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.”

HMG Aerospace publishes its INFOCUS product for 2020

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INFOCUS by HMG Aerospace is an annual series which puts the latest developments across key sectors within the commercial and civil aviation industry under the microscope. It was developed in response to a call for a greater level of comment, analysis and review from audiences spanning the HMG Aerospace portfolio. By zeroing in on a single topic, HMG’s expert editorial team is able to deliver a product which delves deep beneath the headlines, offering key insights and intelligent predictions.

So what will you find inside INFOCUS Safety & Security 2020? As we are witnessing around the world with the COVID-19 outbreak, the global aviation community faces numerous challenges every single day and these aren’t just limited to disease outbreaks. Geopolitical posturing, cyberattacks, mechanical faults, disruptive passengers, data breaches and airspace protection are additional risks that continually threaten to disrupt the aviation sector. However, despite these threats, air transport remains the safest form of travel with security at the heart of the industry’s concerns.

INFOCUS Safety & Security 2020 looks at how airlines, airports and the rotorcraft community, as well as suppliers and industry associations, are rising to these challenges by exploring different sectors including safety and surveillance, airspace protection, training, passenger and baggage screening and cyber security. From guiding you through the typical attack surface of a model IFEC system to assessing the challenge of meeting the rapidly increasing growth in training needs, INFOCUS Safety & Security 2020 offers a comprehensive insight into a constantly evolving industry sector.  View it Online, or Download it as a PDF.

Editor’s Comment: A common cause, a common goal

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It’s a rare occasion when, as the editor of RotorHub, I get to write about military helicopters, but these are extraordinary times that the UK finds itself in. Once again, the nation has asked its armed forces to step-up and assist the wider population. In particular, military helicopters are playing a vital role in supplying urgently needed equipment to hospitals up and down the UK, and look set to be equipped to move patients infected by the coronavirus, if and when the NHS asks.

Dubbed the ‘COVID Aviation Task Force’, helicopters from all three-armed services, along with personnel, have been established to transport equipment and key medical personnel anywhere in the country. In addition, further helicopters are on standby to help NHS medics airlift coronavirus patients from anywhere in the UK, including the Channel Islands.

The Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, and the Army Air Corps have all supplied staff and equipment to the Task Force to assist in the crisis.

In order to standardise procedures across the force, an exercise was practised on 9 April at an airfield in Hampshire, where the various teams learned how each operates, and also how to remain safe when transporting a patient.

Commander Chris Knowles, the CO of 820 Naval Air Squadron, the helicopter squadron for the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group, has previously flown medical evacuations during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Knowles stated that his squadron may need to operate their Merlin helicopters in a different way when carrying NHS medics aboard, but assured those present at the exercise that everyone was up to the task.

Credit: Sky News


High voltage helicopters

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The 9eGEN project sees the use of high voltage systems ensuring that helicopters have access to stronger sources of electricity, expecting to increase power efficiency and reduce weight.

The project developed the first prototype model of a 270VDs Generator consisting of two main devices. The first us the 9-phase polygon which is attached to the main gearbox, converting the mechanical power of the main gearbox into electric power at 270VDC. The second component is a Generator Control Unit (GCU) which aims to regulate the power output in order to prevent overvoltage or overcurrent. In these cases, the GCU has built-in capabilities and communication facilities which will help control the situation.

The prototype expects to be launched into the Electro-Generation Distribution System test bench at the Airbus Helicopter site in Marignane, France, with the aim that it will eventually become a part of the RACER (Rapid And Cost Effective Rotorcraft) demonstrator.

RACER is a helicopter with a high cruise speed level of around 220 knots and is a part of the Clean Sky 2 Fast Rotorcraft Innovative Demonstrator Platform. The 270VDC network currently under development by 9eGEN will aid the RACER to be fast, agile and sustainable.

It is expected that introducing high voltage systems in helicopter will result in more powerful electrical sources to impact their power efficiency and weight reduction.

Kazan to equip Ansats for care of neonatal patients

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Kazan Helicopters announced it will be equipping Ansat helicopter with a special module for transporting neonatal patients, after receiving permission from the Rosaviatsiya (Russian Federal Air Transport Agency).

The equipment was developed with the Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant which will allow the crew to perform evacuation and airborne medical care to infants. It includes a special platform for the incubator to replace the traditional stretcher design, as well as a supply of medical equipment including an artificial lung ventilator, a monitoring unit, an aspirator and an infusion pump.

Ground testing showed the capabilities to conduct emergency evacuation of the crew, medical workers and a neonatal patient whilst flight tests verified its electromagnetic compatibility with the standard equipment of the helicopter.

“The capability to install a neonatal medical module for Ansat had been in demand for a long time,” stated Managing Director of Kazan Helicopters, Yuri Pustovgarov. “Thanks to cooperation of Rostec holding companies and other partners, the helicopter now comes with upgraded equipment, allowing medical teams to continuously monitor the condition of a child, maintain the vital body functions and conduct intensive therapy during the flight.”

Air Ambulance

The Air Ambulance Service upgrades

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Air Ambulance

The Air Ambulance Service has launched its multi-million project to acquire two new helicopters to aid the deliverance of pre-hospital critical care to patients.

The acquisition is a part of the helicopter replacement project of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) as well as the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) to come in fruition by 2021.

The replacement will see the use of AgustaWestland 109SP, “the world’s fastest Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) aircraft.” Director of Operations for DLRAA, Richard Clayton stated, “The HEMS aircraft replacement programme has provided an opportunity to ensure that our future air ambulances allow us to continue delivering the highest quality of critical care and enable us to evolve our operational capabilities with future clinical developments.”

The new rotorcraft is expected to enhance clinical services and allow the charities to extend flight hours. The model will have a quick start-up time which results in reaching patients faster and is suitable for the regions rural areas which commonly requires small landing site capabilities. Additionally, the medical interior is designed to provide easy access to vital functions and the availability for additional medical equipment.

Editor’s Comment: Helo pilots keeping the world turning against COVID-19

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As the world locks down to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, helicopter crews around the world have answered the call to help support key industries.

There have been countless examples of companies modifying the interiors of their helicopter fleets to protect their employees, and contingency plans have been set in place for those workers who develop the flu-like symptoms to ensure that they can be flown to a hospital as quickly and safely as possible.

Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro-based Omni Táxi Aéreo has led the way by quickly modifying its fleet of aircraft that normally transports workers in the Oil and Gas sector. It has fitted its aircraft with lined seats, limited the number of passengers and used protective curtains to isolate the cabin from the cockpit; added monitoring by a nursing technician on all flights and forced cabin ventilation and the use of protective masks and overalls for crews. After each flight the nursing staff carefully clean the aircraft.

If an employee is suspected of having coronavirus symptoms or confirmed with COVID-19, a dedicated transport helicopter, Omni Táxi Aéreo’s S-76C++ aeromedical aircraft, complete with stretcher and onboard medical staff and which follows the same sanitary cleaning procedures as the rest of the fleet, will be used to transport them.

Roberto Coimbra, Omni’s CEO, stated that safety is a priority and all the measures that have been set in place are reviewed daily: “We are in permanent contact with the health authorities through our medical professionals, with the aeronautical authorities and manufacturers through to our personnel in the operational areas. Our COVID-19 prevention measures are being improved daily, so that we can continue to serve the Oil and Gas market with agility and in total safety for our employees and passengers.”

At a time when the world needs to come together to fight this pandemic, it relies on the production and supply of its vital resources. More than ever, the actions and operations of helicopter crews within the Oil and Gas sector and other similar industries are playing their part in this global endeavour. Keep safe, keep flying and thank you.