HAI Heli-Expo highlights helicopter safety, innovation

By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | April 2017

The 2017 HAI (Helicopter Association International) Heli-Expo invaded the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, March 7 – 9, where discussions regarding improvements in aviation maintenance and safety through technology seemed to be the highlight of this year’s event.

The world’s largest helicopter trade show and expo featured over 700 exhibitors and displayed over 60 helicopters. Nearly 18,000 roto-enthusiasts attended the show, including 750 HAI Professional Education students.


Sikorsky leveraging HUMS Data

Sikorsky announced alongside PHI and Metro Aviation their latest development leveraging HUMS data.

“How many of you have ever crouched beside a radio in a comm center, waiting for the air crew to tell you what’s going on with the aircraft, to tell you what problems they’re encountering,” said Lance Bospflug, President and COO of PHI. “Many times, it’s like playing 20 questions.”

It’s a frustrating position to be in, Bospflug said, especially for an air crew that’s tasked with not only flying the aircraft but also diagnosing the problem.

“Real-time HUMS gives us the opportunity to quarry from the ground station,” he said. “If there’s an issue, we don’t have to ask those 20 questions to the air crew. We know about it. We can begin the process of assisting the air crew and making the best decisions possible.”

Among some of the HUMS data’s new features is a 10-second positioning burst that reports back to the field, allowing helicopter crews to know exactly where the aircraft is at all times.

“It virtually takes the S out of Search and Rescue,” said Mike Stanberry, President and CEO of Metro Aviation.

The new data will give crews the ability to pinpoint problems without having to wait weeks or months to discover the error.

“The aircraft records over 5,000 different parameters,” PHI’s director of operations Pat Attaway said. “The pilot’s not going to be able to process all of that in the cockpit, so this gives an entire team back home the ability to look into all of that other data and supplement that information that he’s getting out of the cockpit.”

Sikorsky says the new data won’t take away command from the pilot but instead aid his decision making.

“We never take away the pilot in command and the crew’s responsibility to do what is right based upon the rotorcraft flight manuals,” said Simon Gharibian, director of fleet management at Sikorsky.


Pratt & Whitney Canada leading through experience

Pratt & Whitney Canada, a 90-year-old helicopter engine company based in Montreal that works with Sikorsky among other companies, will be producing their 100,000 engine later this year.

“When we talk about being an industry leader, it doesn’t just happen,” said Irene Makris, VP of Sales and Marketing. “700 million hours is our flight experience. All of that learning, all of that experience, all of that knowledge translates always from one engine model to the other.”

The company is also currently working with their OEMs to accelerate and service some of their engine to services with the Airbus helicopter H175 and the AW169, the two newest additions to their helicopter families.

“It’s all about giving them the frictionless environment to do certain interactions online,” said Tim Swail, Vice President of Customer Programs and Customer Service. “We’re always there in person to deal with the high volume transactions and high quality transactions that they want to do person to person.”


Bell Helicopter unveils helicopter of the future, new agreement with Reignwood

Bell Helicopter’s FCX-001, a single-pilot craft that receives assistance from augmented reality and artificial intelligence, showed off a number of new features including a frame made from advanced sustainable materials in order to provide structural performance.

Bell also signed an amendment with their agreement to Reignwood Investment Ltd. confirming the purchase and delivery of 50 Bell 505 Jet Ranger X aircraft over the next three years. This is in addition to 10 Bell 505s previously ordered.

“Reignwood will add the 60 Bell 505s to their current fleet of Bell 206, Bell 407GX and Bell 429 helicopters that are currently completing a variety of missions across China,” said Patrick Moulay, Bell Helicopter’s executive vice president, Commercial Sales and Marketing.

With 60 Bell 505s, Reignwood will become the largest 505 operator in the world.

Bell also announced that Hawker Pacific is nearing completion to become the first Bell Helicopter Authorized Customer Service Facility in the Middle East.


Leonardo’s TeamUp improving global customer service

Leonardo’s Helicopter Division, an Italian-based helicopter operator and international player in defense and security sectors, has plants in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, and the United States including a final assembly line in Philadelphia.

The company made a number of announcements, including strengthening their strategic partnership with Shanhai Zenisun in the Chinese civil helicopter market and announcing that the first VIP AW139 was sold in Japan and additional deliveries for firefighters and disaster relief aircraft are on their way.

The company also launched “TeamUp”, a combined customer support and training portfolio. The new initiative is meant to enhance customer service globally.

“Training is going to be one of the key elements of these TeamUP agreements,” the company’s Managing Director Daniele Romiti said. “It’s about not only pilot training in helicopters but being a team inside the helicopter itself, where it means that the crew members have to operate as a single team.”


HAI Connect and awards ceremony

New to this year’s expo was HAI Connect, a three-day educational opportunity that included demonstrations, presentations and vertical flight-themed meetings.

The expo also introduced a meet-up lounge, available to vendors for quick meeting breaks or networking with colleagues.

A number of awards were presented, including a lifetime achievement award sponsored by Bell Helicopter to Dr. John Leverton, an advisor and consultant with American Petroleum Institute for his service to the international helicopter community.

Robert Fournier, a pilot for Helicopter Transport Services, and Trent Vick, a pilot for Hillsboro Aero Academy, both won Pilot of the Year awards.

HAI, a global leader in helicopter aviation, advocates for the roto industry through support of new safety measures, educational courses, sponsorship of seminars and workshops, and publishing a helicopter magazine and newsletter.

Next year’s HAI Heli-Exop will take place from Feb. 26 through March 1 in Las Vegas.