HAI Convention News

Airbus, Precise Flight Expand Bird-strike Prevention

 - March 4, 2017, 3:00 PM
Rotorcraft such as this Airbus EC130B can now be protected from bird strikes by Precise Flight’s Pulselite.

Airbus Helicopters and Precise Flight (Booth 4317) have been granted an amended supplemental type certificate (STC) for the latter company’s Pulselite bird-strike prevention system, which is installed on more than 25,000 aircraft (around 84 percent of the world’s business aviation fleet). Some 67 Airbus helicopter models are now covered, including all EC135, H135, EC145, H145 and AS350 models.

Pulselite is a controller that alternately pulses the landing and auxiliary lights of the helicopter to increase its visibility. According to Precise Flight, Pulselite is the “only FAA-approved onboard solution proven to reduce bird strikes for commercial aviation.”

 “A growing body of research,” the company explained, “including a recent USDA [Department of Agriculture] advisory, confirms that steady-state lights create a false and dangerous illusion that aircraft are stationery or moving slowly. When a pulsing movement is added to an aircraft’s exterior lighting, it accentuates the speed and directional movement of the aircraft, thereby increasing aircraft recognition and significantly decreasing bird strikes.

“In addition to reducing bird strikes, the Pulselite system also reduces the chance of midair and ground collisions. Pulsing exterior lights makes a helicopter significantly more recognizable to humans, and more accurately reflects its proximity, speed and directional movement.”

Lindsay Cunningham, v-p of civil programs at Airbus Helicopters, said, “We consider the Pulselite system an important safety option, and we are excited to add these aircraft to the list of models now certified for the system.”

The Pulselite system is available as both a standard safety option on new aircraft from Airbus Helicopters and as an aftermarket modification.

Precise Flight claims studies have found the system to reduce bird strikes by 30 to 66 percent. The company added that the number of bird strike incidents experienced by the industry has increased significantly in recent years, with the resultant effects on safety and repair costs.

It said that, according to the FAA, bird strikes to helicopters have increased more that 700 percent since the early 2000s, while HAI has noted that air medical services report an average of one bird strike every week, with the problem steadily getting worse.

Meanwhile the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration has warned the rotorcraft industry that Canada goose populations in North America increased from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 3.8 million today. During that same period, the snow goose population increased from 2.1 million to 6.6 million.

One Pulselite user is Maverick Helicopters, which flies helicopter tours in the Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam areas. John Mandernach, v-p of maintenance, said the Pulselite system had virtually eliminated what had become a persistent and serious problem with bird strikes. “I preach to everyone who will listen about the effectiveness of the Pulselite system. Since installing the Pulselite system on our fleet, the bird strikes we were experiencing have been virtually eliminated. It’s been over seven years and 250,000 flight hours since our last bird strike.”

Evidence such as this has made Pulselite a prerequisite for Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS) certification, according to Precise Flight. Jen Boyer, TOPS executive director, said, “For more than 20 years, [TOPS] has been dedicated to enhancing helicopter tour safety by requiring our members to meet requirements above those set by the FAA.”

Here at Heli-Expo, Precise Flight also is announcing a new partnership with Rigid Industries/TruckLite for its LEDs to be made available in the aviation industry. “The lights will be certified and sold in the rotorcraft industry under the Precise Flight brand,” said Precise Flight CEO Doug La Placa. “The combination of the Pulselite System with [these] LEDs offers rotorcraft operators an entirely new level of aircraft recognition and safety. The LEDs are manufactured in the United States and are backed by a lifetime warranty.”