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The first fully electronic helicopter fly-by-wire system


May 4, 2006



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May 5, 2006 As part of its Helicopter Electro Actuation Technology (HEAT) program for the U.K. Royal Navy’s EH101 Merlin helicopter fleet, AgustaWestland has awarded a US$32 million contract to BAE Systems for the development of the digital flight control computer. The new HEAT system will replace older, more complex hydraulic systems and will be the first electromechanical fly-by-wire system installed on a helicopter. It will reduce pilot workload, cost of ownership, maintenance, and weight while improving survivability, safety, and aircraft handling and agility.

The HEAT system, designed in a joint effort by AgustaWestland, BAE Systems, and Claverham, will replace the existing hydro-mechanical rotor control system on the EH101. It comprises two dual-lane flight control computers that together will provide quadruple-redundant electronic control — allowing the system to function safely even if two of the systems were to fail. The fly-by-wire controls initially will interface with the pilot inceptors and actuators, and eventually will replace the existing autostabilizer and autopilot functionality.

“We are pleased to partner with BAE Systems on this groundbreaking technology, and we look forward to benefiting from the company’s decades of fly-by-wire experience,” said Martin Fausset, programs director at AgustaWestland.

The system will expand the operational envelope of the aircraft for U.K. Royal Navy ship operations in adverse weather. It also will improve aircraft handling, enabling improved terrain following and masking and increased agility on the battlefield. The very high reliability and low power dissipation of the HEAT flight control system will ensure the Merlin’s ability to operate for long periods remote from landing bases.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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