HAI Convention News

Safe Flight Promotes Powerline Detection

 - March 5, 2013, 1:00 PM

Safe Flight Instrument (Booth No. C3932), a supplier of safety and performance products since 1946, made it clear yesterday at Heli-Expo that in terms of safety, avoiding powerlines is much to be preferred over existing helicopter modifications designed to cut powerlines on contact.

Speaking at a media conference yesterday, Safe Flight v-p Thomas Grunbeck promoted the White Plains, N.Y. company’s powerline detection and warning system, which emits a pulsing, audible sound as well as a visual alert when it detects powerline hazards.

Grunbeck noted that powerline strikes remain “one of the greatest hazards to both civil and military helicopter operators.” Citing numbers, Grunbeck pointed out that:

  • 60 percent of wire strike victims failed to see the wire.
  • 75 percent of all wire strikes destroy the aircraft.
  • the average reaction time between seeing the wire and meaningful action to avoid it is 4.6 to 5.0 seconds.t
  • two wire-strike accidents occur in the U.S. every week.
  • one fatality occurs every 17 days.
  • only about 10 percent of wire strikes that occur are even recorded.
  • there are approximately 4.6 million miles of powerlines in the U.S.

The Safe Flight powerline detection system consists of a VHF whip antenna, an antenna coupler and a 14-oz avionics panel. According to Grunbeck, the system costs $20,000, requires about 20 hours for installation and just about two minutes of operator instruction, has a range of about 1,500 feet and essentially doubles the pilot’s time to react to the detected threat.

The system has received supplemental type certificate approval from the FAA for the Bell 206 JetRanger and the Aerospatiale Gazelle. EASA has approved it for the Eurocopter AS355, EC135 and BK117.

“Safe Flight’s powerline detection system has demonstrated an increased situational awareness when operating in the wire environment, providing our pilots with adequate time to avoid this potentially deadly hazard,” said Gerry Hermer, founder and managing partner of UK medical emergency transport operator Sterling Helicopters.

Most recently, Flathead Emergency Aviation Resources of Northwest Montana, a non-profit volunteer group providing air support for emergency services providers, purchased the powerline detection system for its new Bell 429.

Government applications of the Safe Flight powerline detection system are already in service in a NASA UH-1H and a head-of-state Mil Mi-17 and in growing numbers of police and medical emergency helicopters.

“We developed our powerline detection system to aid pilots in reducing the risk of powerline strikes,” concluded Grunbeck. “Our solution is simple,” he added. “Avoid, don’t cut.”