Editor’s Comment: Rotors and Robocop?

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The announcement that HM Coastguard is conducting operations using an unmanned Bristow Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 nicknamed ‘baby shark’ as safety overwatch, to support SAR missions, is very much along the lines of what UAVs have been doing for years within the military but in a much more aggressive stance.

Whether saving or protecting people on the ground, the integration of joint operations between helicopters and UAVs is occurring at a considerable rate, and one where it appears that both civil and military applications are developing at the same time, rather than the familiar military technology filtering down to the civilian market after a few years.

While it’s obvious that SAR is the natural choice for a UAV with long-duration flight time and with a far-reduced cost-per-flying hour compared to that of a helicopter. It also leads the way as to where this partnership will develop into other commercial operations. But, unlike the military, the commercial market will again need to adapt its thinking in particular helicopter operators. No doubt, there will be questions. What can a UAV bring to our operation? Will I need an extra crew member to operate it, as the senior pilot will be unable to?

This new addition or capability to the world of rotary operations arrives straight off the back of the early months of looking at how to integrate hybrid-electric VTOLs, which is likely to take significant strides next year. For the first time, operators may well find themselves overloaded with options for vertical flight. While some may take a few years to develop, the skies are going to get very, very crowded over the next decade. It will for many, be a case of selecting the best tool for the job. Fortunately, it appears that all this next technology coming along will serve, enhance and support helicopter operations.

Editor’s Comment: If Airbus makes it look good, it generally is…

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The announcement by Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) that is has received a further order for its new ACH160, just days after the H160 achieved certification by the EASA, demonstrates that ACH certainly knows its market.

This new order has been placed by an Italian operator for use on private and corporate flights in the domestic market. So far this means eight countries across North America, Latin America, Europe, China, and South-East Asia have ordered the ACH160.

The ACH160 is the premium version of the new H160 helicopter, which was certified by EASA on 1 July, and will be ready for delivery to private and business customers later this year. With its stylish interior including bespoke options, the ACH160 offers a smooth and quiet ride due to the Helionix advanced digital avionics system which ensures carefree handling for the pilot.

Frederic Lemos, Head of ACH, said: “This new order from a highly knowledgeable ACH customer is yet more evidence of the strong welcome being received by the ACH160 in this demanding sector, even at a notably challenging time for the helicopter market.”

From the interest shown in the H160, Airbus are on to a winner, and this is even before the type expands its applications into the parapublic market. But no matter whether it’s a corporate bespoke interior with leather seats and champagne glass holders, or a more work like cabin with the potential to be equipped with SAR equipment, the H160 is simply a stunning looking helicopter that justifies the age old saying: “If it looks right, it flies right.”

Editor’s Comment: Getting hot and nasty at night

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As the summer season heats up in the Northern Hemisphere, the threat of forest fires reaches fever pitch. Countless helicopter operators are on standby across Europe and North America, but fighting fires from the air is never going to be easy.

Procedures, platforms and equipment have made the job slightly less dangerous, but there was always a capability that remained elusive to these rotary firebombers – being able to continue operations into the night.

Having spoken with a number of firebomber crews over the years, they believed that downing tools due to the inability to operate at night often saw fires reignite and spread back to a previously extinguished area. But the risks involved were too great, and the technology simply wasn’t available.

Finally, it seems that things are changing with Talon Helicopters, an operator based out of British Columbia has gained Transport Canada approval for night attack fire missions. Its night vision goggle-equipped Airbus AS365 N2 Dauphin has a Simplex Model 301 belly tank that can hold 901 litres of water.

Peter Murray, President of Talon Helicopters, stated that the use of NVGs and other safety procedures means, “we don’t now have a grounding time.”

For Talon, the whole certification procedure involving NVGs has taken a number of years but the Transport Canada approval for NVG operations includes flying passengers at night as well.

With certification for one operator approved in Canada, a similar capability for night firefighting has been in place with Kestrel Aviation in Australia for months. Its Bell 412s regularly support the Country Fire Authority in Victoria.

Surely now it’s time for operators across Europe to seek this capability. It demands and requires expert training, but for those pilots who already fly helicopters into a high-threat hot area, it’s simply another extraordinary capability they can bring to the fight.

RotorHub appointed official Show Daily partner for new EUROPEAN ROTORS event

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RotorHub, the leading international media title dedicated to the civil and parapublic rotorcraft industry, has been selected as the official Show Daily media partner for the new EUROPEAN ROTORS event being held in Cologne, Germany, 10-12 November 2020.
Organised by the European Helicopter Association (EHA) in cooperation with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), EUROPEAN ROTORS will create a unique exhibition and conference where all stakeholders (including OEMs, suppliers and operators) from across the rotorcraft community gather to do business and share knowledge in a comprehensive training and event programme.
“RotorHub is delighted to be appointed the official Show Daily media partner for EUROPEAN ROTORS,” commented publisher of RotorHub, Mark Howells. “European Rotors is set to be the premier event for the European rotorcraft industry hosted by two major organisations (EHA and EASA) that work tirelessly in representing the interests of the rotorcraft community. This is an exciting addition to the rotorcraft event calendar and RotorHub looks forward to supporting the EUROPEAN ROTORS team in making the inaugural show a great success.”
As part of the agreement, RotorHub will publish a Show Daily publication across all three days of the event. The Show Daily will be distributed to all attendees, exhibitors and sponsors and will follow key announcements from the show, as well as include interviews with senior industry figures. Coverage will also be extended across RotorHub’s dedicated website and social media channels.
EUROPEAN ROTORS show director, Dr. Frank Liemandt said: “We are really excited about this strong partnership. RotorHub publishes the exclusive official newspapers of both print and digital channels at Europe’s biggest VTOL show and safety conference with a dedicated editorial team onsite. The Dailies are an indispensable guide to what’s happening at the show, offering up-to-the-minute news and exhibitor introductions. With hundreds of them competing for awareness, the Show Daily captures attention for brands and events, guiding visitors directly to them, already prepared with the information they need”.
About RotorHub:
RotorHub is the only international media portfolio dedicated to the civil and parapublic rotorcraft industry. The media title provides extensive coverage of the market across a wide range of print and digital channels. RotorHub has tracked market trends and the latest industry developments for all non-military helicopter manufacturers and support services for 35 years. For further information, please visit www.rotorhub.com.
EUROPEAN ROTORS will be the unique leading platform offering the industry an exhibition where all stakeholders (including OEMs, suppliers and operators) gather to do business and share knowledge in a comprehensive training and conference programme. EUROPEAN ROTORS will empower the rotorcraft community to meet the challenges of the future and it will highlight the contribution helicopters make to the European community. Messe Friedrichshafen, the organiser of the well-known general aviation show AERO Friedrichshafen, is the service provider for the new show. For further information, please visit www.europeanrotors.eu.

Editor’s Comment: Out of sight, but certainly not out of mind in Russia

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While much of the world’s attention relating to the COVID-19 pandemic has been focused on nations in Europe such as Italy, Spain and the UK, for Russia the situation has been just as challenging, and its helicopters and crews have not remained on the pad in their desire to help.

Russian Helicopters’ holding company Rostec has obtained approval from the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) for installing isolation units in Ansat helicopters in order to transport COVID-19 patients. In a similar process to that adopted by Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo, modules will be installed on the Ansat medical variants.

“About 30 Ansat helicopters have been supplied to a number of regions for air medical services. To improve their performance during the pandemic, we have launched a certification process and obtained permits for installing isolation units for transporting patients. This does not require any modification to the helicopter. Such equipment will provide more opportunities to use an aircraft for medical purposes,” said Executive Director of Rostec Oleg Yevtushenko.

The helicopters are used in the Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Kirov, Kostroma and the Tver regions along with many others including the Astrakhan region, in the Republic of Tatarstan.

“All work necessary for obtaining approval from Russian aviation authorities has been carried out extremely quickly. The Ansat medical helicopter was primarily equipped with a cabin for patients with infectious diseases. With these modifications, it will be possible to use these aircraft for combating COVID-19, and transport patients who could have highly dangerous infections and viruses,” stated Director General of Russian Helicopters Andrey Boginsky.

While they may not be getting as much media coverage in the West as they should be, it’s clear that Russia’s HEMS crews are just as involved in the challenging and demanding battle against the spread of the pandemic as their counterparts around the world.

BladeSense launches rotor blade protection project

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Airbus Helicopters in the UK is exploring future activities to follow on from a four-year research project that has shown strong potential for advancing the state-of-the-art in measuring deformation of helicopter rotor blades.

The BladeSense project, a £2 million programme supported with a £1 million grant from Innovate UK, via the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), examined the use of novel optical fibre sensors, measuring strain and shape, to monitor blade behaviour in real-time.

It holds out the prospect of substantially saving on lifecycle costs through continuous in-flight data collection. This will not only open up new pathways for rotor blade performance monitoring, but also provide blade usage data that is currently impossible to obtain in operational environments.

In the course of the project, the rotor blades of an Airbus H135 helicopter were fitted with fibre optic instrumentation. Data was successfully transferred to a remote ground station through a Wi-Fi link from specially designed instrumentation mounted on top of the rotor hub, during some four hours of ground running with the five main rotors operating at up to 400rpm.

The research was a collaboration between Airbus Helicopters UK, the Dynamics, Simulation and Control group and The Centre for Engineering Photonics at Cranfield University. Simone Weber, Technology Integration Manager at Airbus Helicopters in the UK was embedded at Cranfield University. Helitune of Torrington, UK provided the on-board vehicle monitoring unit, and fluid engineering specialists BHR Group (UK) of Cranfield supplied the mathematical model predicting the mechanical loads.

Future test scenarios under examination envisage flight-testing of the system and investigation of the exploitation of the concept in the helicopter design phase.

Head of Design and Customisation at Airbus Helicopters in the UK, Richard Atack, said: “We’ve made real progress in an advanced field of work with the potential to bring important benefits in terms of performance monitoring and environmental impact. And we’ve done that by capitalising on people, skills and technical know-how right here in the UK at Airbus and with our partners. Now we are very interested to see what we can do next to advance our capabilities even further.”

Professor Ralph Tatam, Head of the Centre for Engineering Photonics at Cranfield University said: “This was a fantastic team effort from all the partners to demonstrate that the novel interferometric fibre optic shape measurement, pioneered at Cranfield, works in this challenging environment. This opens the way for this technology to be applied across a range of sectors including aerospace, energy, transport and healthcare.”

A statement from HMG Aerospace

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we find ourselves feeling increasingly proud of the industry’s ability to adapt, respond and become ever more resilient to the critical challenges that confront it. Although the long-term effects of this crisis will reach far and strike deep, many within the industry have already taken the first few steps back towards normal – or at least “new normal” – service. Ryanair has announced that as of July 1, it plans to reinstate 40% of its scheduled service. Wizz Air intends to increase operations from Gatwick Airport, and Boeing has asked its largest supplier of 737 MAX parts to restart manufacturing. Whilst many airlines have had to reshape and resize their operations, this forced restructure gives them the opportunity to strengthen their business model and consolidate their fleet. They will rebuild on stronger and hopefully greener foundations.

The pandemic has created a more charitable and democratic aviation industry. The web is awash with news stories detailing the contributions made by businesses around the globe to the fight against COVID-19. From helicopter manufacturers like Leonardo supplying HEMS helicopters for aircraft availability and mission effectiveness, to airlines like flydubai operating flights across four continents to repatriate citizens, the industry has shown willing to rally round and support those in need. In addition, there has been a significant increase in companies seeking to engage with their customers, offering them the chance to directly influence future business decisions. We have been particularly impressed by a recent Eurowings initiative, whereby the company utilises social media to ask its customers what services they would like the airline to provide both during and post-COVID-19. Discussions and decisions are being released from the confines of the corporate boardroom and presented to the people who will be most affected by them: the passengers.

Taking inspiration from the industry we serve, here at HMG Aerospace we have adapted in order to continue delivering. We have taken advantage of the various digital services available to ensure that our products are published on schedule and that our editorial content is topical, rich and often exclusive. From dynamic digital magazines to video interviews with senior aviation executives; from digital marketing solutions to news websites and weekly newsletters, not forgetting our participation in pioneering online broadcast events like FlightPlan by Inmarsat Aviation and APEX, HMG Aerospace remains as committed as ever to supporting and reporting on the industry.

On behalf of all the team at HMG Aerospace, keep safe and well.

Best wishes,

Mark Howells and Becky Howells

Editor’s Comment: You can’t keep a good crew down…

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You can’t keep a good crew down…

While the commercial aviation world struggles to work out how to seat passengers on an Airbus or Boeing to meet the recommended government social distancing guidelines, for those in the rotary world things are much more complicated. I have touched on the modifications made to the rear cabins of HEMS models in order to protect medical technicians and crew, but for those upfront, within touching distance of each other, a new procedure had to be developed, tested and adopted.

Leading the charge in new developments is Leonardo with an application that has been developed by Deputy Chief Test Pilot, Charlie Pickup, who was assisted by Safety Equipment Officer Les Medhurst and the Leonardo’s Structural and Mechanical Test Engineering Department, Dave Jenkins, Will Miller and Andy Chilcott.

The Chief Test Pilot of Leonardo Helicopters (UK), Mark Burnand, explains: “We have taken our existing oxygen mask, which is compatible with our helmets/visors and has a built-in microphone for communications, and hose, and then connected a standard filter from an industrial Respiratory Protection equipment [RPE] face mask.”

Burnand revealed how the filters have a screw thread which enables them to be replaced and the mask usually has one or two of the filters fitted. He continued: “We have modified the end of the hose with a bespoke attachment which allows us to fit the filter effectively and also a connector that allows us to attach the assembly to our life vests securely.”

The new system also reduces the risk to and from the maintainers who service the aircraft before and after the flight.

While Leonardo may be focusing on its military variants at the moment, it’s clear that such procedures may well be adapted to its civilian test fleet in due course, allowing the helicopter manufacturer to keep ahead of the curve during these testing times.

Editor’s Comment: Those highly adaptable Airbus helicopters

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With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc around the globe, taking many healthcare systems to breaking point, operators of Airbus helicopters have found themselves on the front lines of their countries’ efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

Keen to meet any challenge faced by these HEMS operators, Airbus Helicopters is lending its support across the globe, with just one example being the need to ensure the availability rate of the different French SAMU helicopters – the airborne emergency medical service, which has been working at full capacity for weeks – stays at 100%.

Also, in support of its many other operators, Airbus has mobilised teams to inform HEMS operators of new and existing solutions for separating the cockpit from the cabin.

“Many HEMS operators and military forces are transporting COVID-19 patients while lacking the means to isolate the cockpit from the cabin to protect the crew,” said Stefan Bestle, Emergency Medical Service Marketing Manager at Airbus Helicopters. “But a solution exists for certain aircraft in the form of cabin cockpit isolation, which provides a barrier between the infected or possibly infected patients and the flight crews, thereby increasing the level of protection.”

Airbus has already identified and spoken of options available in the helicopter market for the H135/H145 along with the AS332/H225 models. Solutions for its range of single-engine helicopters are also being explored.

Additionally, Airbus Helicopters has issued guidance on how to properly clean and disinfect its helicopters, workspaces and tools that may have been contaminated by COVID-19, including the processes to be followed and the disinfection materials to be used.

As with other leading helicopter manufacturers such as Leonardo and Bell, every company is stepping up to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, and such support practices are likely to be in demand for some time to come. By working with operators throughout this crisis to ensure that the HEMS crews who are flying their helicopters are properly protected, will mean these dedicated professionals will be with us for the long term, and that can only serve to benefit us all.

Babcock boosts UK air ambulance fight against COVID- 19

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Babcock emergency response teams on the front lines in Spain and Italy are helping UK air ambulances develop new ways of boosting safety and on-board patient care in the fight against COVID-19.

The UK’s network of air ambulances plays a critical emergency response role, bringing hospital-level treatment to patients and saving lives every day. Now Babcock, who operates a fleet of over 20 charity-funded air ambulances across Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales have unveiled new technologies to help UK air ambulance teams battling the virus.

By drawing on the experience and innovation of Babcock air ambulance experts in Spain, Italy and France, the company created a new framework system, allowing UK H145 air ambulances to fly with specialist patient isolation pods. The system allows isolation pods to work seamlessly with the onboard medical systems, giving emergency teams a new level of confidence and allowing first-class on-board patient care. Babcock teams working with similar systems in Italy, Spain, and France, have been sharing experience and knowledge gained during their own fight against the virus.

At the same time, Babcock engineers across the UK and Spain have collaborated to design and develop a new on-board barrier which effectively separates the medical teams from the flight crews on all their international fleet of air ambulance helicopters. This critical new safety measure provides a new level of protection for teams on-board the lifesaving aircraft. The barrier was initially designed in Spain by Babcock specialists working with clinical experts. Now it has been customised by teams in Staverton, Gloucestershire, and following rapid prototyping by Babcock in Devonport the system is fully approved for use on EC135, H145 and AW109 air ambulance helicopters.

Babcock Engineering Project Manager, Steve Hughes, whose team has been working on the projects, said: “Projects like these would normally take several months but, using new guidance from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the UK Civil Aviation Authority, we have accelerated this process to just a few weeks. It’s a fantastic achievement by everyone involved, being able to offer this capability will make a huge difference.

“We’ve been working with teams all over the world, throughout the industry to fast-track developments in the fight against COVID-19 and to keep our air ambulances flying. I’m really proud of what we’ve all achieved together. I think some of the lessons learnt here will change how we work forever.”

Across the world Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) teams are working tirelessly to save lives and support national health services. Babcock teams in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, the Nordics and the UK are witnessing the crisis first hand.

Working on the frontline, the HEMS team of over 750 aircrew and 210 deployed aircraft have been working day and night to keep flying in challenging circumstances. From the medical teams treating patients, the pilots and crews flying vital operations and the engineering and maintenance teams keeping air ambulances airworthy and available at all times, the team’s dedication to saving lives and protecting communities is evident through the vital operations they continue to deliver.

Neal Misell, Chief Executive of Babcock’s Aviation Sector, commented: “We are determined to keep flying to support our customers, providing frontline services and helping to save lives. We have found new and innovative ways of providing enhanced PPE for our pilots and medics, and segregation from patients through isolation pods and aircraft barriers.

“I am proud of our team who worked quickly with our customers and the relevant authorities to get these approved for use in our helicopters. Safety will always be at the heart of everything we do and we are proud of the role we play in the emergency response networks during this crisis in all the countries where we deliver HEMS.”