During this week’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Meeting & Exposition, 3M and Clearfix Aerospace introduced a new aviation window restoration system that could lower costs to fix helicopter windows by up to 80 percent. According to NAVAIR estimates, the system could also reduce downtime by 85 percent.
Bill Norville, president, CEO and founder of Clearfix Aerospace, provided a demo of the window restoration system to Rotor & Wing during AUSA, along with counterparts from 3M. Norville developed the system over the course of 14 years, with 3M getting involved more recently, in a partnership he describes as a “dream come true” in helping bring the project to fruition.
Clearfix Aerospace CEO Bill Norville (left) and Vice President Ed Christensen demo the window restoration system on October 11 at AUSA. Photo by Chris Sheppard, Associate Editor
“If we take a [Sikorsky] H-60 and perform the original process where we polish and coat every window in the helicopter, it involves around two hours 23 minutes with two people,” Norville explained. “Now when we do a reset, we can reset an entire helicopter—in other words take the coating off and redo them all—in 58 minutes, two people.” One of the advantages of the system, he continued, is that “to replace the windows [in an H-60], it takes approximately 55 hours including downtime. It costs in excess of $50,000, but mostly it’s the down time. We are able to do our process in 53 less hours per helicopter. The operational readiness is the key factor here.” If the Clearfix system expanded to all of the U.S. Armed Forces, “we’re looking at saving somewhere between $100 and $150 million a year in window costs, plus 155,000 hours of down time.”
The window restoration system is already garnering interest within military circles and from OEMs, in addition to the Army’s Sikorsky H-60s. Clearfix and 3M received a number of inquiries from various operators and OEMs during AUSA, including AgustaWestland, Bell and EADS North America, according to Norville. He also spoke with a number of Congressional representatives during the visit to Washington, D.C.
Applications are not limited to military helicopters. The system could also have applications for commercial helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, as well as ground-based vehicles and even as a coating for eyeglasses and night vision goggles. But why start with helicopters?
“That just seemed to be the best way to do it—it shows instant savings and the U.S. military is having such a huge problem right now. They need it. They need it more than anybody. They’re dealing with environments that are harsh,” he said.
“When you look at the brownout aspect of this, [mechanics] can redo a helicopter, and [the pilots] can be flying and get stuck in a brownout, and can immediately go back to base. In 58 minutes they can have it optically perfect again. That’s unbelievable,” he continued. Another benefit is that the 3M Clearfix system “can save the U.S. government $100 million a year during one of the worst fiscal times we’ve ever had.”
More: 3M, Clearfix Launch Window Restoration System
Related: Helicopter Product News