If you were lucky enough to join the nearly 20,000 other heli-fans at this year’s HAI Heli-Expo in Orlando, you got to experience a seemingly endless array of new avionics, systems and components. And, like most, you no doubt left the show floor dreaming of flying home in one of those showroom fresh helicopters with full glass and a host of other performance upgrades.
But, alas, only a very fortunate few ever get to sign on the proverbial “dotted line.” That’s okay. There are plenty of aftermarket products and systems available that will enable operators to greatly enhance the safety, capabilities, performance and maintainability of in-service helicopters without breaking the bank.
There are literally hundreds of FAA supplemental type certificates (STCs) for upgrades covering everything from door latches to complete engine swaps. While it’s impossible to cover them all, the following represent a selection of 10 recent “engine to tail, avionics to blades” STC upgrades to provide an idea of what is possible. Who knows, this may be the first step in making your operation’s helicopter the envy of every other pilot on the airport.
|Airwolf Aerospace’s polymer blade tape
kit protecting a Robinson blade.
There are thousands of Robinson R22 and R44 operators around the world, and many of them are concerned about an FAA airworthiness directive (AD) for a blade delamination issue. Airwolf Aerospace has received an FAA STC for a new polymer blade tape kit that helps protect the blades from delaminating. The Airwolf kit is an Alternate Method of Compliance (AMOC) with the new AD.
The blade tape kit covers one-half-inch beyond the bond line on the inboard 36 inches of the main rotor blade and keeps dirt and moisture from entering the bond area. The tape is not a permanent fix. When it starts to wear out, it will make a whistling noise as the main rotors spool down. The old tape is simply replaced with a new set.
The company stresses that the tape kit is not a “fix” to a delamination/debonding situation. Once the blades delaminate, the only thing that can be done is to replace the main rotor blades.
The EFD1000H Pro primary flight display (PFD) is the newest addition to the Aspen Avionics series of compact electronic flight displays. One of the things that differentiates Aspen’s solution from other glass upgrades is that the units fit into the standard three-inch analog instrument positions, so there is little or no need for panel modifications. The system can be installed in one, two or three display configurations, depending the operator’s need.
The EFD1000H’s compact instrument “cans” feature the built-in solid-state attitude and heading reference system (AHRS), emergency GPS and 30-minute backup battery.
Designed for the rigors of helicopter operations, the standard EFD1000H provides both an electronic ADI with easy to read altitude and airspeed displays and an HSI with moving map, GPS flight plan legs, waypoints, navaids and airports. The unit is also compatible with a variety of satellite weather and traffic systems. It can also be integrated with helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HTAWS) sensors to display surrounding terrain and obstacles.
The Aspen EFD1000H is currently STC’d on the Bell 206, 407 and Eurocopter AS350. The company is also pursuing STCs on other rotorcraft types.
|Cockpit view of the Max-Viz EVS-1500 enhanced
vision system. Max-Viz
While it won’t be available until sometime in 2013, one of the more exciting developments—especially for Bell 206B and 206L owner/operators—is the recently announced program by Bell Helicopter and Uniflight to swap the aircraft’s current engine with a new Rolls-Royce RR500. According to the companies, the program will deliver a number of performance improvements, including up to 61 additional shp, cooler starts, lower operating costs and “significantly improved high altitude and hot environment performance.”
Along with the new engine, Uniflight and Bell are also working toward an STC for a new engine monitoring unit, a generator control for cooler starts, 12 g-load engine mounts, a fire detection system and new cowling design.
BLR Aerospace’s FastFin tail rotor enhancement and stability system does a lot more than make your trusty old Bell helicopter look cool—it delivers a real performance boost. FastFin modifies the stock tailboom with new dual tailboom strakes and a reshaped vertical fin, according to the company. This new design optimizes airflow in a way that delivers a dramatic increase in tail rotor efficiency. FastFin reuses energy from the main rotor wash to aerodynamically enhance the anti-torque available for hover operations.
According to the company, operators are able to “safely hold a hover at high altitudes and high temperatures that were unmanageable without the enhancement.” The BLR Aerospace system is currently available for Bell 204, 205, 206, 212, 412, Huey II and most UH-1 models.
|Robinson R44 outfitted with Max-Viz EVS-1500. Max-Viz|
Cobham’s recently STC’d HeliSAS brings a higher level of safety and capability to light and medium-sized helicopters. Featuring a two-axis autopilot and a stability augmentation system, the compact and lightweight system is designed to provide precise control during all modes of flight, regardless of wind conditions or shifts in weight.
The system is engaged at all times. The pilot switches it “on” prior to takeoff and “off” after landing—everything else is automatic.
While HeliSAS offers operators a host of operational benefits, the company offers two two of the highlights are the system’s capability to enable hands-off flight, and in an instance where the helicopter is flown into an extreme attitude, to return the aircraft to a near-level condition. In the latter, all the pilot needs do is to release the cyclic (with HeliSAS engaged), and the unit will do the rest. FAA has granted STCs for Cobham’s HeliSAS on the Bell 206B/L, 407 and the Eurocopter A350.
Donaldson Aerospace & Defense has recently received an STC for its inlet barrier filter (IBF) system for the AgustaWestland AW109 Power and Grand. Like the company’s other IBFs, this new system helps cut operating and maintenance costs by reducing engine damage from dust, dirt, moisture and foreign object ingestion.
Developed with AgustaWestland’s assistance, the IBF’s streamlined conformal filter assemblies mount to the existing engine cowl on each side of the helicopter. The upgrade includes Donaldson’s alternate inlet air bypass system, which is mounted within the AW109’s upper aft fairing.
The installation also features a new access panel for easy pre- and post-flight inspection of the IBF by pilots and maintenance personnel. Donaldson provides IBF solutions for a growing number of helicopters including AguataWestland, Bell, Eurocopter, MD Helicopters, in addition to some Soloy and Honeywell engine conversions.
Any operator who flies missions that require low altitudes and visibility should take a good look at the EVS-1500 Infrared Enhanced Vision System (EVS) from Max-Viz. The EVS-1500 uses a lightweight, solid-state thermal camera with advanced image processing to deliver a high-contrast, “daylight” type image to the pilot in day or night, and thorough brownouts, smoke, haze, smog and light fog.
According to the company, the EVS-1500’s video outputs are compatible with the majority of popular cabin avionics multifunction displays. Or it can be used with a dedicated stand-alone panel-mounted or portable display.
Max-Viz currently has STCs for many helicopters, including the AgustaWestland A109E, Robinson R-4, Bell 206, 407, 212 and 412, Sikorsky S-76 and Eurocopter EC135/145.
Vista, Calif.-based Sandel Avionics recently received an STC for its ST3400H helicopter terrain awareness and warning system (HeliTAWS) for the Bell 412EP. Along with high-resolution, 3D terrain and Class A TAWS displays, the ST3400H also features Sandel’s WireWatch wire-strike avoidance technology that alerts the pilot when approaching known wires, transmission lines and obstacles. Another feature is Sandel’s TrueAlert technology, which enables operation at low altitudes without triggering nuisance terrain alerts. The ST3400H also has built-in traffic display capabilities with interfaced with compatible TCAS, TAS or TCAD systems. Featuring a built-in radar altimeter, the ST3400H is a direct drop-replacement for most RadAlt display units.
In addition to the Bell 412, the Sandel ST3400H is also approved for installation on the Sikorsky S-76, Eurocopter AS350 and AgustaWestland AW109.
If you’re operating a Bell 206/OH-58 in an area where noise is an issue—and who isn’t—you’ll want to take a look at Van Horn Aviation’s composite tail rotor blades. According to the company, FAA-approved acoustic testing data shows a 40 percent drop in a 206’s overall noise compared to the OEM tail rotor blade. In addition to lower noise, the unique airfoil design of the composite tail rotor blades also helps to increase the aircraft’s tail rotor authority, especially in hover and at low speeds and higher altitudes.
Featuring corrosion-resistant construction and a titanium root fitting, VHA’s tail rotor blades are also rugged—their 5,000-hour service life is twice that of the OEM tail rotor blades they replace. Van Horn has received both FAA and Transport Canada STCs for the replacement blades on most Bell 206/OH-58 helicopter models.
|Van Horn composite tail rotor blades lower
noise levels. Van Horn
In March 2011, FAA granted an STC to Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services-North America for the installation of an integrated cockpit display system (ICDS) and attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) on the Sikorsky S-61.
The upgrade involves four Sagem Avionics displays supporting the engine and caution systems, two Rockwell Collins AHRS and primary function displays, as well as flight-critical avionics from Garmin, L-3 Communications and Aerospace Optics. Vector also worked with Carson Helicopters to develop the S-61 upgrade, which is certified for dual-pilot IFR, Category A and B operations.
Vector holds STCs for cockpit modifications on various types, including the Bell 205/206 and 407, Eurocopter AS350/355, Heli-Lynx 355FX and Sikorsky S-76.
Alpharetta, Ga.-based Flight Display Systems’ Flipper allows operators to easily add a five-inch, high-resolution video monitor to their cockpit without the cost of reworking the entire instrument panel.
Designed specifically for the helicopter market, the hinge-mount Flipper can also be installed on the glareshield or sidewall. The display swings out up to 150 degrees from its stowed position. When not in use, the unit stows flush against the mounting plate.
Flight Display Systems makes the Flipper in five-, seven- and 10-inch models, all of which accept composite and VGA display inputs for displaying items such as enhanced vision, video or satellite weather.