Louisa Patterson, chief pilot, standards pilot and CEO of Over the Top, a New Zealand-based an air tour operator flying three Eurocopter helicopters, is on a mission. Although some consider her a pioneer of the air tour industry in her country, she is here at Heli-Expo 2017 promoting her new business, Eye in the Sky (Booth 6026), a maker of aircraft video, audio and data recording devices.
Her motivation is personal. Her son was killed on February 19, 2015 in the crash of a Robinson Helicopter R44, on which he was a passenger. The 3,000-hour pilot was a former military pilot and had a reputation as a careful pilot. The helicopter broke apart in the air while they were flying at 1,400 ft agl (3,000 ft msl) over level ground, and pieces of it were spread over a wide area. The New Zealand accident investigation board was unable to determine a primary cause of the accident.
Patterson knew a video recorder in the cockpit could have given the investigators more clues. So in remembrance of her son, she made it her mission to design a cockpit recording device (video, voice and data) that would be small, crash-resistant (metal), tamper-proof and cost less than half the price of similar devices on the market at that time. She found a manufacturer in the U.S., Rugged Video, in Mequon, Wisconsin.
So now she has a device that fits in the palm of your hand and costs $4,500. She believes that every aircraft should be flying with such a device, for both safety and business reasons. Patterson says she is not in it for the money. She funded the development of the recorder and plans to donate all profits from the sale of the device to a charity in New Zealand.