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Rotorcraft Technology Summit: Highlighting Innovation

The Rotorcraft Technology Summit brings together subject matter experts, government regulators and new equipment providers, along with other operators to learn about the latest rotorcraft technology.

Top industry leaders will share their expertise in applying new and emerging technologies to meet business and operational goals with helicopter owners and operators at R&WI’s Rotorcraft Technology Summit in Texas this month.

Following on last year’s inaugural Rotorcraft Certification Summit, attendees on Sep. 19 to 20 at the Hilton Fort Worth will meet and hear from leading technology innovators who will provide insider briefings about the equipment decisions that demand consideration by those seeking to improve their market position and financial performance and to stay at the top of their markets.

Opening the event on the afternoon of the 19th will be NASA Astronaut Timothy L. Kopra as the first keynote speaker. Kopra returned to Earth June 18 after 186 days on the International Space Station, including 109 days as commander of that orbiting research laboratory. Combined with his past NASA missions, the retired U.S. Army colonel has flown 244 days in space, including more than 13 hours performing space walks to expand and maintain the space station.

Before his 1998 assignment to NASA as a vehicle integration test engineer, Kopra served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, aviation unit commander and experimental test pilot. His military duties included a tour with the Army Aviation Technical Test Center as developmental test director for the RAH-66 Comanche program. Selected by NASA as an astronaut in 2000, he retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010.

Kopra will share highlights of his recent space mission and insights from his career with summit attendees. He also will address lessons for developing and fielding advanced technology to meet mission needs.

His comments will serve as an appropriate segue into the Summit’s first session, “Progress in Certification Streamlining,” which will provide an update to discussions from last year’s event that examined how regulators and the industry are working to identify and clear hurdles to complying with upcoming FAA safety mandates.

NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra will keynote the event.Photo courtesy of NASA

Led by the FAA’s Rotorcraft Directorate manager, Lance Gant, this panel will review the aviation agency’s ongoing certification streamlining efforts and its application of the Safety Continuum philosophy to Part 27 rotorcraft. Other panelists will discuss manufacturers’ efforts to identify areas of Part 27 and 29 certification regulations most in need of updating and current and prospective safety mandates, such as those for crash-resistant fuel systems and occupant-protection measures.

Rounding out the first day is a session exploring drones as business opportunities. Drones are becoming an increasingly useful — and sometimes obtrusive — technology for helicopter operators. The industry must consider issues such as privacy and other legal matters when deploying drones and integrating them into U.S. national airspace.

Among the session’s panelists is Era Helicopters’ director of business development, Richard Marcus, who will speak on the operator’s recently announced venture into the unmanned arena. Era has partnered with a leading industrial-safety firm, Total Safety, to offer drones for construction, engineering, inspection and survey work as well as emergency response and disaster recovery.

Terry Fogarty, director of business development for Kaman’s K-MAX program, will discuss that operator’s joint program with Lockheed Martin on the Unmanned K-MAX, which has demonstrated its autonomous and remote-controlled capabilities in supply flights for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. The companies are pursuing opportunities to sell the Unmanned K-MAX for civil operations such as wildland firefighting.

On Sep. 20, the Summit’s first session, “Data Mining and Your Bottom Line” will look at the state of information-sharing, safety management systems, flight data monitoring and similar initiatives. Discussions will revolve around specific areas of flight operations safety, systems safety, and maintenance and support, including condition-based maintenance.

Author Richard Whittle will provide the second keynote.Photo courtesy of Richard Whittle

The lack of heliport standards and a reliable national database in the U.S. has provided opportunity for new solutions, as R&WI contributor Rex J. Alexander recently explored in R&WI’s June 2016 issue (“Deadly Data,” page 35).

These and other initiatives to improve low-level route availability will be the subject of the next session, “Low-Level Infrastructure: Routes, Heliports and Weather.” Moderated by Alexander, this panel discussion will include LifeFlight of Maine Executive Director Tom Judge (who like the moderator is a member of the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team), as well as speakers from Swiss Air Ambulance (Rega), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and air navigation services firm Hughes Aerospace. That firm’s president, Chris Baur, is also a member of the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team. Topics of discussion will also include weather reporting and low-altitude instrument flight rules.

After lunch, the author of two books detailing perhaps some of the most advanced technological applications in rotorcraft will give the second keynote address on disruptive technology.

Whittle explored disruptive technologies in both books.Photo courtesy of Richard Whittle

Richard Whittle, who explored such aircraft in “The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey” and “Predator: The Secret Origins of The Drone Revolution,” will provide his thoughts on the future of the industry. An R&WI contributor, Whittle is a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum.

In the afternoon, increased automation, synthetic vision, advanced batteries and electric and hybrid propulsion systems will be the focus of “A Look Ahead – Technologies on the Operations Horizon.” Bell Helicopter’s Martin Peryea will speak on the 525’s use of fly-by-wire technologies. Other speakers include NASA Langley Research Center’s Mark Moore, Safran Helicopter Engines’ Russ Spray and the FAA Rotorcraft Directorate’s Jorge Castillo.

Closing the summit will be a session on updates to the FAA’s review of an industry proposal to simplify the process for certification of single-engine IFR helicopters and of various efforts to field such new aircraft. “Single-Engine IFR Certification and Initiatives” panelists will include a helicopter specialist for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Chihoon Shin, and Summit veterans Steve Wysong of Wysong Enterprises and Pat Moe of Cool City Avionics. R&WI