Modern Technology – a Lifesaving Backstop in Aviation

Rocky Mountain Aircraft had staff attending Heli-expo in Anaheim this week.

Why would a company specializing in Twin Otter and other similar twin turbine aircraft attend a rotorcraft convention you may wonder? Well, plenty of equipment designed specifically for rotorcraft can be a great fit for the special mission Twin Otter conversions that Rocky Mountain Aircraft excels at. FLIR systems multi-mission audio, tactical radio suites, night vision cockpits for example, that started off exclusively for rotorcraft have been STC’d into Twin Otters.

Garmin Integrated Flight Display
Installed Garmin Integrated Flight Display

There was a lot of talk and speculation at the convention about the tragic crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others. While the cause of the accident is still under investigation, the lack of a terrain awareness system (TAWS) on the helicopter could have been significant.

The TAWS systems, mandated for the majority of commercial aircraft, are tried and trusted technology credited with saving hundreds of lives. It is also comparatively cheap to retrofit. A California congressman has now introduced a bill to make TAWS mandatory in all helicopters. What will it take before all aircraft owners and operators voluntarily carry out safety audits on their aircraft?

Universal Avionics Terrain Awareness (TAWS) Display
Universal Avionics Terrain Awareness (TAWS) Display

Modern avionics have made flying safer than ever, terrain awareness, traffic and collision avoidance systems, large graphical displays for situational awareness, real-time weather information have significantly reduced accident rates.

The latest generation of digital autopilots with their envelope protection, unusual attitude recovery, straight and level functions are so advanced compared to the old analog autopilots it’s like comparing a Sony Walkman to an iPhone 11. Automatic landing autopilots, in the case of pilot incapacitation, are now being introduced to the market.

While pilot training, proficiency, flying skills and good decision making along with a properly maintained aircraft are always going to be the primary safety feature of any flight. In the event of failure, modern technology should always be installed as the lifesaving backstop.