By Staff Writer | January 1, 2011
With the FAA’s pending HEMS rule changes, coupled with the increasing industry focus on improving safety, we predict an expanded application of existing technologies rather than the creation of new ones. This trend, we believe, will result in steady growth in the continued development of lightweight and cost-effective flight recorders for 2011. Whereas the CVR and FDR technologies are not new, the repackaging into a less costly device and the certification into the various airframes will dominate manufacturers’ efforts. The challenge for manufacturers will be to provide the industry with hardware that can be integrated into the legacy fleet. NORTH Flight Data Systems has already invested in development of equipment that can integrate into the new digital aircraft as well as capture engine and airframe data on the legacy aircraft. Our challenge will be in the certification effort. While LARS technologies such as ours may be in development by other companies, we are confident that the true path to improved safety will be the analysis and application of the knowledge gained by derived data. We believe the main focus should be on using these tools so that operators can prevent the accident. NORTH FDS has committed to provide our customers with full analytic and animation services so they can achieve the end result of the IHST’s accident reduction efforts.
– Jeffery Warner, CEO, NORTH Flight Data Systems
Operators who have been negatively affected by the global economic downturn are looking for every competitive advantage, and performance enhancements are an effective way to increase productivity without investing in a new aircraft. The fact that original equipment manufacturers are embracing technologies like FastFin further demonstrates that performance enhancements add value and will be on operators’ wish lists for years to come. As the economy slowly recovers, technologies that enable operators to achieve maximum return on their capital investments will continue to impact our industry for the next 12 months and beyond.
– Dave Marone, Vice President, Sales/Marketing, BLR Aerospace
Basically, 2009 was a very good year for Aviation Instrument Services, and 2010 is one of the best that the company has had in our 34-year history. The large helicopter inventory that we have is the main reason our business has been so good, which I am very thankful for.
– Jim Sensale, President and Founder, Aviation Instrument Services
Goodrich is investing in technologies to improve helicopter safety, performance, and operating costs. By leveraging our diverse portfolio we can offer mature solutions for today’s challenges and future regulatory issues like ADS-B and TSO C-194. Our TERPROM terrain awareness warning system can be integrated into our helicopter mission data recorders or NextGen-ready electronic flight bags. In addition, the advanced technology found in FADEC and HUMS is enhancing new development, production and upgrade platforms for commercial and military operators. And we continue to improve the customer portal at www.customers.goodrich.com to make it easier for both OEM and aftermarket customers to do business with Goodrich. Further out, advanced nanocomposites will provide system-level de-icing and lightning strike protection at a fraction of the weight of traditional materials. While nanocomposites are still in the lab environment, Goodrich is developing advanced composite modeling simulation techniques that will speed this technology to market by an order of magnitude.
– Curtis Reusser, Segment President , Goodrich Electronic Systems
Unmanned technologies, without question, are going to drive our industry for the next 12 months, and many years to come. Our team is especially excited about the contract for unmanned K-MAX helicopters from the U.S. Marine Corps. Not only will this advancement transform our business, it will transform the way many military missions are performed. Most importantly, the Marine Corps envisions that use of the unmanned aircraft for resupply will boost soldier safety by reducing the requirement for trucks and convoys, which are vulnerable to enemy attack. We must advance the use of any and all technologies that will help keep soldiers out of harm’s way. But the use of an unmanned platform offers a range of other benefits, such as significantly reduced operational and logistics costs, for example, that will be just as beneficial to civil operators, and it’s clear that the technology will be applied to that market in the future.
Advances in technology continue to benefit the rotorcraft industry and enable Aviall to improve its inventory and supply chain services to engine shops, commercial operators and fleet operators. In addition to its industry-leading inventory of OEM parts and its expanded catalog of helicopter support, Aviall continues to invest in state-of-the-art technology for the all-new Aviall.com, another industry leader. This site is packed with features that make it easier for helicopter operators to order the parts they need to keep their rotorcraft in the air. Search functions and e-mail notifications have been improved, the multi-line order capability for spreadsheets has been expanded, and you may now save contents of your shopping cart to order the same parts again later. Developments in technology are also improving the industry’s ability to refurbish and repair products and materials, making access and availability more important for operators in 2011 as they strive to manage costs. Aviall is enhancing its Rolls-Royce-approved surplus, spares and rotables group to better serve this market segment. Through its 40 locations around the world, Aviall remains committed to being a total solutions provider with prompt, reliable service for the rotorcraft industry.
– Dan Komnenovich, President and CEO, Aviall, Inc.
The modern glass cockpit technology that has been the new standard on fixed-wing production aircraft is now permeating the retrofit market. Low-cost high-tech alternatives are readily available and in spite of the economic downturn, the retrofit market has flourished as owners update their existing aircraft rather than buy a new one. Avionics manufacturers like Aspen will continue to expand into the helicopter space and will continue to create more opportunities for operators to upgrade helicopters with the latest technology. These upgrades increase hull value and, more importantly, provide enhanced safety and reliability that older mechanical instrumentation cannot match. Aspen Avionics has created a strong demand for affordable retrofit helicopter glass. Many avionics companies are now driving for more cost-effective solutions since we entered the market. The competition will generate exceptional value for those customers looking to take advantage of this technology.
– John Uczekaj, President & CEO, Aspen Avionics
The composite revolution is evident in the rotary wing industry with many technological advances in materials and manufacturing processes. Airframes have traditionally used metals such as titanium and aluminum alloys as the primary structural components. Today these structures are being manufactured with advanced composite materials such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass as the materials of choice. Some of the many advantages gained include weight reduction, increased strength, design flexibility, engineering performance, and corrosion resistance. As advanced composite materials continue to evolve in the rotorcraft industry, maintenance organizations are transitioning capabilities to support the development and repair of these complex structures. Organizations are realizing the need for a skilled workforce and continuous training within the composite material market to better support production and repair processes, while identifying areas where they can provide innovative cost savings solutions and reduce down time. How organizations transition will be the key to their success as the complexity of composites continue to expand.
– Eric Casterline, President & CEO, HEATCON Composite Systems
From an avionics perspective, our area of expertise, it will be less a matter of new technologies impacting the helicopter industry in 2011 than the more widespread adoption of current, off-the-shelf technologies. Enhanced safety, in particular, will be realized as segments such as helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS), law enforcement agencies and offshore oil drilling operations migrate toward readily-available hardware and software upgrades like 3D synthetic vision EFIS, helicopter terrain awareness and warning systems (H-TAWS), automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), night vision goggles (NVG), radar altimeters, and digital audio systems. In addition, we foresee especially strong demand among many operator segments for Autopilot/Stability Augmentation Systems (SAS) in 2011. Our own system, HeliSAS, should receive B206/B407 and AS350 certifications in the first quarter. While Cobham is uniquely positioned to meet a host of technology needs for the rotorcraft industry, it’s equally important for the FAA, NTSB, owners, and operators to renew an emphasis on pilot training and proper safety procedures to fully realize the benefits of upgraded components in their aircraft.
– David Ashton, Vice President , Cobham
Although there was a lot of talk of recovery throughout the year, the helicopter business world has still not climbed back out of the dip. From our point of view, Eurocopter has not secured anywhere near enough new orders for either the AS365N3 Dauphin or EC155 models during 2010 and customers have been investing in other types, especially the AW139. Unless the EC175 can gain some significant orders very shortly, Eurocopter will struggle to maintain their previous market dominance in the mid-cabin sector. An X4 Dauphin replacement has been rumored for 12 months, here’s hoping that 2011 gives us a firm design to woo the market back. Alpine continues to gain new clients for our legacy Dauphin parts exchange support and we look forward to further expansion of our increasingly favored parts consignment inventories, which are winning operators away from costly PBH programs.
– Peter Lewis, CEO, Alpine Air Support GmbH
At Turbomeca, we are preparing for the future and helping our customers meet their daily challenges. Regarding our future technical developments in the helicopter engine industry, I believe we will see major changes over the coming 20 or 30 years. We are working to reduce notably the consumption of the engine, thus of the helicopter. Already, we are developing the engines for entry into service in 2015. They will provide fuel savings of around 15 percent compared to engines of 2000. Our ambition is to continue this rate of improvement of one percent per year, or even accelerate to over 30 percent improvement by 2030. That is why our R&D effort is approximately 10 percent of our turnover. Our challenge is to improve industrial efficiency note, while remaining very close to our customers to anticipate the best possible market changes, and transform into success the many developments we have underway.
As an MRO service provider supporting existing fleets, Uniflight sees the industry benefitting from and being impacted by a series of improvements for existing aircraft through retrofit, modification and upgrade programs. In addition, with the current proposed rulemaking that is underway for the HEMS industry, there will likely be a need for mandatory cockpit upgrades that aid pilot performance and overall flight safety. Such improvements will be in the area of night vision, flight data recording (with an eye towards real-time reporting), and more robust GPS and other satellite enhanced navigation systems. Uniflight is committed to being a catalyst for the development and deployment of such improvements, both through the launch of its Products Division in 2011, and by having multiple conveniently located outlets throughout the U.S. to serve fleet operators’ needs in this regard. We look forward to participating in this next phase of industry growth.
As a result of the growth in demand for service that we experienced in 2010, we are moving to larger facilities with “through the fence” access at Grand Prairie Municipal Airport. We also expect to add between one and three additional locations to expand the footprint of our business in the U.S., and, based on developments that are in process with various OEMs, we have an expectation that we will also be launching our Products Division, which will add further diversification to our revenue streams. In addition, with multinational distribution partners, we anticipate that having this new capability will eventually lead to even broader geographic expansion.
– Joe Hawke, President & CEO, Uniflight
Communication, Navigation and Surveillance or CNS technologies are an industry “game changer” for the vertical flight community. For the first time in our history, we can operate helicopters from off-airport departure and arrival locations, in IFR weather conditions, safely, reliably and efficiently. Performance-based navigation procedures—RNAV/RNP, WAAS LPV and GBAS—provide non-linear, trajectory based three dimensional flight paths, supporting superior containment, monitoring and crew alerting necessary for low-level navigation and near-precision approaches to heliports, helipads and PinS independent of the fixed-wing flow of traffic. These same non-linear procedures can also be used VFR to reduce noise and the environmental impact on local communities. Satellite-based communications can support voice and datacom between operators and air traffic control including ADS-B at all altitudes and geographic locations. We’ve proven the viability of these technologies in the air transport industry and they are long overdue in vertical flight.
– Chris Baur, President, Hughes Aerospace
With the likely FAA mandate for new safety hardware such as HTAWS, we expect to see more emphasis on cockpit equipment technology. As FlightSafety continues to introduce simulation-based training to operators of light, turbine-powered helicopters, we look to FAA and other regulatory agencies to increasingly approve the use of Level 7 FTDs and full flight simulators in Part 135 certificate-holder training programs. Night vision goggles are becoming more widespread in EMS and law enforcement operations, and full flight simulators and Level 7 FTDs are ideal vehicles in which to gain proficiency in NVG-aided flight. We’re prepared to support helicopter operators as they work to comply with FAA proposals to increase training and testing to recognize and escape from inadvertent IMC, and to require an instrument rating for EMS pilots. During 2011, we will increase the number of full flight simulators and enhance the capabilities of our Level 7 FTDs.
– George Ferito, Director, Rotorcraft Business Development, FlightSafety International
Eurocopter has taken up the challenge to introduce technologies that address the increasingly-important environmental concerns for helicopter operations. This is one of the key axes of Eurocopter’s innovation drive for the next 12 months and beyond, along with safety and broadening the mission spectrum of our helicopters. The company’s “green” R&D efforts have been bundled in the bluecopter technology program, which is focused on developing advanced technologies that offer environmental benefits for new and existing Eurocopter aircraft. The expected benefits range from improved acoustics (for external perceived noise) to decreased emissions (C02 and NOx). Eurocopter is exploring several ways of optimizing main rotors to reduce external noise and cabin vibration. One method is to utilize a double-swept blade configuration, called Blue Edge, while another involves the integration of “intelligent” Blue Pulse piezoelectric actuators into a blade’s trailing edge.
As part of the bluecopter program, Eurocopter plans to perform a flight with a light helicopter powered by a diesel engine. The objective is to reach a power-to-weight ratio capable of challenging the advantages of a classic turbine. Efforts also are focused on neutral materials (carbon neutral and non-hazardous processes) as well as the ability to recycle materials and components of helicopters that have reached the end of their service lives. In addition, the company has introduced a new method to measure and benchmark progress in environmental performance. Based on certification data, this Eurocopter-developed tool enables operators and their passengers to check the environmental rating of their helicopters. A significant amount of R&D work at Eurocopter is invested in making helicopters easier to handle, increasing their flight safety, improving crew situational awareness, and providing pilot support/partial automation in planning and carrying out missions. Combined with advanced training methods, these efforts will assist in enhancing safety.
Higher speed is an option to expand the application of helicopters in additional missions. Eurocopter began flight testing of its X³ technology demonstrator, which is designed for maximum cruise speeds of minimum 220 kts. This hybrid aircraft combines the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft with the full hover capabilities of a helicopter. It is tailored to applications where mission success depends directly on maximum cruising speed at very reasonable operational costs, thus a higher productivity of the aircraft is key. Eurocopter will continue to flight test its X³ demonstrator through 2011 in order to validate the concept.
– Lutz Bertling, President & CEO, Eurocopter