Bell Helicopter, September 17, 2019 - New Bell 525 technologies will raise oil and gas helicopter operational safety standards in the North Sea.
As we gather for another edition of the SOLA Conference in Stavanger, Norway, improving helicopter operational safety in the North Sea continues to be top of mind. We are hard at work, fully focused on our certification progress so that we can deliver an aircraft that will not only achieve the mission in the North Sea, but bring technologies never seen on a traditional helicopter before – to benefit operators and all aboard. Now let’s hear what the North Sea experts have to say.
LO Helicopter Committee
This month, we had the pleasure of hosting the LO Helicopter Committee, the Norwegian Union for the oil and gas and search and rescue sectors to experience the Bell 525 at Bell’s Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas. The event lasted a couple of days packed with dedicated briefings, visits to various Bell sites as well as flight demonstrations.
When it comes to operations in the North Sea, the LO Helicopter Committee shared their thoughts on the new technologies that the Bell 525 will bring to the market for this sector and how they think it will affect safety.
“We are very pleased to have visited Bell and to have learned more about the Bell 525. It gave us a unique opportunity to share our input on its capabilities.", said Henrik S. Fjeldsbø, chairman of the LO Helicopter Committee
Bell designed the Bell 525 to deliver a generational leap forward with fly-by-wire flight controls, industry leading drive system performance and fully integrated vehicle health monitoring.
“The Bell 525 is an incredibly smart helicopter that reduces the probability of the pilot making a mistake. It's amazing that the machine predicts what the pilot wants. That means that as a pilot, I can focus on keeping track of the mission, which is crucial for safety in the North Sea.”, said Michael Hougaard, member of the LO Helicopter Committee and a pilot flying daily in the North Sea
Reduced pilot workload and enhanced situational awareness
The Bell 525 will be the first commercial aircraft certified with Fly-By-Wire which greatly increases safety through reduced pilot workload and enhanced situational awareness. It means that the pilot can focus on other aspects of the flight or mission and also provides increased performance and stability. The Bell 525 rotor drive system will set a new industry benchmark for robustness and run-dry capability, this minimizes single point failures and complies with the latest EASA rules for run-dry performance.
Helicopter pilot Torstein Sandven, who spent time on the Bell 525 full-flight simulator expressed: “The Bell 525 will be an extremely good platform that will take operations to the next level. We welcome all new technology that contributes to increased safety and I have high expectations for this machine. The modern technology reduces workload from the pilots and gives us increased situational awareness. I think this will be a very good machine in terms of performing safe and secure operations in the North Sea.”
The aircraft is also equipped with the most advanced Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) & Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS), allowing maintainers to easily diagnose failures and quickly return the aircraft to service. The IVHM system is fully supported by Bell through Mission Link allowing operators to access how their aircraft is performing relative to all other aircraft in the fleet.
Helicopter technician and representative on the committee, Tom Stian Beitland was impressed with the maintenance manual that is fully digital and includes 3D renderings: “In short, it means that the entire machine is built in 3D and linked together with the maintenance manual. This makes it easier for us technicians to find components and procedures. It will help increase efficiency in troubleshooting if any problems arise.”
Cabin for 16 passengers
The spacious cabin accommodates 2 pilots and up to 16 passengers. It can easily be reconfigured due to its fully flat floors. Kjetil Larsen, who is a daily rescuer on a SAR helicopter in the North Sea, wanted to check if the cabin was large enough to be used as an offshore rescue helicopter.
“We filled the cabin with as many people as we could find. We fit 23 people on board, and yet there was room for more. That means the machine passed the test of being able to save 21 people in need.”
The Bell 525 helicopter is at the center of the safety conversation at SOLA this week. At Bell, we are very proud of the new outstanding technologies that we have engineered and are currently testing meticulously with the FAA and EASA.