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.

Even a casual glance at the PFD will help to orient the pilot in terms of controlling the helicopter without the need for focused scanning and thinking. The addition of obstacle sensing to the trustworthiness precision of navigation aids is the direction that most all avionics vendors are moving. And also it is the result of the industry's human factor engineering research.

Another new innovation by Honeywell in their SV HELO approach and landing guidance symbology has improved the ability of helicopter pilots to accomplish precision landings, including steep approaches of up to 9 degrees. SV HELO design incorporates glidepath reference cues and projected touchdown into the PFD used with the flightpath vector flight director symbology.

The results provide greatly reduced flight technical error and the ability to comfortably fly a steep approach in inclement weather or any poor visibility situation. Most importantly, the pilot does not have to know any of these terms—he just looks at the display and flies.

Aspen Avionics

Aspen Avionics Evolution 2000H provides both PVD and MFD displays.

The real new comer to avionics flight decks is Aspen Avionics founded in 2004. Their first steps you may recall were the very affordable glass cockpit PFD/NAV display replacements for small general aviation and experimental aircraft.

Aspen has become a fan favorite with the depth and variety of interface options with NAV/COMs, GPS as well as ADS-B, Autopilots etc.

In 2009 development of Helicopter products began and in 2010 the company completed the STC for installation of the Aspen EFD1000H into the Bell 206 and Bell 407 model helicopters. This STC was developed in partnership with Keystone Helicopters.

At Oshkosh in 2012 Aspen Avionics announced approval for installation of Aspen's H-series PFDs and MFDs for the Robinson R44 and R44 II model helicopters. The latest helicopter announcement came in 2013 for the European approval of the Western Avionics STC installation of Aspen's Evolution for the Robinson R44 series helicopters. The "Evolution H-series" as the company calls it includes a Primary Flight Displays and Multi-function Flight Displays (MFDs) with high resolution moving maps and terrain.

The Aspen Evolution H Series includes the E1000; 1000H Pro, E1500H and E2000H, each with expand features. The Evolution 2000H combines the 1000H Pro PFD and MFD offers a professional grade EFIS with a host of interface options such as traffic, weather, and terrain awareness. Pricing and weight for helicopters is crucial, and Aspen Avionics broke the code on both it's option growth packages and prices.

Where we're going with helicopter flightdecks

At a recent meeting of regulators in the industry, I heard a presentor argue that modern technology in helicopters no longer needed the mechanical 8-day clock. Offered by the speaker was the concept that there were now significantly less expensive means for providing time or redundant digital "clocks" for the pilot in the cockpit. The old mechanical clock was unnecessary dead weight.

What I concluded during the meeting was that the dead weight might also be in the room we were in, because regulators chose to keep the 8-day clock. And so as this monument to flight continues as deemed necessary to some, the rest of the helicopter world has moved on, providing the level of safety and capability with precision that the original designers of the clock could never imagine.

Glenn Connor is the president of Discover Technology Intl and is a researcher and pilot specializing in the development of enhanced vision systems and advanced avionics.


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