Mike Hirschberg, executive director of AHS International, used a media presentation at Heli-Expo 2014 to not only highlight the educational and advocacy roles of his organization, but also to share his perspective on the state of future rotorcraft development.
Founded in 1943 as the American Helicopter Society, AHS International today has 6,500 members around the globe, and offers a range of education programs to encourage ongoing development of rotorcraft technology. One of the organization’s most prominent efforts was its sponsorship of the AHS/Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition which, after 33 years, saw the AeroVelo team meet all award objectives during a flight last June, and winning a $250,000 prize. “It was a race to the finish,” Hirschberg recalled. “They did it with science.”
Following the presentation, Hirschberg spoke with AIN about future initiatives driving the next generation of rotorcraft. Noting that advances in the civilian rotorcraft segment are frequently driven by U.S. military research, Hirschberg said the global industry faces a conundrum as the Department of Defense struggles to perform more roles with less equipment.
“The key to future vertical lift is to address the needs of [all service branches] with one type,” he said. “The military should be investing 10 times the money in research, but within existing budget constraints development of any new rotorcraft is very difficult unless you can show it has capability for more than one service.
“The more disparate set of requirements you try to meet, the more difficult it is,” Hirschberg added. “For example, the Army wants really long range; the Navy wants a really small aircraft. Those are almost mutually exclusive.”
One development that Hirschberg strongly supports is the expansion of fly-by-wire (FBW) technology to the civilian sector, as seen in Bell’s 525 Relentless medium-lift helicopter. “FBW should be used on all advanced rotorcraft,” he added. “It has many benefits to safety and performance.”
AHS International will host its 70th Annual Forum and Technology Display in Montreal this May, featuring approximately 300 technical presentations on factors influencing the development of helicopters and other rotorcraft.