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Year in Review–Products: An Eye on the Bird

By Ernie Stephens | December 1, 2007

New products in 2007 aim to help operators and pilots keep keener eyes on their aircraft and position in the air.

EVERY YEAR BRINGS A HOST OF NEW AND IMPROVED PRODUCTS TO the market place. It can be a challenge to keep track of them, let alone sort through those that are both promising and pragmatic.

Naturally, one place that manufacturers and vendors make sure they spread the word about their latest and greatest is to Rotor & Wing.

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R&W asked me and its other editors and contributors what they considered the most interesting and promising offerings that have come to market the last year or so. It was an interesting question to contemplate, and provoked the equally interesting response about products we expected to see but haven’t yet. Contributor Ron Bower, for instance, commented that he has expected to see more autopilot options for helicopters — and he’s still waiting. Maybe next year.

For this year, here is a sampling of the products that caught our collective eye.

Remote-Control Aircraft Positioning Unit

Aircraft handlers no longer have to assign wing-walkers to help the tug driver guard against inadvertent collisions between the aircraft and possible obstructions.

With Mototok, one person can connect and operate an aircraft tug, and still be able to walk anywhere around the helicopter or airplane while it’s moving.

Marketed as the first remote-controlled aircraft positioning device, Mototok is simple to operate. Use the small, wireless remote control to drive it up to the aircraft’s nose wheel, press the button to engage the wheel lock, activate the motor to lift the nose wheel off the ground. The helicopter is ready to be moved in any direction at speeds from 3.1 to 18.6 mph.

Its manufacturer said Mototok can lift and tow any single- or dual-nose wheel-equipped aircraft weighing 2,200-75,000 lb. It claims the four, deep-cycle gel batteries deliver 26-56 miles of service between charges, and the waterproof transmitter is said to have a range of over 100 yd.

The base price of the Mototok is $14,500. You can find out more from Mototok America, 86365 College View Road, Eugene, Ore. 97405, 541-747-9438, www.mototok.de/englisch/index.html

Leaning Out The Bell 212

Eagle Copters is offering operators a leaner version of the Bell Helicopter 212 with its newly approved Eagle Single modification. The Calgary, Alberta-based maintenance center this year obtained a Transport Canada supplemental type certificate for the conversion. It aims to gain U.S. FAA approval of the modification by the end of this year.

Eagle replaces the 212’s twin engines with a single Honeywell 1,800-shp T5317BCV to decrease the aircraft’s empty weight, boost its useful load, and enhanced other operating efficiencies.

Great Slave Helicopters, based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, took delivery of the first two Eagle Single modifications.

"To our knowledge, it is currently the only rotary-wing aircraft with the lifting capacity to accommodate a complete fire crew and their equipment, plus carry an adequate fuel load to support extended range initial attack forest fire suppression missions," said Great Slave President and CEO Adam Bembridge.

Contact Eagle Copters, 823 McTavish Road NE, Calgary, Alberta, T2E 7G9, 800-564-6469 or 403-250-7370, www.eaglecopters.com

Whelen LED External Lights

As with cars in the automobile industry, aviation is turning away from hot, current-draining incandescent bulbs and upgrading to the new, brighter, longer-lasting light-emitting diode (LED) units for exterior illumination.

Whelen, a longtime leader in light-emitting warning devices for everything from fire trucks to alarm systems, now offers a line of navigation, position, anti-collision and landing lights.

With an operational service life of 20,000 hr and noticeably enhanced brilliance, Whelen LED lighting products have been a must-have option on many new helicopters, including a new Eurocopter AS350 belonging to the Metropolitan Police Dept. in Washington and an AgustaWestland AW139 flown by Evergreen International Aviation.

Upgrading to Whelen LED lights is both simple and practical, because most units are designed to match the footprint and electrical wiring scheme of the original lighting equipment.

The casings are hermetically sealed to keep water and contaminates out, and the lenses are made of high-impact polycarbonate material, making it virtually immune to damage from flying debris.

"Whelen is going to have more than 15 new LED items in the 2008 catalog," said sales associate Greg Ginnetti. "That’s a tribute to the technology."

The price runs $200-$400 for most navigation and position lights, $600-$800 for anti-collision lights, and $500-$700 for landing lights. Contact Whelen, Route 145, Winthrop Road, Chester, Conn. 06412, 860-526-9504, www.whelen.com

ALERTS Flight Monitoring Device

Appareo Systems and development partner Air Logistics, the offshore subsidiary of Houston, Texas-based Bristol Group, have received an FAA supplemental type certificate for installation of their Aircraft Logging and Event Recording for Training and Safety system, ALERTS for short, on Bell 206s and 407s.

Described by Appareo President and CEO Barry Batcheller as "a completely new flight data monitoring system that will have ground-breaking safety and pilot training implications," the system’s sandwich-size processor can capture over 100 hr of flight data for easy playback back on the ground.

ALERTS stores information on aircraft systems and flight information much the way black boxes do, but in a system that is easier to access and download for review. Recorded data may then be played back in a graphically rich, animated color reproduction from a pilot’s cockpit view or chase-plane view. Terrain, buildings and lines depicting the aircraft’s track can be superimposed during playback, or a basic graph can be generated.

The system is set up so the user decides what parameters he wants to capture and how he wants it depicted.

"We have been using a high-cost version of this technology in our European fleet for several years," said Mike Suldo, president of Air Logistics. "But our smaller helicopters can’t accommodate the bulky flight data recording equipment required on the big aircraft." ALERT weighs 2.2 lb.

The basic price of the system is $5,000. Contact Appareo Systems, 1854 NDSU Research Circle North, Fargo, N.D. 58102, 701-356-2200, www.appareo.com

Astronics ArcSafe Wiring Analyzer

Astronics Advanced Electronics Systems of Redmond, Wash. and Albuquerque, N.M.-based Sandia National Laboratories have developed the Pulse-Arrested Spark Discharge. Sandia is the U.S. government advanced-research center currently run under contract by Lockheed Martin.

Marketed by Astronics as ArcSafe, the Pulse-Arrested Spark Discharge system helps technicians locate faults in aircraft wiring in a fraction of the time it takes using traditional methods.

According to the developers, the newly patented, non-destructive ArcSafe testing device connects to up to 40 conductors in the aircraft’s wiring harness at a time.

Although the proprietary technology is complicated, a simple description is that ArcSafe shoots a high-voltage pulse down the conductors for one billionth of a second. If that pulse runs into a break, it will arc to the aircraft’s frame or another wire with broken insulation. The unit will then instantly make a series of calculations to pinpoint the location of the break to within inches, all without having to access the entire harness run.

"Rather than ripping apart the fuselage for access to a faulty harness that may run the length of the plane, mechanics will be able to use this new tool to efficiently locate and repair the fault," said Larry Schneider, Sandia’s project lead. "Wiring insulation that has grown defective over time can cause malfunctions or even fires, but is devilishly hard to spot and even harder [once identified] to [exactly] locate.".

ArcSafe lists at $30,000. For more, visit Astronics AES, 9845 Willows Road NE, Redmond, Wash. 98052, 425-881-1700, AESsales@astronics.com

FlightVu Aviation Camera

FlightVu cameras, marketed by Kennesaw, Ga.-based AD Holdings, are part of a total video system package designed specifically for aircraft.

Built for internal or external aircraft use, the camera housings are small enough to be installed almost anywhere, carrying images to those aboard the aircraft via monitors mounted on the flight deck, or even in the passenger cabin.

Popular uses for external cameras include missions involving long-line loads and monitoring engine exhaust stacks, tail fin clearances and overall aircraft surroundings. Flight crews find interior cameras handy for keeping tabs on passengers in the aft cabin, while passengers often enjoy a pilot’s-eye-view, courtesy of a forward-looking camera in the cockpit.

Design plans are tailor-made for each customer, with full connectivity between FlightVu cameras and digital recording devices.

The average system price is less than $10,000. Contact AD Holdings, 3391 Town Pointe Drive, Suite 100, Kennesaw, Ga. 30144, 770-874-8750, www.ad-aero.com

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