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Helicopter ADS-B Compliance Q&A With Bell Helicopter’s Catherine Ferrie

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | April 8, 2015
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[Avionics Today 04-08-2015] Currently only 4 percent of helicopters registered in the U.S. fleet are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) transmitters, according to information released by Tim Shaver, manager of the FAA's avionics maintenance branch, during a Heli Expo forum on ADS-B equipage. Over the last several months, at industry events such as the 2015 Heli Expo, the FAA has been conducting outreach efforts to operators, holding forums and sponsoring projects with suppliers such as FreeFlight Systems and Rockwell Collins to incentivize ADS-B installation. Ahead of the 2015 Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) industry trade show, where rotorcraft ADS-B equipage will be highly discussed, Avionics Magazine caught up with Bell Helicopter Senior Vice President of Engineering Catherine Ferrie to discuss the airframe manufacturer's plans for helping legacy Bell operators comply with the FAA's 2020 mandate. 

Catherine Ferrie, senior vice president of engineering, Bell Helicopter. Photo: Bell Helicopter.

Avionics Magazine: What type of activity or customer engagement has Bell Helicopter had around the issue of equipping your commercial helicopters with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) avionics over the past year? What are you hearing from your customers on this issue?

Ferrie: We are in connection with the FAA and General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) and continue to update and involve our customers in these visits. Bell Helicopter is encouraging its customers to proactively address these compliance issues versus waiting for the deadline. 

Avionics Magazine: Does Bell Helicopter provide options for operators with existing legacy Bell rotorcraft in their fleet that need to add an ADS-B upgrade in order to become compliant with the 2020 mandate?

Ferrie: Bell has stepped up to the task of delivering this package to our customers and proactively providing our owners and operators with the information, resources and support necessary to quickly determine the best solution for their respective Bell Helicopter products to ensure compliance. We are working with our customers to ensure they will be able to equip as soon as possible to keep our customers all over the world flying.

Avionics Magazine: Bell Helicopter recently introduced the new 407GXP. Does this helicopter feature compliant ADS-B Out avionics coming out of the production factory or would operators need to add ADS-B avionics to become compliant with the 2020 mandate?

Ferrie: There is no change in requirements for the Bell 407GX and Bell 407GXP. Bell 407GX/GXP helicopters include the Garmin G1000 flight display system, which controls a GTX‐33HES transponder. The aircraft comes equipped for ADS‐B Out operation. Earlier installed Garmin GTX‐33H ES Transponders not configured with software version 7.02 or later will require a software upgrade in order to comply. We will issue a Rotorcraft Flight Manual Supplement with the appropriate compliance statement once ADS‐B performance validation testing has been completed and approved.

Avionics Magazine: From your perspective, what are the biggest safety-enhancing benefits provided to operators of helicopters equipped with ADS-B?

Ferrie: Helicopters equipped with ADS-B have improved Air Traffic Control (ATC) at low-level flight, the ability to create low altitude, low level Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) air route system and improved collision avoidance. 

Avionics Magazine: Is ADS-B equipage also an issue for any of your customers based outside of the United States? 

Ferrie: Air regulations vary globally. Currently, Australia is requiring ADS-B equipage quicker than anyone else around the globe and we are working to accommodate and keep our Australian operators flying up to regulation standards.

Avionics Magazine: Does Bell provide installation services for its customers that are looking to upgrade to ADS-B?

Ferrie: Bell Helicopter installations which have been FAA certified to meet the ADS‐B reporting requirements will include the following statement in the limitations section of either the flight manual or the applicable flight manual supplement: “ADS‐B out operation meets the requirements of 14 CFR 91.227.” In some cases Bell helicopters have been fielded as “ADS‐B ready” with all the required equipment and only the flight manual supplement following Bell’s validation testing is required as proof of compliance. In other cases a simple software upgrade to one of the components may be required along with the flight manual supplement.

Avionics Magazine: What is Bell's most widely used commercial helicopter today and what type of ADS-B options are available for it?

Ferrie: The Bell 407 and Bell 206 are two of the most widely used Bell Helicopters. The Bell 407GXP is equipped with a Garmin G1000 GTX 33HES as an ADS-B transponder. For analog aircraft, such as the Bell 407 or Bell 206, they use GTN 750 with GT.


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