Specialty helicopter products are like upgrades to well-engineered cars. They enhance the performance, safety, and value of the machines they are added to, while tweaking the admiration of their purchasers with the thought, I wish I’d come up with that! Below are some specialty helicopter products that crossed our desks at Rotorcraft Pro, and made us sit up in attention.
Mountain Bikes to Mountain Tops
Mountain biking is an increasingly popular sport. As happens with skiing, the most avid mountain bikers want to ride down the tallest peaks, without enduring the effort of getting up there themselves. Enter the helicopter, and its ability to take bikers and their rides to mountaintops easily and effortlessly.
Yet, helicopters aren’t specifically built to transport mountain bikes, which is why helicopter basket manufacturer Aero Design (www.aerodesign.ca) has stepped up with a unique solution: Aero Design Quick-Release Bicycle Racks. These racks allow a helicopter operator to safely carry: three bicycles, externally, per side aloft, their riders, and enough fuel to support multiple hops in a day. The external racks employ the same quick-release mounts that are used on all four sizes of Aero Design cargo baskets. The racks can be attached/detached to the helicopter in less than a minute, and have enough capacity to accommodate bikes with wheels 26 inches to 29 inches in diameter, and tires as wide as 4 inches. The creation of Aero Design Quick-Release Bicycle Racks “was a multi-industry driven project both from helicopter operators and the mountain biking community,” said Jason Rekve, Aero Design’s president and general manager. As mountain biking became more popular, operators began offering heli-biking, but the limitations due to lack of proper equipment held it back as operators would sling net loads of bikes or daisy chain them together, which ultimately caused damage.
“For our version, we wanted something that worked well with our existing cargo basket quick-release system and had the same kind of ease of use for removal and install of the bikes, as well as be adjustable without tools, and able to carry the largest variation of bikes, be lightweight, and pleasing to look at,” Rekve continued. “We were at Version 5 before we finally had a concept we knew would live up to our standards.”
Today, Aero Design’s Quick-Release Bicycle Racks are helping heli-bikers reach new heights–literally. “Honestly, the positive reaction to this project has come from across industries and from around the world,” said Rekve. “We have helicopter operators, private operators, and heli-ski companies utilizing them in their regular off-season, and even a bike manufacturer using the racks.”
PHOTO CREDIT - Aero Design / bike rack photos courtesy of Aero Design and Icebike Adventures in Iceland.
Aero Design Video
HeliTrak Develops Safety Enhancements for R22 & R44
HeliTrak (helitrak.com) has developed two specialty products to increase flight safety and ease of operations in Robinson Helicopters: the Collective Pull Down (CPD), and the HeliTrak R44 Autopilot.
The CPD is an FAA-approved aftermarket safety device that initiates the lowering of collective in the event of an engine or drive-system failure. By doing so, the CPD maximizes the Robinson helicopter’s ability to auto-rotate safely to ground. It doesn’t count on the pilot noticing that there’s a problem and inadvertently dissipating remaining rotor power before lowering the collective to land safely.
According to HeliTrak, nearly one-third of all helicopter accidents involve autorotation events, with low-rotor RPM during autorotation entry accounting for up to 15 percent of all fatal helicopter accidents. Helitrak cites data from the Flight Safety Foundation that pilots take 2-3 seconds on average to recognize that an engine problem requiring an auto-rotation response is occurring, and then another 4-6 seconds to react; losing precious rotation power in the interim. The CPD bridges this gap by lowering the collective as soon as an engine issue occurs; thus, it maximizes available power for a safe auto-rotated landing.
Here’s how it works: “The CPD monitors the low rotor warning annunciator that is in the Robinson Helicopter’s cockpit,” said Chris Nehls, president of HeliTrak. “When we see that annunciator triggered at 97 percent rotor RPM, then we pull down. Once the CPD is triggered, then it will start pulling down at a constant force for three seconds. Then it gradually releases that force over a period of half a second to avoid pilot-induced oscillation on the collective.”
The new HeliTrak R44 Autopilot is a straightforward approach to equipping the R44 with this flight control capability. HeliTrak originally designed it for the R22, but that smaller helicopter’s sensitivity to payload changes convinced HeliTrak to offer it for the larger, more powerful R44 instead.
“The feedback we’ve received from customers leading up to the introduction of the autopilot is to keep it simple,” said Nehls. “So we’re including a heading-hold function, a roll-control function so that they can initiate turns, altitude-hold, and speed-hold functions are also included. We’ll come up with upgrades in the future that will connect to GPS navigators, but the overwhelming response from R44 operators has been keep it simple for now.”
Convenience for Rotors, Seats, and Doors
Originally founded in 1881 as a maker of horseshoe nails – and a pioneer in employing automated machines to mass-produce those nails in the age of steam – Capewell Aerial Systems (www.capewell.com) has moved with the times to become a diversified manufacturer of aerospace and life support products.
In the area of new helicopter specialty products, Capewell now offers two ground support items that catch attention. They are the Helicopter Rotor Maintenance Stand, and the Helicopter Seat & Door Stand. Both products are manufactured in the U.S. by Capewell's partner company, MJ5.
According to Capewell, the heavy-duty Helicopter Rotor Maintenance Stand is designed for the inspection, maintenance, and repair of main/tail rotors after being removed from the
aircraft. Aimed at the helicopter maintenance facility market, this wheeled stand is easy to move around the shop floor. Better yet, the stand’s unique ‘rotisserie brackets’ hold rotors at a convenient work height; allowing them to be rotated 270 degrees by a single individual. This capability reduces the technician’s back and knee strain, while maximizing access to the rotor blades being serviced. The Helicopter Rotor Maintenance Stand protects rotors from damage caused by being placed on floors, workbenches or makeshift stands. It can be configured to accommodate rotors of most military, civilian, and law enforcement helicopters.
The MJ5 Helicopter Seat & Door Stand is purpose-built for helicopter maintenance facilities, and aircrews who need to reconfigure seats or remove doors mid-mission. To assist both kinds of users, this stand can be configured to hold two cockpit doors, or up to 12 troop/crew seats. With locking casters that can turn the stand into a workstation, the wheeled Helicopter Seat & Door Stand is easy to move around the shop floor. Made from lightweight aluminum with stainless steel brackets and connectors, it collapses into a small shape for easy transport or compact storage.
Breeze-Eastern Brings Light Standardization to Lift
Breeze-Eastern makes the rescue hoists, winches, and cargo hooks found on many civilian and military helicopters today. In the area of new products, the company has come out with Lighted Hook Bumpers to make it easier for helicopter crews to see and manage rescue hooks. Breeze Eastern’s standardized Lift Bag Kit (LBK) can be used to calibrate hoists and train hoist operators.
The Lighted Hook Bumper, which is located above a rescue hook on the hoist cable, enables hoist operators, helicopter pilots, and surface rescuers to know where the hook is at all times. The bumper’s lighting system is made up of 14 LEDs located in upward and downward facing rings that allow the bumper to be seen from as far away as 656 feet/200 meters. Operators can configure the LEDs’ colors, patterns, and light intensities, making each bumper easy to identify from a distance even in foggy skies and murky water.
“This product was developed based on customer feedback,” said James DeCuollo, Breeze-Eastern’s account manager. “It is easy to install and maintain because the bumper’s batteries are commercially available.”
The LBK is a hoistable orange flexible container that can be loaded with 25-pound weighted bags that are supplied. As the bags can be empty or filled, the container can be as light as 75 pounds or as heavy as 600 pounds. The LBK allows crews to conduct flight testing, maintenance/conditioning, and training activities without attaching a person to the end of the line. The flexible container has a storage pocket for a hand scale and an electrostatic discharge cable. “The LBK’s 600-pound load is rated for a rescue hoist,” said DeCuollo. “The reason this is so critical, is in order to ensure the safety of the hoist, you do have to do test flights and test lifts. Using the LDK is the way to standardize those tests across your fleet.”
Meanwhile in the lab, Breeze-Eastern is updating its AC- and DC-powered rescue hoists. These include installing longer lasting brushless motors on its DC-powered models.