Glass cockpit coming for MD500 series

 - May 3, 2010, 6:08 AM

MD Helicopters is expected to begin offering a glass cockpit for new MD500 series beginning next month. United Rotorcraft Solutions is finishing flight testing on the STC it is developing for MD. United president David Brigham said the STC will also be offered as a retrofit for existing 500s through MD’s repair station in Mesa and through his company. He estimates installation time to be two to three weeks.

While a final price for the system has yet to be established, Brigham predicts that it will be more than $100,000. A spokesman for MD told AIN that the company would not set a firm price for the system until after the STC was granted. The initial STC will cover the 500E but can easily be expanded to include the 520N and 500F, Brigham said.

The system reduces typical helicopter weight by 18 pounds and replaces caution and warning indicators and primary flight and engine instruments with two eight-inch Sagem Avionics displays, a primary flight display and a multifunction display (MFD). While the MFD will display systems and engine data, moving map and camera images, it will not have the ability to display aircraft checklists, at least not initially. However, traffic data, satellite weather and Taws information can be overlaid on the MFD’s moving map display. The MFD also will have split screen visibility.

Brigham said he has already fielded numerous inquiries from MD customers about the new glass-panel option. “Law enforcement [operators], in particular,
[are] excited about this,” he said, noting that the conventional MD500 cockpit is “real estate challenged.”

Typically MD500s used by police agencies have crowded cockpits, due largely to two additional screens in the cockpit to display forward-looking infrared (FLIR) images to the spotter or technical flight officer and the pilot, Brigham said. The glass cockpit allows the elimination of the pilot’s FLIR screen, typically used for flight reference. That image can now be displayed on the MFD.

Brigham said flight schools and game and wildlife agencies as well as utility, power line, and seismic survey companies have also expressed interest in the cockpits. “Lots of people are talking to us about it,” he said.