Why GPMS’s Foresight MX HUMS is critical for helicopter operators performing Firefighting missions

September 17 2021
Why GPMS’s Foresight MX HUMS is critical for helicopter operators performing Firefighting missions

At GPMS, our aim is to offer a helicopter health monitoring system so useful and so accessible that the value equation for operators tips toward HUMS absent traditional regulatory mandates.

At the same time, we are seeing an increasing recognition among the organizations contracting for helicopter services that HFDM and HUMS are best practice enhancements for safety.

This trend has now arrived in the firefighting sector. The US Forest Service recently released a draft MATOC RFP that requires HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring System) on Type I, II, and III aircraft. This Exclusive Use/Call When Needed services contract specifies that all helicopters have HUMS and HDMS to be technically compliant.

Operators with aircraft engaged in firefighting missions now have four good reasons to equip their helicopters with Foresight MX.

HUMS is required to win major contracts

As the US Forest Service’s Solicitation No. 1202SA21R0008 makes clear, public entities are moving toward requiring both helicopter flight data monitoring and health and usage monitoring systems on contracted aircraft. This only makes sense, given that HFDM data provides insight on pilot activity while HUMS provides critical analysis of machine condition.

For operators, the implications are clear: If you don’t have vibration trend monitoring onboard to assess engine and drivetrain health, you won’t get the business. HUMS, in other words, is moving from the ‘nice to have’ to the ‘need to have’ category of mission equipment.

Foresight MX meets current HUMS standards requiring frequent data transfer and analysis

Gone of the days when operators could put hardware onboard and ‘check the box.’ Contracting organizations and industry standard setting bodies in oil and gas and HEMS are well aware that putting a flight data monitoring system, a cockpit camera, or a HUMS onboard isn’t enough – you need regularly get the data off the aircraft and analyze it.

The MATOC draft ATTACHMENT 33- INTEGRATED HEALTH AND USE MONITORING SYSTEM HUMS specifies that operator’s HUMS program shall “Contain procedures and schedule for retrieval of the aircraft HUMS data” and “Contain procedures for the integration of the analyzed aircraft HUMS data into the Contractor’s Maintenance program.” Moreover, “The contractor shall review data every 7 days at a minimum while on contract…”

Happily, modern systems like Foresight MX make data offload easy and automatic with onboard cellular or wifi connectivity. Flight parameter data, including exceedances, as well as vibration sensor data is captured in-flight and then sent to the cloud when the aircraft lands. Data availability, analysis, and text/email alerting of issues are all assured.

Predictive HUMS capabilities forestall costly contract-impacting AOG events

Even if HUMS is not required to win a fire contract, predictive health monitoring systems like Foresight MX offer operators the benefit of forestalling costly downtime. Most firefighting contracts require availability with financial penalties or termination rights if an aircraft is down unexpectedly or for a prolonged period. Health and Usage Monitoring Systems detect trending issues early and Foresight MX (uniquely) provides predictive Remaining Useful Life estimates that allow operators to see 50+ flight hours into the future. Maintenance Scheduling can then order parts and book in time to address mechanical problems within scheduled windows, mitigating AOG events and contract penalties.

Foresight MX enables maintenance savings, making you more profitable

Happily, while in some sense HUMS is becoming a required ‘cost’ of doing business, it actually benefits an operator’s bottom line through maintenance savings and asset value protection.

GPMS has an STC on the Bell 212/412. Working with Conklin and de Decker, we calculated annual maintenance savings of $35,000 through (1) faster and maintenance-flight free rotor track and balance, (2) unscheduled maintenance savings and (3) periodic maintenance savings. If you own your aircraft, add in another $10,000+ in annual financial benefit derived through asset value protection (the increase in value you get through digital record-keeping if you sell the aircraft).

At GPMS, we took the return numbers above into account and designed a HUMS-as-a-Service pricing model that spreads out payments to coincide with revenues and ensures you’ll see positive ROI year after year.

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As we’ve seen, fires are getting bigger and more dangerous and the firefighting segment of the helicopter industry is only forecasted to grow. Contract requirements, safety, and business logic all point to upgrading firefighting helicopters with a modern, value-adding HUMS like Foresight MX.