Successful flight test marks a significant step in MDHI’s twin-engine modernization and upgrade program
MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) announces the successful first flight of the Universal Avionics InSight® Integrated Flight Deck in the MD 902 Explorer. First Flight efforts were conducted by MDHI’s engineering and development teams in multiple phases at MD Helicopters’ Mesa, Arizona (USA) headquarters. Also on-site were the teams from Tucson, Arizona-based Universal Avionics and Fort Worth, Texas-based Howell Instruments.
“We are excited to celebrate the successful first flight of Universal’s InSight Integrated Flight Deck in our MD 902 Explorer,” said MD Helicopters CEO Lynn Tilton. “Our expert engineering and development teams worked diligently with some of the industry’s most innovative and agile technology partners to deliver significantly modernized avionics and enhanced capabilities to our world-renown twin-engine platform.”
All display and engine functions performed as expected throughout initial flight test exercises. These included ground run operations, ramp area hover and maneuvering validation, and airport-area operations for execution of speed and altitude build-ups. Initial exercises concluded with a 20-minute up and away flight to a test area away from airport traffic.
“We are excited to celebrate this significant milestone in the development of the new avionics suite for MD Helicopters’ twin-engine platform,” said Grady Dees, Universal Avionics Director of Technical Sales. “We truly believe customers will love this will new flight deck. This First Flight demonstrated the integrity of the system, we are pleased with the results.”
Twin Engine Improvements & Availability
With the integration of the Universal Avionics InSight Integrated Flight Deck, MDHI’s modernized twin-engine cockpit features:
- a custom-engineered Data Acquisition Unit (DAU), data monitor for recording engine information, and a configuration module for more specific measurements from Howell Instruments,
- up to three (3) state-of-the-art, large-format, high-resolution displays with LED backlighting,
- synthetic vision with terrain awareness,
- live video streaming capability, and
- wireless/Bluetooth connectivity.
Concurrent with the InSight Integrated Flight Deck, MD Helicopters has also completed a redesign of the Explorer Air Conditioning Compressor to deliver more efficient cooling and less power usage, as well as introduced a wireless Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) that reduces pilot workload, accelerates flight prep, and ensures real-time access to in-flight performance data.
Plans to modernize its world-renown twin-engine Explorer helicopter were first announced at HAI Heli-Expo 2013. Since that time, MDHI has worked tirelessly with primary partner Universal Avionics to reach certification within the 2016-2017 timeframe.
Certification of the current system is anticipated this year, with production and delivery of modernized MD 902 Explorers, as well as the ability to retrofit existing MD 900/9020 with these enhancements, to begin in 2017.
As MDHI continues to evolve their iconic twin-engine platform, operators can expect a range of additional enhancements that include:
- improved NOTAR performance,
- solid state power distribution,
- advanced BMS/HUMS systems, and
- 3- or 4-axis autopilot
- avionics enhancements
- military capabilities, among others
These efforts to deliver a next-generation twin engine helicopter – introduced at HAI Heli-Expo 2015 as the MD 969 – are aggressive and ongoing, and currently on track for Q42017 certification and FY2018 production.
“Our collaboration with Universal Avionics and others industry-leading software, systems, and components partners continues to reinforce MDHI’s commitment to evolving our brand and driving advancement through innovation and the infusion of technology-based capabilities,” Tilton concludes. “As these efforts start to come to fruition, I am confident this already iconic helicopter will re-emerge as the premier light-twin in our space.”
To learn more about the InSight Integrated Flight Deck and MDHI’s twin-engine modernization efforts, stop by the MDHI Booth, No. 8151, during HAI Heli-Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. Exhibits are open March 1st – March 3rd.
VIDEO ASSET: A video story of the first flight of the Universal Avionics InSight® Integrated Flight Deck in the MD 902 Explorer can be found here.