Modern helicopter cockpit avionics now rival fixed-wing bizjet panels

Moving firmly in the direction of advanced flightdeck technology, improved V/STOL operational capability and safety are available.

The Garmin G500H with the HSVT (Helicopter Synthetic Vision Terrain) option lets you put a camera or IR sensor video feed with the Map Display.

Introduction of the G1000H was another "shoe to drop" so to speak, providing a comprehensive flightdeck solution for larger helicopter operations. Garmin's helicopter line of the G500H and G1000H systems are available for helicopter manufacturers to install in new aircraft or aftermarket programs and in a wide range of helicopters. User options exist for both portrait and landscape displays, and the integrated systems enable affordable PFD and Nav Displays, engine instruments and more for a large number of helicopter models.

A key to the G500H is the use of a Flight Path Vector along with the conventional fixed pitch symbol and pitch ladder. Conventional instrument design is based on fixed pitch and power, but the true flightpath of the aircraft is not really represented. Garmin introduced the Flight Path Vector in the G500H to enable the pilot to see the true energy state of the aircraft—climbing, diving or turning—and when viewed with the Synthetic Vision Terrain, shows where the aircraft is actually going.

The practical use of the Flight Path Vector in maneuvering is seen by overlaying it (FPV) for example with the touchdown point or to clear terrain. The bottom line is that with the Garmin FPV you know where you are going at all moments in flight. Some other elements of the FPV type display that Garmin offers is the Acceleration Cue and the Runway Symbol with extended centerline.

The Acceleration Cue enables you to see if the aircraft is accelerating or decelerating, and is based on what you have selected for a bug speed. G500H PFD design also comes with speed and altitude tapes, with selected or "boxed" target values which are very sophisticated but simple to read. Speed alerts and annunciations are both visual and aural, and provide a complete set of speed warnings.

If you select Garmin's G500H HSVT or Helicopter Synthetic Vision Terrain option, you will find Terrain and obstacle display and alerting, 3D traffic, airport signs and runway displayed on the PFD. The HSVT is designed to provide the SVS real world perspective attitude display, with the terrain perspective view based on a database with airports, runways and obstacles.

This option also provides a terrain pop-up caution and warning on the PFD and MFD and is displayed automatically when threatening terrain are in the immediate route of forward flight. The HSVT can be seen as detailed terrain that is color coded and matched with the HTAWS. Any threatening terrain appears red or yellow. With the HTAWS MFD and map united together, both the immediate flying task and tactical next steps are a quick glance and then back to flying.

The MFD in the G500H also supports video and map split screen capability, which lets you put a camera or IR sensor video feed with the Map Display. Map Display functions also include windowing of Traffic as well as XM Weather overlay.

With the new generation of ADS-B functionality, TIS traffic is displayed on the MFD. The G500H includes the G500H LRU Kit, installation Kit and the SD Datacard for the database. Add the GDL 69A and XM Weather and the GTX mode S transponder provides the TIS data. The HSVT is actually on a card that provides the expanded functionality.

For the G1000H flightdeck, a more comprehensive system enables a full range of engine and system displays and function, navigation, and more and more. What is amazing from the more and more is the affordability and weight/size factor. This Garmin helicopter panel equipment is really hard to beat.

Thales TopDeck for helos

TopDeck is an integrated modular avionics suite offering a glass cockpit based on the latest technology. The TopDeck avionics suite has been designed for helicopters as a complete and integrated package providing all the functions required for glass cockpit and AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System) operations with a high level of safety.

Thales is a French-based mainstay provider of commercial large transport avionics, advanced fly-by-wire FBW flight controls, and is a significant player in the modernization of helicopter aviation. The development of the Thales TopDeck system for helicopters is a focused application of modern technology to the specifics of helicopters, not just afterthought.

And the long relationship with sophisticated and demanding helicopter OEMs like Sikorsky is proof. From a system point of view, Thales TopDeck includes Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), radio communications and navigation, vehicle and engine management, centralized maintenance and even an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).

Now looking at the challenge of helicopter avionics, Thales developed what they call the Icube-S concept or Intuitive, Interactive, Integrated (Icube) and Safe (S). The intuitive part Thales wished to accomplish was to make it natural for pilots under all conditions— including when things begin to go bad.

To do this the Thales designers addressed both the helicopter operational environment and the pilots psyche, or what they call the flightcrew member's "cognitive workload." This, of course, is a scientific term that is meant to address complex tasks which for fixed-wing pilots is more related to both walking and talking. But I digress. The serious issue is how to design everything in the cockpit that you see, touch and for use in routine and high workload emergency operations—and Thales has done it.

The layout of TopDeck includes an PFD integrated with a central cursor control device (iCCD)—the first of its kind on a helicopters. Flightcrew members can work through all the options needed for display and management of the aircraft literally at the pilot's fingertips. The system enables the use of point-and-click, drag-and-drop and scrolling functions directly on the various displays, enabling an initiative "interactive Flight Management System (iFMS)" that lets the pilot manage normal and emergency checklists or on the fly create a flightplan on the Digital Map (DMap).

Main elements of the TopDeck system include the PFD and Nav displays, a Flight Management System (FMS) with digital map or DMap as called by Thales, Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS) and, most importantly, the Thales Helicopter Synthetic Vision System (HSVS). The use of synthetic vision (SV) is truly integrated as a key element of the PFD design, not an afterthought. And let's not forget standby instruments (IESI) for helicopters.

Thales has developed an Integrated Electronic Standby Instrument for helicopters that should set a new standard for these devices. An LED backlighted instrument that can also be used with NVGs, this instrument enables a full IFR capability for everything from standard instrument flight operations to radio controls. Many pilots reading this may have seen a similar Thales standby instrument integration into the newer fixed-wing flightdecks and now we are seeing the transition by Thales of their IESI into helicopters as a single LRU for the high-vibration environment that also features low airspeed measurement and 200° per second turn rate capability.


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