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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Show Preview: 'Keep Calm & Carry On'

By Andrew Healey

More than 45 companies will make their debut at Helitech 2009 as it returns to England this month. The majority are newcomers to the event, while others took part for the first time in 2008 at Helitech in Cascais, Portugal. At press time 180 exhibitors had committed to this year’s show.

While the numbers remain "broadly similar" to those at the 2007 event, Exhibition Director Sue Bradshaw says that total floor space is up by more than five percent and several companies have taken larger areas than before. "In common with other sectors of the aviation industry, the rotary wing arena is having to raise its game to cope with the current economic climate. Our exhibitors are really showing their resilience, with many maintaining or even increasing their marketing budgets," says Bradshaw.

One of the debutants is Consolite Technology (Booth 1814), a British supplier of night vision equipment, including goggles and compatible lighting systems. It also offers flight training and aircraft modification services. Another, New Zealand’s IMS NZ (Booth 1917), will display its underslung load equipment range, including the Cloudburst firefighting bucket and Ground Effect spreader system. The Ground Effect bucket features a spinner that has been designed to maximize even product spread while using minimal power.

Still with the agricultural sector, Sensor Technology (Booth 1713) is launching a new load sensor that combines GPS track guidance with load sensing, and can automatically calculate the cost of complex operations such as crop spraying and water bombing. The HeliNav LoadMaster has an on-board display and computer, and can be swapped between aircraft "in seconds". It records the exact weight of each load and the total distance flown. All the operator has to do, says the company, is download the data and invoice the customer.

New Stabilization

Swedish company DST Control (Booth 1315) is exhibiting its range of electro-optical sensor systems. The company’s Colibri gyro-stabilized micro-gimbal has just two axes but features purpose-built, high-bandwidth torque motors to attenuate active vibrations. The company says that combination delivers "a new level of stabilization performance".

UK-based HeliMedia (Booth 1816) recently supplied Italian operator Helica with a high-definition video system (HDVS) "in a box". The HDVS is claimed to be the first portable 1080p HD video system to transmit full 1080p video imagery to a network of receivers on the ground. It integrates recorder, a moving map, an HD downlink transmitter (with a range >150km), and all the DC conditioning — and the display clips on top. HeliMedia’s Stephen Watson says, "connect the turret directly to it, and you’re done." The system, which can be rapidly installed and removed, was commissioned just before a severe earthquake hit L’Aquila in central Italy: Connected to a Wescam MX-15HDi, Helica was able to support the subsequent relief missions with live airborne HD video imagery of the scene, downlinked to the control center. Bell Helicopter (Chalet 8) promises a full-scale mock-up of its newly-certified 429 in its chalet and a 407 on the static display. With the 429, it has finally delivered a single-pilot IFR machine to compete with Eurocopter and MD Helicopters, and the OEM expects to attract a lot of interest from Europe’s public service community. The B429 also represents the pacemaker for Bell’s MAPL (modular affordable product line) technology program.

Eurocopter (Chalet 5, Booth 906) is bringing a clutch of customer-owned singles and light twins, dominated by the VIP EC135 "Hermes" which will take centre stage on its main stand.

Luxury goods manufacturer Hermès has stamped its distinctive signature across the EC135’s exterior and interior design. It now boasts a cabin that is "pure, light-filled and unexpectedly spacious," according to Eurocopter. Seats have been upholstered in calf leather and certainly look trimmer than your average, overstuffed VIP seats.

No large twins from France, though, so Sikorsky (Booth 817) wins the Helitech round of the UK SAR(H) with an S92-A, all the way from Scotland.

AgustaWestland (Booth 2000, Chalet 3) is bringing two AW139, a SAR model from RAF Valley and an offshore variant, and one of the first Da Vinci specialist rescue AW109s destined for Switzerland’s REGA.

Turner Aviation (booth 1914) has been selected as an approved repair center by Aircraft Parts Corporation (APC) and will cover Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Turner can now service the complete range of APC DC electrical power systems and Helitech visitors will be able to view a demonstration of the company’s recently launched website. It provides customers with a wide range of online services, including an exchange stock search utility, parts purchasing facility and online status and dispatch reports.

Critical Factors

Oxley Developments (Booth 501) has recently delivered a suite of external lights to BAE Systems for use on their HERTI unmanned air vehicle. Following a sale of new wing-tip and tail lights in the latter half of 2008, Oxley designed and built low profile anti-collision lights that, reportedly, combine a robust, lightweight design with a high-intensity output.

Size, weight and optical performance are critical factors in external lighting for any aircraft, but for UAVs in particular. The Oxley ROTOX 400 anti-collision light produces an effective intensity in excess of 400 candela. With a protruding height of less than 50 mm and weighing less than 750 grams, the lights fit small space envelopes and consume very little power. Customized options, including NVIS friendly and covert variants, are also available. All the lights feature high mean time between failure (MTBF) rates and low through-life maintenance costs.

Host Systems (booth 518) will display a mobile elevating ATC tower. CEO Michael Brunton says that the eight-meter-tall towers are currently in use with the Royal Air Force in theater. "They are used to establish air traffic control in remote locations, and at various satellite airfields in the UK."

Each tower is delivered ready to "plug-and-play," and can be tailored to individual requirements. Typically it is fitted with Park Air radios, Garex voice switch, Audiosoft voice recorder and Vaisala ultrasonic met system. Additional capabilities include radar interfaces and displays, land telephone lines, secure communications, heliport lighting operation and extra connectivity.

Host towers have undergone successful portability trials inside the Chinook and C-130 transport, and can also be trailer-mounted. The cabin can be fitted with ballistic protection and used for border control operations and command-and-control modules.

The towers have particular applications for heliports/helipads and can be easily upgraded to meet increased demand. A host tower in Sao Paulo, Brazil handles an average of 450 "mostly helicopter" movements a day, seven days a week with two operators.

Carl Zeiss Optronics (Booth 712), formerly Denel Optronics, is demonstrating the "next generation" LEO-III-HD airborne observation system. Equipped with up to nine high-performance sensors, the LEO-III-HD reportedly represents a step-change in law enforcement and homeland security observation capability.

The system is said to be able to read vehicle registration plates in complete darkness at altitudes up to 1,500 feet, while on-board, real-time data processing capabilities provide image enhancement options including image fusion. Both the daylight TV zoom and spotter cameras feature four focal plane arrays that offer the capability to view points of interest from the visible color up to Near Infrared spectra.

Reduced Mx Costs

Aerodata (Booth 1516) will be showing a helicopter workstation on its stand operated in helicopters such as the EC135 or Super Puma with German Federal Police.

Aero Quality Sales (Booth 1808) has a new ultra low maintenance battery for the Bell 206L and Bell 407, replacing the standard 1756 battery. Saft ULM batteries offer reduced maintenance costs while retaining the reliability of nickel cadmium cells.

Air & Ground Aviation (Booth 1212) is showing a new self-propelled starter unit, the U.S.-designed Start Pac Hi-Brd, that provides 300 amps of continuous power to run any 28.5-volt aircraft system. Total weight of this model is 1600 lbs with a 12-gallon diesel tank. This Start Pac features a heavy-duty steel frame, five removable doors for easy maintenance access, wide tires for traction and stability, and automotive type steering. Its 140 ampere-hour batteries provide 3,500 peak amps and will start any electrically started turbine engine. Since the batteries provide most of the starting energy, a soft start is guaranteed every time, says Air & Ground.

Air Covers (Booth 1610) has just delivered a load of custom-fitted cockpit covers for RAF and Fleet Air Arm Merlins, which are recently back from Iraq and soon off to Afghanistan. The covers are heat and weather resistant and designed for use at sea, on land and in desert conditions.

Air Covers’ MD John Pattinson says that, "owing to operational requirements the lead-time for this order was extremely tight, but we had recently invested in additional equipment and have a good relationship with our suppliers. Each cover will reduce maintenance and down-time."

The ISAT 200 is SkyTrac’s (Booth 1409) full-featured Satcom transceiver. It provides automatic, global, real-time flight following, text messaging, data transfer, and sat-phone capability using the Iridium satellite system. The ISAT exceeds AFF requirements and offers improved voice quality, field replaceable battery, a "smart" tray (including a configuration module), and either standard or premium data packets.

Latitude Technologies (Booth 706) says that Technisonic’s new multiband FM radios feature software capable of controlling its own "Satellite Gateway" S200-SG11. The new transceiver provides Satcom, flight tracking and messaging capability using the same controls and display. The marriage of these products will provide the most comprehensive communication package in the industry while at the same time alleviating the need for additional panel space. This product union will finally cure the age-old problem of communicating in distant operating regions. Latitude’s Mark Insley says, "the call and messaging control of the S200 SG11 adds an entirely new element of stay-connected-everywhere to the capabilities of this versatile FM transceiver." Helitech 2009 takes place September 22 – 24 at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, near Cambridge. Its regular exhibitor reception will take place at the end of Day 1, in the splendid American Air Museum, from 5:00 until 7:00 pm.

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