Chelton’s helo autopilot nears STC

HAI Convention News » 2007
March 15, 2007, 9:47 AM

The new Chelton Flight Systems Heli-SAS autopilot should be certified on the Bell 206 and 407 late this year, according to Chelton president Gordon Pratt. Chelton and Bell subsidiary Edwards & Associates will jointly develop the supplemental type certificate (STC) for the HeliSAS, which will be first available for new and retrofit installations on the 206 and 407.

Chelton has logged 250 hours of flight testing on the HeliSAS STC program. The system weighs 12 pounds installed and should cost less than $100,000, including installation. HeliSAS (helicopter stability augmentation system) is a parallel-only system, Pratt explained, with a single servo powered by a Moog brushless motor attached to the bottom of the cyclic. While HeliSAS works only on helicopters with hydraulic flight controls, the system does not interface with the hydraulic system, so installation is far simpler and should take less than 40 hours of labor.

As a parallel system, HeliSAS “gives positive stability all the time,” Pratt said, always returning the helicopter to a level flight attitude. HeliSAS also works with Chelton’s synthetic-vision system, to help pilots see a display of the outside view in poor weather conditions or at night, and a highway-in-the-sky display while the autopilot flies an instrument approach or other flight-planned procedure.

Chelton could develop HeliSAS for helicopters with mechanical flight controls, but the servo would have to be larger, according to Roger Hoh, Chelton systems integration engineer.

Chelton Flight Systems was the avionics provider for Bell’s 417 program, which the airframer announced it is canceling. “It was a soup-to-nuts avionics system,” said Pratt. “If there was an electron jiggling in that helicopter, it was a Chelton electron.”
The cancellation of the 417 program is okay with Chelton, he said, because Bell and Chelton have an agreement to work on certifying the 417 avionics suite in the 407. “I look at it as Bell enabled us to get into this market,” he added. “I don’t see it as a loss of our investment.”

Certification should be completed in the first quarter of 2008, and operators of used 407s and buyers of new 407s will be able to buy the Chelton package. “It was a modification of the current 407 system,” Pratt said. “Bell wanted to be first with a certified synthetic-vision system.”

The 417 avionics package can be seen at Chelton’s booth (No. 2515), and it includes the Chelton engine instruments developed for the 417, which will also be available to the retrofit market.  

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