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Helionix Update

Our operators weigh in


December 13, 2016: Airbus Helicopters’ Helionix avionics system was recently certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for use on the H135, singling this helicopter model out to join the H145 and H175 in benefitting from Helionix’s innovative technology. At present, more than 100 helicopters are equipped with the system since its entry into service in 2014. Below, we provide a quick update on the program itself and then hear from five customers about the advantages of this next-generation avionics suite.

What is Helionix?

Helionix is an avionics system designed by Airbus Helicopters to offer increased mission flexibility to operators and to positively impact operational safety. It comprises two computers and a one-of-a-kind cockpit layout with up to four electronic displays designed to improve pilots’ situational awareness in flight.

Helionix grew out of operators’ need for a more powerful avionics system with greater computing capacity and more functions, but which was easier to use and relied on fewer displays. Employing standardised features, the system has already been integrated into Airbus Helicopters’ new generation of aircraft.

The avionics suite includes a four-axis autopilot to reduce pilot workload, and a First Limit Indicator in which engine instrument data is shown under one indicator. A GPS navigation and communication system and a Traffic Advisory System complete the suite, while a mission system, including Digital map, a Helicopter Terrain Avoidance System and a Synthetic Vision System, give pilots full situational awareness.

In particular, Helionix has been hailed by users for its intuitive human machine interface and autopilot, features which allow pilots to concentrate more fully on the flight itself.

Currently, both the H145 and H175 benefit from its state-of-the-art functions, as will the H160 on its entry into service. The H135 will incorporate it as of 2017, while a gradual rollout will follow on the rest of the range. All told, around 120 helicopters are currently equipped with Helionix, clocking some 40,000 hours in flight with the system.

“Helionix is, to date, the most mature, clearest, and most pilot friendly avionics management system I know.”

Dietmar Gehr

H145 pilot with DRF Luftrettung

Future developments could be seen as soon as next year, starting with an updated version to be certified on the H175. Advancements will focus on bolstering the helicopter’s search and rescue (SAR) capabilities, aiding approaches to offshore platforms through the navigation system, as well as making functional improvements.

H135, Helionix

Planned improvements would also include mission systems, in particular the existing Synthetic Vision System (SVS), which allows pilots to receive a pseudo-3D image of terrain, enhancing their perception of the flight environment, especially in poor visibility.

“The family concept behind Helionix allows us to offer real advantages to our customers,” says Christian Franot, Helionix programme director. “This is particularly true for pilot and technician training; once you master this one avionics system, the transition to other aircraft models is easier because it’s on them, too.”

Operators share their experiences

Below, Stephen Farmer, H145 operator in New Zealand; Erik Norman, chief pilot at Norwegian Air Ambulance; Dietmar Gehr, pilot with DRF Luftrettung; Martin Foster, avionics manager with Babcock; and José Erosa, operations director of H175 operator Pegaso, share their experiences using Helionix.

Gehr has been using the avionics suite since it was first available on the H145, Farmer since February 2015, and Norman since May 2015. Foster’s operations have included Helionix for around 18 months, while Erosa's have for the past three months.

Airbus Helicopters: What have been some of the advantages you’ve seen in using Helionix?

H145, Helionix

Dietmar Gehr, pilot with DRF Luftrettung: “A big advantage is the cockpit with its large screens and the well-integrated autopilot, which works very precisely. It is often used by our pilots in their daily HEMS missions. The support of the autopilot features reduces the pilot’s workload, which results in more safety.”

Erik Norman, Chief Pilot Norwegian Air Ambulance: “We see that it has more capabilities. We have the LPV approaches which we use for point-in-space approaches to hospitals—a great improvement for our service.”

Martin Foster, Avionics Manager with Babcock: “The Helionix system has made the job a lot easier for the pilot. When he’s flying now, the presentation of information is a lot neater. It’s taken the workload away from the pilot to ease his operation.”

Stephen Farmer, H145 operator in New Zealand: “It plays a role everyday. When the weather’s a bit average and the cloud base is getting lower and you’re flying VFR, you’re getting all the right information and everything’s being presented in a format and a consolidated view that works.”

What elements of a flight are most affected by having Helionix on board?

H145, Helionix

Martin Foster: “The situational awareness. The fact that [the pilot] has a display with mapping, terrain information, traffic information, pilons, obstructions . . . all on the display.”

José Erosa, operations director of H175 operator Pegaso: “Our business is in offshore passenger transport and right now we are making quite a few crew change missions landing on large ships. Helionix gives our pilots better situational awareness during these missions. They receive more information and better advice in an easy-to-understand format that makes decision making much faster in a given situation.”

H145, Helionix

Stephen Farmer: “Ease of use, situational awareness . . . the interface. Everything has been very well thought through and implemented. And the commitment to keep the maintenance [in place], keep it growing, as the new features come on.”

Dietmar Gehr: “Helionix is being integrated into our flight operations step-by-step. Point-in-space-approaches, LPV approaches – these are fields where Helionix is strong for us.”

Erik Norman: “It gives us the capabilities to use modern avionics to improve our service, especially with the instrument approaches to all hospitals. Also it is very intuitive; it’s easy to use. The training [requirement] is fairly low for such a complex system.”

How would you describe Helionix in a few words?

Stephen Farmer: “Ease of use with the right data in the right place, when you need it.”

Dietmar Gehr: “Helionix is, to date, the most mature, clearest, and most pilot friendly avionics management system I know.”

H145, Helionix

Erik Norman: “The main thing with Helionix for us is it’s intuitive. Once you learn the system and how to manage it, it is really intuitive to use, it lowers your workload and that improves the safety in operations.”

Martin Foster: “One of the good things with Helionix is that Helionix is evolving. The fact that [Airbus Helicopters is] still working on it, advancing it, adding more capability, sorting out issues . . . that’s the beauty of it.”

Learn more about EASA's certification of Helionix on the H135