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Thales and StandardAero have successfully flight tested a compact autopilot system that will increase safety through reduced pilot workload in Airbus AS350 and H125 helicopters.

“The new system will provides stability augmentation, attitude retention and flight director modes such as altitude or heading hold and reduces the risk of aircraft incidents,” said Jean-Paul Ebanga, Thales Vice-President of Flight Avionics activities. “The achievement of this key milestone lays the groundwork for this important phase of the Supplemental Type Certification (STC) process and the launch of an unparalleled autopilot solution to the light helicopter market by mid-2021,” he added.

Federal Aviation Authority certification approval is expected mid-2021.

Flight testing, which will continue throughout the winter of 2020 at StandardAero’s Langley, British Columbia, facility, demonstrates Thales’ and StandardAero’s commitment to develop and certify a compact, advanced 4-axis helicopter Autopilot System. Earlier this year, StandardAero and Thales announced that automotive accessories company WeatherTech would be its launch customer.

“The launch of this flight test programme is a key milestone for StandardAero and Thales. This product combines Thales’ Autopilot experience, based on billions of flight hours accumulated and outstanding customer satisfaction, with StandardAero’s extensive aftermarket capabilities in aircraft modification and certification. We aim to bring a user-friendly solution offering an unparalleled level of safety and reliability to the light helicopter market,” said Jean-Paul Ebanga.

The Autopilot will initially be certified for installation on both the Airbus AS350 and H125 helicopter platforms.

Thales & StandardAero Experience

“This state-of-the-art, 4-axis autopilot system has been designed as a straightforward retrofit and provides pilots with simplified operation that will help reduce wear and tear on the helicopter while making flying in normal and adverse conditions much easier and safer for the crew and passengers,”said Elvis Moniz, Vice President of Product Development for StandardAero’s Helicopters business unit.

“Moreover, with the increase in EMS flying and recent CFIT related helicopter accidents, anything that can help pilots navigate more safely is of paramount interest.” Moniz added.

Thales produces the essential components, including the advanced control management systems, four trim actuators, three intelligent linear actuators and the data concentrator/control panel. StandardAero brings superior expertise in aircraft modification and certification, which enables them to manage the detailed design of the mechanical and electrical systems integration.

J C Menon