While we think flight data management and machine condition monitoring make sense on all rotorcraft, the logic for HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) on helicopters used for executive transport is irrefutable: If you are going to invest in a multi-million dollar aircraft and carry VIPs, why not spend 1% more to enhance safety through comprehensive health monitoring?
In the last few years, we’ve seen a spate of VIP helicopter accidents: Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, French politician Olivier Dassault, and of course Kobe Bryant. Our industry is under pressure to enhance safety and smarter, more connected machines are key to making this happen.
HUMS is a drop in the bucket
Consider the Bell 429. Out of the factory and typically outfitted for corporate/VIP aircraft costs around $7 million dollars. Now consider what many VIPs make in salary per year or have in net worth. Does it really make sense to skimp on health monitoring system costing (on the 429) $19,000 a year after fit-up?
Making the math even more compelling, modern health and usage monitoring systems like Foresight MX actually make money for their owners. Our work with Conklin & de Decker, for instance, suggests that on average the 429 owner will find about $50,000 in annualized financial benefit. So is there any good reason not to enhance safety and save money in the process? No.
Foresight MX supports both sides of the safety equation
In the accidents referenced above, while nothing we’ve seen suggests health monitoring would have immediately averted the incidents, we know flight data management supports FOQA, which over the long run improves safety. And we know from the International Helicopter Safety Foundation (IHSF) that machine failures are still a meaningful (15-20%) contributor to Type A mishaps.
Operators have, for some time, been outfitting their aircraft with real time flight following systems. Next level operators have put more robust wired FDM solutions, which capture flight parameters and allow flight playback. But the standards of operation continue to improve and more and more operators now demand engine and component monitoring too.
Foresight MX captures FDM and HUMS data and moves it off the aircraft automatically. This is a one-stop solution that obviates the need for multiple systems.
Private owners in particular need safety systems
We think HUMS technology is urgently needed in the executive transport sector because many of these operators include private owners where — the IHSF statistics say — the bulk of the accidents per flight hour lie.
Private owners have fewer hours in the cockpit and fewer processes in place to prevent mishaps. Monitoring aircraft flown by private parties (individuals or corporate flight departments), together with FOQA support, it stands to reason, would go a long way toward reducing tragedies in this sector.
Air taxis need ‘safety differentiators’ and passenger confidence
The other group that falls in the executive transport sector needing HUMS is charter providers, sometimes operating as air taxi companies.
If you are a charter company you aren’t competing for business just on price. You are competing on safety. Equipment and processes that logically enhance safety give you an edge on contracts. At the same time, they give prospective passengers confidence. And confidence, especially given recent incident news, is key to growing this market.
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The GPMS customers in the VIP / executive transport space all came to us initially for safety reasons. The ability to monitor their aircraft health just made sense to their comparatively deep-pocketed owners. Many of these same customers now sing the maintenance benefits of Foresight MX, including predictive maintenance, diagnostics and rotor balancing capabilities. At GPMS, we’re happy to be addressing these motivations for HUMS in the sector.