Vision 1000 added to Eurocopter’s light helos

 - December 29, 2009, 7:44 AM

Eurocopter is offering a low-cost and lightweight flight data monitoring system for light helicopters. The idea is to record flight parameters, voice and cockpit images to detect possible pilot deviations from procedures and then replay the flight on the ground for debriefing or training. All new AS 350B2/B3 AStars built by American Eurocopter in Columbus, Miss., will be fitted soon with the Vision 1000 recorder, which was codeveloped with Appareo Systems. The FAA is expected to issue an STC this month.

The concept is already available on medium helicopters, but price and weight have made it impractical thus far for light ones.

Emphasizing the safety benefits of such a system, Eurocopter says operators can monitor pilot proficiency and adherence to procedures. Moreover, in case of an incident or accident, the recorder plays the role of a limited cockpit voice and flight data recorder, equipment that helicopters are not required to carry.

The Vision 1000 operates separately from the avionics, said Gilles Bruniaux, Eurocopter’s v-p for operational fleet safety, during a presentation at the EASA’s rotorcraft symposium in Cologne, Germany. The system needs only a 28V power supply and can record up to two hours of images and 10 hours of flight data. It is the size of a fist, weighs less than a pound and is said to cost “less than $10,000.”

The system records about a dozen parameters compared with the hundreds a CVR or FDR records. However, the parameters the Vision 1000 records enable replaying a flightpath with the aircraft’s attitudes. The device houses a GPS, an inertial measurement unit and a three-axis accelerometer. Cockpit images are recorded at four frames per second.

The Alerts software allows flight analysis to be performed on-line. “Trigger events can be set, such as too high pitch-down at takeoff,” Bruniaux explained. The flight can be replayed with a locally installed program. The pilot and the operator’s safety officer can watch the flightpath in three dimensions, for use in a debriefing session as a teaching aid.

Eurocopter is targeting North America first because this is the region where operators have the greatest exposure to liability issues, but it will eventually offer the system in other regions. During the symposium, an AgustaWestland delegate said the Anglo-Italian manufacturer is working on a similar system for its light helicopters, with the same philosophy and the same supplier.

For heavier helicopters such as the EC 155/Dauphin and the Super Puma/EC 225 series, Eurocopter offers the professional ground-station software suite for flight analysis and replay. The operators’ customers such as oil companies often ask for such FOQA. The suite was developed by Flight Data Vision and has already been picked by Dancopter and Heli-Union. “We [provide] some added value,” Frédéric Moha, an expert in recording systems at Eurocopter’s commercial helicopter department, told AIN in a phone interview. Eurocopter provides training on the software suite. Moreover, it supplies a baseline of data, drawn from other operators’ experience, to help new users get started.