A series of fatal medevac helicopter crashes last year prompted fresh calls for increased industry regulation, and by November the FAA had announced changes to the operations specifications governing helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) flights under Part 135. Those covered flight planning, weather minimums and the use of night-vision goggles (NVGs).
Terrain awareness and warning system
The fusion of Chelton Flight Systems/S-TEC Chelton, Inc. and Wulfsberg Electronics as component companies of Cobham Avionics and Surveillance is evident in the helicopter cockpit mockup at the Cobham booth (No. 434). What the company calls “The Cobham Cockpit” combines technology drawn into a full system integrator from formerly separate providers of discrete components and products.
At the conclusion of four days of National Transportation Safety Board public hearings on the safety of helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) operations earlier this month, board member Robert Sumwalt summed up what several witnesses had already conceded: “There is no single magic bullet.”
A trio of helicopter trade associations are recommending that the FAA mandate night-vision goggles, enhanced-vision systems or IFR-only operations for all night flights of EMS helicopters. The recommendations overlap many key advisories made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2006.
The recent increase in fatal helicopter accidents, along with a push by the FAA to standardize the manufacture of helicopter terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS), has prompted a number of avionics companies to expand their product offerings and make changes to existing systems.
As part of an effort to reduce the number of fatal helicopter crashes, safety experts are promoting widespread use of terrain and traffic alert systems that are commonplace in turbine-powered airplanes. Offshore helicopter operator Bristow Group has developed and certified TCAS II (traffic collision avoidance system), a worldwide first for helicopters.
A federal jury last month rejected a claim by Honeywell that Sandel Avionics of Vista, Calif., violated its patents, ending more than six years of legal battles over terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) technology.
A federal jury rejected a claim by Honeywell that Sandel Avionics of Vista, Calif., violated its patents, ending more than six years of legal battles over terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) technology. The jury at the Delaware Federal Court in Wilmington deliberated for about five hours before deciding last Friday that Sandel did not infringe Honeywell patents for the latter’s enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS).
Lawyers for Universal Avionics, Sandel and Honeywell are scheduled to return to a Delaware federal courtroom this month in the companies’ long-running dispute over terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) patents.
Change is coming to the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) industry, and once the dust settles there could be fewer providers flying fewer helicopters in a more costly and highly regulated environment.