Helo mod shop marks 25 years of design innovation

 - October 12, 2007, 8:02 AM

Twenty-five years ago, former Bell Helicopter engineer Frelon Tullos founded Heli-Dyne Systems in response to a market he recognized, one that his former employer, for simple reasons of economy of scale, couldn’t fill. That need found its source in the well known iconoclastic nature of the helicopter operator.

More so than in any other kind of aviation operation, helicopter operators are unique, always finding new uses for their multifunctional rotorcraft. Tullos opened the doors of the company he called Heli-Dyne Systems in 1978 after he identified the need for a comprehensive support facility dedicated solely to helicopters. Tullos launched the business from modest hangars in Addison, Texas, and in 1981 Heli-Dyne moved to its present location in Hurst, Texas, where it occupies 22,000 sq ft of office and hangar space.

Not long after opening its doors, Heli-Dyne’s designers were called upon to modify a Bell JetRanger for Ross Perot, Jr., who in 1982 selected the company to prepare his helicopter for a record-setting first circumnavigation of the globe by helicopter. That aircraft today is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

“Much of the systems technology found in helicopters today was pioneered by Heli-Dyne and its people,” said Jerry Mullins, president and COO of the company. “For example, the automatic flight control systems used by today’s most advanced search-and-rescue helicopters were designed, installed and first flown at Heli-Dyne. And Heli-Dyne’s work with head-up display technology led to the first certification on a commercial helicopter. What’s more, the most advanced patient loading system, the dual-pivoting litter, found in more than 150 aeromedical aircraft operating worldwide, was designed by engineers at Heli-Dyne Systems.”

The demographics of Heli-Dyne’s bustling interior business closely mirror where the action is in today’s rotorcraft market. Aeromedical and law-enforcement interior mods lead the pack. Aeromed operators in particular are in a hurry to get their rotorcraft up and at ’em. Heli-Dyne recently took a stripped Bell 230 and delivered it to its customer as a fully equipped aeromedical helicopter in just 21 days. Ballpark price tag for such an installation comes to roughly $200,000, depending on the sophistication of the equipment package selected. “Modern medical completions are pretty extensive,” commented Mullins. “With the new equipment smaller and more capable than ever, they can pretty much take their entire emergency room along with them.”

Heli-Dyne Systems recently reconfigured the interiors of two executive helicopters for dedicated aeromedical service. The vibrantly painted red, white and blue Bell 230 helicopters, owned by OSF Aviation, were delivered to St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, Ill. The revamped helicopters include air, suction, oxygen and electrical systems. They also feature Heli-Dyne’s exclusive dual-pivoting litter system for easy and efficient patient loading and unloading. A unique slide mount for the Life Pac 12 was installed in the cabin ceiling, which will enable crewmembers to easily slide the monitor out of the way via a recessed track when it is not in use. Remotely controlled, variable, high-intensity lighting was also installed in the cabin.

Cockpit additions include Bendix/King’s KMD 850 multifunction display and KLN 90B GPS for IFR operations.

The helicopters are being operated by CJ Systems Aviation Group of West Mifflin, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. Another recent job called for Heli-Dyne to strip out the interior work on a corporate-configured AS 365N2 Dauphin, transforming it into a state-of-the-art aeromed transport helo. The customer STATCARE of Louisville, Ky., called for a new interior with medical air, oxygen and electrical systems. A custom-designed and fabricated overhead mount for the Zoll computer monitor, is used for the display of vital sign data.

“What we’re really doing here is integration,” Mullins said. “Helicopters haven’t been the kind of market for fully integrated systems that business fixed-wing aircraft have. And that’s opened a real market up for us. We pick and choose the best of what can fulfill the customer’s needs, from multimode radios to multifunction displays, sophisticated imaging systems to advanced synthetic aperture radars [the latter used mainly in the case of maritime surveillance mods].”