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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Sikorsky Teams on Flight Monitoring for S-76, S-92

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Sikorsky Aircraft has tapped an Ontario-based flight data firm to provide flight data monitoring systems for the S-76 and S-92. The firm, Flightscape, specializes in ground-based devices that record in-flight data. It designed the system Sikorsky selected to allow operators and pilots to download a variety of information on how an aircraft was flown.

Not to be confused with health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS) that are designed to record the aircraft’s mechanical and electrical condition, the Flightscape system focuses on how the aircraft is flown. The onboard equipment can be programmed to track an assortment of parameters, such as when the landing gear was lowered, how turns were executed, and even how much the various flight controls were moved.

"This system looks at how the aircraft was piloted," explained Eric Hansen, Sikorsky’s senior project manager for the S-76 program. "It’s what some of our operators were asking for. They want it as a safety and training tool."

After a flight or set period of time as determined by the customer, information gathered by the software can be downloaded and played back on a computer at the base. The data gathered can then be shown using any number of visual representations, including graphs, animated chase plane-style view, or instrumentation readings.

Although the flight data monitoring system can be installed aboard almost any aircraft, the deal is an indication that Sikorsky and Flightscape are officially partnering with each other to make it the official system for the S-76 and S-92.

The system will not be sold as a standard feature on the S-92, but the aircraft will be manufactured to easily receive the system should the customer desire it at a later date. S-76 customers will have to have additional hardware installed to use the system.

System prices vary widely, based upon the number of parameters the customer would like to monitor. Flightscape said the price ranges from $60,000 to $150,000 for a single installation and setup.

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