RTCA releases helicopter TAWS standard

 - June 9, 2008, 6:50 AM

Standard-setting organization RTCA has released minimum operational performance standards (MOPS) for helicopter terrain awareness and warning systems (HTAWS). The recommendations are the result of the FAA’s request for input about minimum performance as it was studying implementing an NTSB recommendation for installing TAWS in helicopters.

“The NTSB wanted to reduce the number of helicopter controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) [accidents] but, when the FAA considered it, [the agency] realized there was no standard an equipment manufacturer had to meet to claim it offers HTAWS,” Yasuo Ishihara, co-chairman of the RTCA HTAWS MOPS special committee, told AIN.

“According to the FAA accident and incident database for 1994 to 2003, flight into terrain/ water is the leading operational cause of fatal helicopter accidents,” said Lyle Kendall, Honeywell’s EGPWS and integrated surveillance product manager. Honeywell has been offering HTAWS for seven years at a price that it says is similar to that of fixed-wing aircraft EGPWS.

The main challenge for the special committee was to focus on making the standard general, rather than addressing highly technical issues. One difficulty was accounting for the multi-faceted mission of the helicopter. To that end, the committee included operators who are experts in search-and-rescue, executive air transport, offshore oil operations and so on. “We found common ground to establish minimum, universal performance standards,” Ishihara said.

Honeywell plans to introduce HTAWS as a software option in integrated systems. This will yield weight, volume and cost savings.

French avionics firm Thales, which is reportedly designing an HTAWS, declined to provide any input for this article.