WeatherTech, the US automotive accessories company, is to be the launch customer for StandardAero and Thales' four-axis compact autopilot system for the Airbus Helicopters H125/AS350 platform.
Derived from certified transport category solutions, the lightweight compact autopilot brings advanced, state-of-the-art four-axis capability, performance and enhanced levels of safety to the light helicopter market, while eliminating the need for a traditional dedicated flight control computer. David MacNeil, founder and CEO of WeatherTech says: “I have been pleased with the support received from StandardAero in modifying our H125 helicopters, and as we look to make additional safety and avionics upgrades to enhance these machines, the decision to include the Thales unique compact autopilot technology was an easy one to make."
StandardAero's and Thales' engineering and STC design partnership team will begin ground and flight testing for the new autopilot system on these aircraft beginning in early 2020. Various equipment upgrades on each of the aircraft will allow for greater compatibility testing and eventual certification with a number of aftermarket modifications common to the popular H125 (B3e) and later model AS350 series of helicopters.
“We are happy to be working with Mr. MacNeil once again as a launch customer for the Thales four-axis compact autopilot system, one of the pillars of our SafeCraft portfolio for the H125/AS350 series,” comments Elvis Moniz, StandardAero's vice president of business development for airframes and avionics solutions. “This system will not only provide unparalleled safety to the light helicopter market based on a proven robust design developed and fielded by global technology leader, Thales, but it will also provide a truly modern solution with a smooth ride quality and advanced functionality that our business and private aviation customers desire.”
WeatherTech was also a launch customer for StandardAero and Robertson Fuel Systems' crash-resistant fuel tanks, which have now also been selected by a first customer in Canada.
Two CRFTs will be installed on one AS350 BA helicopter and one AS350 B2 helicopter owned and operated by Ontario-based Zimmer Air Services Inc., both of which have incorporated HeliLynx FX2 or Soloy SD2 modifications utilising LTS101 engines.
“Our multi-purpose missions often involve a great deal of low-level flying, often with underbelly installations such as cargo swing/hooks or spray equipment, so we recognise the risk and that we must remain proactive in the safety of our operations for both our crews and our passengers,” says Paul Zimmer, president of Zimmer Air Services Inc. “For more than 40 years, we have established a reputation within the industry as a company committed to quality, service and safety, and the addition of these crash-resistant fuel tanks to our fleet is one more example of that continued determination.”
“We are pleased to have Zimmer Air Services as our first customer in Canada to take on a leading role in improving helicopter safety in Canada by introducing the CRFT,” said Julien Roy, StandardAero's general manager in Langley, British Columbia. “We received TCCA approval of our CRFT STC in October of last year, and within just a few short months we have already received significant interest. We believe the prompt delivery of these first two tanks in Canada is the start of what will be many more to come.”
The StandardAero and Robertson CRFT is the only Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) approved supplemental type certificate (STC) solution for virtually all models of the H125/AS350 helicopter and also boasts approvals from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Customers such as Zimmer Air Services operating B2 and older variants of the popular AS350 platform can achieve modern standards of fuel system crash-resistance and occupant protection comparable to that of new production aircraft only through the StandardAero and Robertson CRFT, as no other solution is available for these legacy models.