It’s the industry’s most prominent annual event and this year’s version of Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif. certainly didn’t disappoint when it comes to the introduction of new products and services for operators worldwide.
By Matt Nicholls
It’s the industry’s most prominent annual event and this year’s version of Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif. certainly didn’t disappoint when it comes to the introduction of new products and services for operators worldwide. Here are some of the new products – and news bits – that caught Helicopters attention at this year’s event:
|“Heli-Expo 2014 in Anaheim, Calif. left most attendees optimistic for the future. |
(Photo by Matt NIcholls)
• Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) is becoming an essential “must have” safety tool for operators worldwide and B.C.’s Latitude Technologies and Camarillo, Calif.-based AKV Inc. are helping to make the process even more efficient. The two companies announced a partnership at the show to share in the development of technical interfaces between AKV’s ETM1000 Exceedance and Trend Monitor and Latitude’s IONode ION100 flight data recorder. The partnership means engine condition data collected by the ETM1000 will be recorded and automatically forwarded by the IONode ION100 to multiple stakeholders of the operators of the aircraft. The enhancements will give operators quicker access to critical engine data, enabling timelier engine trend analysis and maintenance planning. “It’s all about automation and timeliness,” said Latitude president Mark Insley. “Our ability to grab the ETM1000 engine condition data on a continuous basis, monitor the data for inflight events and efficiently deliver the data to the fleet’s maintenance and operations team is what sets our end-to-end FDM system apart.”
• Known for its cutting-edge avionics, Thales didn’t disappoint in California with the introduction of Avionics 2020 for helicopters. Its new avionics package represents a look at the cockpit of the future. Modelled after the principles of its Avionics 2020 for fixed-wing aircraft unveiled last year at the Paris Air Show, the helicopter version sets a new standard for rotary-wing avionics. The new package is aimed at giving pilots the tools to make critical decisions at just the right time easily and efficiently. Also critical to the design to help reduce a pilot’s workload. This is done by reducing mouse clicks on screen with gestures similar to those used by smart devices. The system is an “open architecture” one that can be adapted to different platforms. “More and more helicopter manufacturers are putting in place many functionalities that are interfacing with the pilot,” said Thales head of avionics Yves Joannic. “Their workload is increasing, so we need to develop systems that have to decrease that workload.” No aircraft manufacturer has selected the system for its aircraft as of yet, but Thales has signed non-disclosure agreements with several OEMS. The first implementation and entry into service of 2020-powered aircraft will likely come within five years.
• Corporate rebrandings are always intriguing and the new look for Erickson Air-Crane is no different. The global provider of varied aviation services and operator of the heavy-lift Erickson S-64 Aircrane helicopter has officially changed its identify to “Erickson” to better reflect the company’s aviation presence. In addition to a clean new look and feel, Erickson, will now fly a diverse, global fleet of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft covering heavy-, medium- and light-lift solutions. And after more than 40 years of primarily operating the S-64 Aircrane, Erickson is now targeting a diverse selection of clients across a much broader spectrum. Acquisitions in 2013 included McMinnville, Oregon-based Evergreen Helicopters and Brazilian aviation services company Air Amazonia, a subsidiary of HRT (an independent oil and gas company.) “This was truly a transformative year for our organization,” said Udo Rieder, Erickson CEO. “We now have operate a diversified fleet and are well positioned to provide a full-spectrum of aerial services in support of our customers’ needs across an even broader number of markets.”
• It appears the sky is the limit for Swiss-based OEM Marenco Swisshelicopter. Its new SKYe SH09 made quite the impression at this year’s show, as each time I headed over to the booth there were throngs of people checking out the new machine. Announced in 2011, the clean-sheet single-engine aircraft which seats eight is creating a buzz in a number of markets. Chief Operating Officer Mathias Senes seemed to be actively engaged with potential customers at numerous times during the event. Located in Glarus Nord, Switzerland, Marenco came away from Heli-Expo with 11 additional letters of intent, putting the book order at 59 aircraft to be delivered from 2015 to 2017.
• Enstrom Helicopters has introduced a new player in the helicopter trainer segment with its new TH180. Designed as a training helicopter, the TH180 is based on Enstrom’s reputation for safety and customer support with additional focus on low operating costs and ease of learning. “The TH180 is designed with the student in mind. Its rugged frame with robust, energy-absorbing landing gear delivers wide margins of safety during the learning process,” said Bill Taylor, director of engineering. “The high inertia main rotor blades and articulated hub combine with the unblocked tail rotor to produce controllability and forgiving handling qualities.” The TH180 is a scaled down version of the company’s popular FX-280 three-seat model. Tracy Biegler, CEO of Enstrom, said during the aircraft’s grand opening that the TH180 should produce operating cost of roughly $175 per hour and an hourly fuel burn of less than 12 gph. The launch price is US$365,000. He also noted Canada as a future market.
• Elbit Systems launched two new products at this year’s show and both have tangible uses for a variety of operation in the day and at night. SkyVis combines Elbit’s helmet-mounted display (HMD) with commercially certifiable line-out-of-sight and daytime heads-up display capabilities. SkyVis can be used in the day or at night, with or without night-vision goggles (NVGs), in marginal weather or during all phases of flight. Elbit also revealed its Clearvision Heli EVS, a multi-spectral enhanced vision system designed for pilots that provides situational awareness. It builds on Elbit’s fixed-wing product designed for business jets. The system employs fusion algorithms and a range of spectral bands, offers a 35-degree view and is designed to help pilots cope with low-visibility conditions.
• Is it possible to call a helicopter tug sexy? Okay, maybe not. But Tiger Tugs Helicopter Transport’s new Model 12.0 in the tiger striping certainly is eye-catching. The Model 12.0 is a good choice for moving the Bell 212 and 412 safely and easily and its wireless remote system allows an operator to manoeuver a helicopter in tight hangar spaces while controlling the tug from any vantage point. A single operator can move the tug, so no extra help is needed.
• Vector Aerospace Services – North America (HS-NA), a division of Richmond, B.C.-based Vector Aerospace, brought its custom-modified integrated cockpit to HAI. The cockpit features two Sageum 10-inch MFD (EI indication) and two Sageum 10-inch PDF’s for right-or left-hand seat operations. “Certified by Vector Aerospace, the integrated cockpit display reduces pilot workload and provides improved features including maps, weather radar, maintenance page, and warning annunciations,” said Chris McDowell, vice president of sales and marketing. “The modification is a great example of how Vector continues to generate customized solutions for its customers.” Vector also announced just prior to the show that it has new maintenance agreements with Brazilian MRO provider Helipark to provide repair and overhaul support for the Turbo Arriel 1 and Rolls-Royce M250 engines. Vector plans to open a new 29,000 square foot facility in Jacarei, Brazil this year as part of an initiative to grow its South American customer base.
• Airbus Helicopters is ramping up its efforts to add flight data monitoring (FDM) and cockpit imaging in its helicopters to ramp up its safety efforts, according to new president and CEO Guillaume Faury. All 181 AS350 AStar/Ecureuil light singles delivered last year were equipped with FDM developed by Appareo Systems. Next in line for the devices are the EC130T2 light single and the EC135 light twin. Known as Vision 1000, the device records cockpit sounds and images at a rate of four frames per second as well as roll, yaw and pitch angles. It is attached above and beyond a pilot’s head so the instrument panel, controls and the outside world (through the windshield) are in the camera’s full view. The vision differs from a cockpit voice and flight data recorder (CVFDR) the “black box” which is designed to withstand fires, shock and immersion. A CVFDR is mandatory only for commercial passenger transport in large helicopters. The Vision 1000 can be used as a means of prevention, by monitoring flight data and analyzing the results using a proprietary software program. The concept is to detect pilot deviations from procedures by replaying the flight on the ground.