Upgraded MD 902 Flight Deck Moves Closer to Certification

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | March 7, 2016
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[Avionics Today 03-07-2016] MD Helicopters is moving closer to obtaining FAA certification for the avionics refresh on its MD 902 Explorer twin-engine helicopter. At the 2016 Heli Expo conference, MD announced the completion of the MD 902’s first flight with Universal Avionics Integrated Flight Deck. Now, both companies are looking to obtain certification and begin deliveries with the 902 by next year. 
The first flight of the MD 902 with Universal Avionics’ InSight Integrated Flight Deck. Photo: Universal.
MD is the launch OEM customer for Universal’s InSight Integrated Flight Deck, which the Tucson, Ariz.-based manufacturer is also making available as a retrofit or forward-fit avionics suite for fixed-wing platforms. Grady Dees, director of technical sales at Universal Avionics, told Avionics Magazine that the refreshed flight deck program for the MD 902 hit a pause in 2015 before UASC and MD worked to get it back into flight-testing mode.
“MD took the prototype down early last year, out of service and completely gutted it and rebuilt it to get it into a conformable state. It’s a prototype they have had for quite some time and over the years there were a lot of mods and a lot of re-works. They took it out of service last year and really gutted the helicopter and went through the airframe and the systems to put it into conformity status, they brought it back online to flight status in August, the prototype was placed back into operational service last quarter,” Dees told Avionics Magazine.
According to a statement released by MD Helicopters regarding the first flight of MD 902 Explorer with the InSight avionics, the display and engine functions performed as expected during the initial flight-testing. The Mesa, Ariz.-based OEM lists the three large format high resolution displays, synthetic vision with terrain awareness, and live video streaming functions among the new capabilities Insight will bring to the MD 902 platform going forward. Additionally, the new flight deck also features wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an MD supplied iPad that acts as a wireless Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) with real-time access to in-flight performance data. 
On the MD 902, Universal Avionics also worked in partnership with Howell Instruments to integrate Howell’s H396 Data Acquisition Unit (DAU), a data monitor for recording engine information and a configuration module for recording more specific performance measurements. Howell manufactured the DAU with a module architecture in hopes that the same basic design can accommodate for a variety of different applications with little to no software or hardware modifications.
“The  DAU is a one-size-fits-many device; it was developed to work with multiple platforms,” said Dees. “The focus for the DAU is to handle the Engine Indication and Crew Alerting System (EICAS) processing. We intentionally kept the EICAS functionality and processing distributed, so we have the displays processing primary navigation data, as well as primary attitude and heading and air data information. Then we have the DAUs processing engine and CAS data for the platform so we are using a distributed processing approach with multiple redundancies so the displays themselves have redundancies for primary critical flight data and the DAUs provide multiple redundancies for the engine and [Crew Alerting System] CAS data.”
MD categorizes the 902 Explorer as a multi mission twin-engine platform designed to perform a range of different applications including offshore transport, law enforcement and air medical flight operations. As an example, the Hong Kong-based Heliservices, features the MD 902 in its fleet of helicopters to perform aerial sightseeing, film, and VIP transportation among other services. 
Dees said that another major goal for modernizing the MD 902 cockpit is to provide operators of existing 902s with a solution that meets looming airspace mandates. Under the FAA’s 2014 rules for helicopter operations, all Part 135 rotorcraft operators must equip their aircraft with radio altimeters by April 24, 2017. By that same date, all air ambulances are required to be equipped with Helicopter Terrain Awareness Warning Systems (HTAWS), and by Jan. 1, 2020, the majority of helicopters flying civilian operations must be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) avionics. 
“Part of the program is to make sure that it meets the mandates for ADS-B Out with growth to ADS-B In,” said Dees. “Initially ADS-B In will not be fully implemented, but that is in the roadmap. The platform also does have some Garmin content on it also that is providing some of the mandate functions.”

MD is anticipating certification of the modernized 902 cockpit later this year, availability for forward-fit and retrofit configurations to begin in 2017. 

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