The drive for more ability to monitor helicopters and their crews in flight is intensifying.
In addition to a new military contract, Bell Helicopter is developing a low-cost, lightweight cockpit camera to capture still images of flight control positions and instrument readings ("Bell Team to Aid U.S. Army Effort to Speed Maintenance," January 2008, page 14). Eurocopter is working on its own lightweight, low-cost cockpit recorder.
Now engine maker Turbomeca is undertaking a 10-year effort to develop a set of "smart" sensors to monitor the configuration of engines throughout their service lives and to report their condition in real-time. Like the Bell and Eurocopter recorder efforts, Turbomeca’s is aimed at supporting the International Helicopter Safety Team’s campaign to slash helicopter accident rates 80 percent by 2016.
Turbomeca officials envision the smart-sensor system, combined with electronic logbooks for the engines, as a means of heading off maintenance errors and improving configuration and document control. They aim to win customer support for installation of the sensors by using the data collected to justify increases to required times between overhauls and other maintenance mandates on engines, as well as to reduce spares inventories.