AgustaWestland is accessing the Internet and the cloud to support the latest addition to its product line.

Internet-based tools for flight planning and manipulation of health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS) data will be launched when the new AW189 intermediate-heavy helicopter begins operations early next year.

The company is awaiting final certification of the aircraft before first deliveries to the Bristow Group, an offshore oil and gas operator, can begin. As part of the type's introduction, AgustaWestland is launching Internet-based services called SkyFlight and Heliwise, which aim to streamline the aircraft's performance and enhance functionality from remote locations.

SkyFlight is an online flight planning system designed to allow operators to configure the aircraft while on the ground. Ground operations personnel or the pilots will be able to load the various flight parameters into the plan including weight and navigation waypoints, taking note of the weather and Notams, as well as comparing potential landing sites with satellite images from Google Maps. The online service then turns the combined flight profile produced into a transferrable file, which can be uploaded either by Wi-Fi or USB stick and translated by the aircraft's avionics system into the flight profile for the crew to follow.

Heliwise is an extension of software produced for use on the AW139, but by moving the process onto the Internet cloud, HUMS data does not have to be collected at the home base after each flight. Currently, operators can perform data downloads after each sortie or at the end of a day's flying. Now, with Heliwise, operators can—if necessary—carry out their data downloads even at remote locations and confirm whether the aircraft is fit for operations.

The AW189 is expected to generate around 20 Mb of data during a three-hour mission, although AgustaWestland is working to compress that data to make it easier to upload to the system. Once uploaded, the data from the aircraft are examined and then displayed in a graphical interface with a traffic light system pointing to different components on a diagram of the aircraft. Components displaying a green light are healthy and functioning normally, while those displaying amber or red require the attention of engineers. The HUMS gathers results from around 40 sensors across the aircraft.

“Heliwise uses the same graphics as we use in all the technical publications, which will aid familiarity,” said Davide Martini, helicopters support systems manager at AgustaWestland.

The data collected by operators can be shared with AgustaWestland, which will be able to monitor the health of key components throughout the life of the aircraft. As more data are collected, the operators will be able to make use of web-based Advanced Anomaly Detection (AAD) to provide advance warning of potential issues. Some 65 AW139s in use around the world are already using GE's AAD system, and by sharing the data from the AW139 fleet, AgustaWestland has been able to extend the time between overhaul (TBO) for the main gearbox from 5,000 hr. to 6,000, while the intermediate and tail rotor gearbox intervals have been extended from 5,000 to 7,500 hr. Work is continuing on developing wireless transfer of HUMS data, to be downloaded while the rotors are running. The AW189 also will be the first helicopter certified to use RFID tags on components, allowing engineers to locate key parts on the aircraft faster.

Meanwhile, AgustaWestland believes it is setting a new standard for the ability to run the AW189's gearbox dry, without oil, for 50 min., 20 min. longer than the current standard mandated by many offshore oil and gas companies and regulators. Engineers say this has been possible due to the design of the AW189's gearbox, which has a cone-shaped case and oil-injection system designed to retain oil as long as possible and to contain leaks, so the gearbox is unlikely to lose all of its lubrication at the same time. The company has tested the transmission's ability to operate without any oil for one hour, including in some different and strenuous flight regimes, and claims it could have operated running dry for a longer period. Assembly and flight-testing of the first batch of offshore-configured AW189 production aircraft is well underway at AgustaWestland's plant in Vergiate, Italy. First deliveries are planned by year-end. Meanwhile, a range of maintenance and flight-training devices is already being made available to customers to speed up operational readiness once the aircraft are delivered to service. Bristow engineers have started their instruction at AgustaWestland's training facility at Sesto Calende, and the first pilots are expected to begin simulator training in the coming weeks.