The new TopDeck avionics suite from Thales is set to enter service in about a year on board Sikorsky’s new S-76D, which is due to complete certification in the early part of 2011. But you can see live demonstrations of the integrated system by Sikorsky pilots here at the company’s Heli-Expo exhibit (Booth No. 4536).
“We are the first European company to equip a U.S. helicopter with a glass cockpit and we are very proud of that,” said Yves Joannic, head of Thales helicopter avionics activities. The France-based group is supplying a complete cockpit suite for the S-76D, including the flight management system and the autopilot, which has already been tested as part of the flight test program that is gathering pace throughout 2010. Thales (Booth No. 4231) also is responsible for integrating the engine and vehicle management systems.
TopDeck is based on Thales’s Icube-S concept, which the company claims maximizes intuitivity, interactivity, integration and safety. Joannic told AIN that the system has a higher degree of interaction with pilots through the use of interfaces such as a track ball similar to that used on a personal computer. He said that it is more intuitive in the sense that it is more straightforward for pilots to operate and so decreases their workload, allowing them to focus on flying and the mission at hand. For instance, TopDeck prompts pilots with possible options in any given situation.
Various menus of information are presented on TopDeck’s six-by-eight-inch displays, which Thales says makes it easier to find what they need. For instance, Joannic said that the process for changing route during a flight has been greatly simplified. The integrated system includes its own sensors.
“TopDeck is not just a product; it is a road map,” said Joannic, explaining that the cockpit suite is a work in progress that could be adapted and extended for other rotorcraft applications. “It could be applied to the future plans of other OEMs, and we are already testing new features, such as TAWS [terrain awareness warning system] and synthetic environment functionality.” Thales is looking to dovetail its development work with the future new helicopter concepts now being considered by Sikorsky, Bell, Eurocopter and AgustaWestland.
According to Thales, 2009 saw a 50-percent drop in the volume of orders for new civil helicopters, and market conditions during 2010 will continue to be difficult. From its analysis, the main impact of the economic downturn has been felt in the public transport/tourism sector, as well as among corporate and VIP operators, which have been canceling and deferring deliveries in significant numbers. The avionics supplier does not see the helicopter sector recovering until 2011 or 2012, having entered the down-cycle later than the fixed-wing aircraft industry.
Eurocopter Selects Thales IESI Across the Board
Eurocopter has chosen the Thales integrated electronic standby instrument (IESI) for its current production helicopter family, as well as for the new EC175. The system will be standard equipment on new-build EC135, 145 and 155 helicopters and will also be available to existing operators for retrofit.
“The system puts pilots in a position to be able to land the helicopter when all other avionics have failed and the cockpit goes black,” said Yves Joannic, head of Thales helicopter avionics activities. The IESI is completely autonomous with its own power supply and integrated pressure and temperature sensors to provide altitude, attitude and air speed data.
“It isn’t just an indicator; it has its own mind,” said Joannic. “It has an improved man-machine interface and can provide everything the pilot needs to fly the aircraft manually.”
The new Thales IESI, which has been designed to operate in a harsh environment, incorporates several new features, including improved microelectronic navigational and inertial systems and a central processing unit that requires less power. The manufacturer also has boosted the system’s real-time computing capability, and the display features LED-backlighting.
Thales is demonstrating the new IESI at Heli-Expo (Booth No. 4231).