to look up at it, according to Mick Rennie, key account and service support manager for Europe.

Thommen is more forthcoming about prices, quoting around 40,000 Swiss Francs for an HSL-1600 with white light and hand control only, rising to 70,000 SF for one with an IR filter and map/camera integration software. Including the hand controller it weighs 30 kg. Those prices do not include installation, which is aircraft specific and on which the company is working with integrators.

Trakka doesn’t quote prices but says that the A800 is “competitive,” although slightly more expensive than older variants of Spectrolab’s lights when considering a basic hand-controlled white light. Searchlight and gimbal weigh 17.88 kg with a typical system weight of 28.43 kg including all modules.

The company has deals in place with AgustaWestland and Eurocopter to offer the A800 as an approved option and is working with Bell and Sikorsky.

Responding to customer feedback, Trakka is soon to open UK service center. Alongside others in France, Germany and Italy, units need never leave Europe for servicing.

Related: Components and Accessories News

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