Following last year’s NTSB recommendation that turbine-powered helicopters carry terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS), Air Logistics has decided to upgrade its newer medium and heavy twin-engine helicopters operating in the Gulf of Mexico with Honeywell’s enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS).
Air Logistics operates 12 Sikorsky S-76C+s in the Gulf Coast region in support of oil exploration there. While several of these newer airframes came pre-wired to accept the systems, Patrick Graves, Air Logistics’ director of Gulf of Mexico operations, said he expects the others to require up to four days of downtime each for rewiring and installation of the components.
The company is also opting for EGPWS installations in more than 20 new S-76s currently on order. “It’s a commitment that Air Logistics is making to the safety of our passengers, our flight crews, and our customers, by adding a not-inexpensive unit to our helicopters,” said Graves. Current estimates for the modifications would place the price tag at around $100,000 per helicopter, he said, adding there are no plans to upgrade an additional 11 S-76As, which the company is gradually phasing out of service.
Air Logistics is one of the first helicopter fleet operators to add TAWS avionics. Many others have balked at upgrading, labeling the technology too expensive and not very well suited to the rotorcraft environment. The helicopter version of Honeywell’s EGPWS uses computing algorithms that are slightly different from those of systems intended for airplanes, and also includes an audio inhibit switch that pilots can press to silence nuisance alerts during flight near terrain that does not pose an imminent danger.
The NTSB’s call for TAWS in helicopters is likely to be a major topic of discussion at this month’s Heli-Expo convention in Orlando, Fla.