Despite the background concerns over the economy, Carson Helicopters were in celebratory mood at this year’s Helo-Expo 2009 event in Anaheim, Calif. Although Carson’s splendidly polished, bright yellow S-61N still had the words ‘EXPERIMENTAL’ on the nose, the company had just won certification for the latest phase of its upgrade package – a sophisticated new glass cockpit.
News of the STC came so suddenly that Carson didn’t even have time to paint over the words denoting a non-certificated configuration. Other parts of the S-61N upgrade already approved include composite main rotor blades and other improvements which increase lift capacity by 2,000-lb. and cruise speed by around 15-kt. Further plans include a new composite tail rotor which will add a further 400-lb. to its lift capacity.
But what really put smiles on the faces of the Carson team at Heli-Expo, and on those of their supportive partners at Sikorsky, was President Obama’s announcement on the last day of the show that the troubled VH-71 Presidential helicopter program was to be again reviewed. Carson’s blades are already being tested as part of the on-going US Naval Air Systems Command-led VH-3D lift improvement program, designed to extend the life of the existing machines, but could this new edict offer the chance to upgrade the cockpits as well?
Why not, indeed? There may be one problem. The cockpit display system is integrated by Canadian company Vector Aerospace and developed by the French company Sagem Avionics, a division of the Safran group’s Sagem Defense Securite. Hardly, one might suppose, a ‘made in the USA’ product to land on the White House lawn in these troubling times of protectionist preferences. On the other hand, it will be a lot cheaper than the alternative.
The Sagem integrated cockpit display system. (Guy Norris)