I find it hard to believe that R&WI can publish an article updating the industry’s status on crash-resistant fuel systems (May 2016, page 40) and not make one mention about how far out in front of the industry and the FAA Robinson Helicopter Co. is on this subject.
As mentioned in the article, what the air medical sector is planning and what aftermarket vendors are developing is all well and good. But look at what Robinson has already done.
Every R66 ever produced (more than 700 since 2010) has a crash-resistant fuel bladder, approved under the current rules of Federal Aviation Regulations Part 27. Since 2009, all new R44s have bladders installed. In December 2010, Robinson published a service bulletin (R44 SB 78B) requiring retrofitting all older R44s with a crash-resistant fuel bladder, even offering a $1,000 labor-assistance rebate on the purchase of the bladder.
New R22s have come standard with a crash-resistant fuel bladder since 2013, and R22 Service Bulletin SB-109 requires retrofitting all fuel tanks as soon as possible or by the next 2,200 hr per 12-yr overhaul and also includes a $800 labor assistance rebate.
As a result, thousands of Robinson helicopters are now operating around the world with crash-resistant fuel systems. Thankfully, we have not had a post crash fire in a survivable crash-resistant bladder-installed Robinson helicopter accident (knock on wood!!).
Certainly, Robinson’s actions should be included in any discussion of this subject.
From the Leading Edge article ( R&WI, February 2016, page 62), I am led to believe that Frank Lombardi’s experience is solely based on his interaction with his nephew’s toy helicopter. (One controlled via Wi-Fi presumably, since it was being controlled with a tablet computer.) I would ask that he visit a local radio control hobby shop to speak with experts and request a demonstration of a hobby-class unmanned aircraft system.
A hobby-class drone is controlled via 2.4 Mhz radio and/or 915 Mhz computer link, which are very responsive to pilot input.
I agree with his assessment that current automation available in toys is not a substitute for an experienced person controlling the drone, but the technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. There needs to be greater discussion on how drones and piloted aircraft are going to share the airspace. Both parties need to educate themselves on each other’s requirements and expectations.
Basing his experience on a toy is like playing with a toy car to determine how a real car would handle on the road.
This is just an FAA budget-cutting move. It has been unwilling to keep helicopter-qualified aviation safety inspectors (ASIs) current in autorotations. Now after years of leaving certificated flight instructor (CFI) initial tests to qualified designated pilot examiners (DPEs), the FAA finds it has too few remaining qualified and current ASIs to provide oversight for the DPEs. There is no one to do the DPE tests. If an accident were involved, there would be no way to do the famous 709 retest. This rule does not benefit the public, just the FAA.