To some, helicopters are the essence of noise; to others they make the music of commerce. Regardless, helicopters are known to rumble and clatter and roar and whine, all the while thrashing the air about amid a whir and blur of rotor blades, making cabin noise a foregone conclusion, and normal conversation difficult at best. But that is about to change, according to Ed Bolden, president of Heritage Aviation.
At facilities in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Heritage aircraft interior specialists are putting the finishing touches on the company’s first “Iso-Quiet Cocoon Interior,” creating a helicopter cabin in which the sound level is expected to register 75 dBA or less. According to industry experts, the dBA level in a typically configured helicopter cabin is in the high-80s, and sometimes in excess of 90 dBA.
The Iso-Quiet cabin is the product of research and development that began almost with the birth of the company in November 2001. The heart of the Iso-Quiet cabin is a series of primary composite panels impregnated with sound-absorbing materials. These include sidewall, overhead and fore- and aft-bulkhead panels, all of which are attached to the frame by isolation mounts. Secondary composite panels–those requiring custom cut and forming–include door panels, closeouts on windows and finish-outs for the sidewalls, bulkheads and overhead.
In essence, the primary and secondary panels comprise a kit created to fit a particular helicopter type or model and can be installed in as little as two weeks. Additional work, including installation of such customer options as refreshment centers, video monitors and custom seating, may extend the total interior finish time to somewhere between 60 and 90 days.
Bolden said that to reduce costs and ensure quality, the company designs, forms and cuts both primary and secondary panels on site. The cost of the basic Iso-Quiet kit of primary and secondary panels starts at about $200,000, uninstalled.
Heritage also produces most of the other basic interior components in its own shops, including seat upholstery and cabinetry.
Heritage has a TSO for bench seats and acquires customized individual seats from outside vendors. Other cabin components bought from outside vendors include audio/ video entertainment equipment and lighting.
Bolden said the first Iso-Quiet cabin was installed in a Eurocopter EC 155 delivered in November to one of the Grand Prairie, Texas-based helo manufacturer’s end-customers. The cabin includes LED indirect wash lighting and LED reading lamps, four seat-mounted flip-down video monitors, MP3, CD and VCR players, satellite telephone, cabin/ cockpit intercom and fully encased accordion window shades. A small refreshment center takes the place of the center seat of the forward-facing bench. The interior is configured to accommodate up to eight passengers.
The basic Iso-Quiet kit for the EC 155 and similar helicopters allows for a variety of cabin configurations, from a four-place VIP configuration to a 10-place high-density seating arrangement.
An Iso-Quiet cabin mockup on display at the NBAA Convention in September received considerable notice, said Bolden. “Some of the folks expressed the opinion that it was the first time they had ever seen in a helicopter luxury typical of a VIP cabin on a jet.”
According to Bolden, Heritage is involved in discussions with other manufacturers aimed at providing Iso-Quiet components as part of a standard or optional completion package. The company also plans to offer Iso-Quiet panels as part of a retrofit kit. “It makes sense,” said Bolden. “There are helicopters all over the world that are part of the market for Iso-Quiet, and sending the kits to the owner’s completion center of choice for installation obviously makes more sense than bringing the helicopter here.”
Located at Grand Prairie Municipal Airport, Heritage Aviation’s facilities also include an 820-sq-ft paint shop for helicopter exteriors, avionics installation, repair and retrofit and a sheet-metal shop.