Airbus Helicopters plans to progressively equip all its models with a cockpit imaging and flight data monitoring (FDM) system, in a bid to improve safety with an affordable system. All 181 AS350 AStar/Ecureuil light singles delivered last year were equipped with the device, developed with Appareo Systems (Booth No. 329). Next in line for the FDM installation are the EC130T2 light single and the EC135 light twin.
The device, known as Vision 1000 in Appareo’s product range, records cockpit sounds and images–at a rate of four frames per second–as well as roll, yaw and pitch angles. It is attached above and behind the pilots’ heads so the instrument panel, controls and the outside world (through the windshield) are in the camera’s field of view.
The system differs from a cockpit voice and flight data recorder (CVFDR), the conventional and expensive “black box” designed to withstand fire, shocks and immersion. A CVFDR is mandatory only for commercial passenger transport in large helicopters. In practice, for Airbus the rule applies only to the AS365/EC155 Dauphin and Super Puma series.
“Beyond the existing regulation, we want to go the extra step, be innovative and offer a new safety standard,” Gilles Bruniaux, Airbus Helicopters’ v-p for fleet safety, told AIN.
Bruniaux provided a performance/cost comparison with a CVFDR, noting, “The new device records fewer parameters and is less resistant but it is still highly informative.” Images give information on weather, obstacles, pilot actions and so on, he pointed out. As for price, he maintains that users will find the price point acceptable.
The Vision 1000 can be used as a means of prevention, by monitoring flight data and analyzing the results using a proprietary software program. The idea is to detect possible pilot deviations from procedures by replaying the flight on the ground.
Recognizing that after an accident the device’s memory can provide valuable information for investigators, Airbus Helicopters has decided to eventually fit such a recorder in every helicopter it produces, even those that already have CVFDR. “Images can help find or compensate a missing flight parameter,” Bruniaux explained.
The Appareo device weighs .66 pound and it is integrated in a single unit and just needs a power cord and a link to the GPS antenna. Retrofit will be available for a price that is understood to be four-digits.
In parallel, Airbus Helicopters intends to expand the installation of CVFDRs to more models.