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HUMS Monitoring Equipment Fitted To AW139 Air Medical Helicopters

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GE Aviation
: 21 July, 2010  (Application Story)
Health and usage monitoring systems for automatic AW139 fleet data collection fitted to medical transport fleet helicopters in Canada
HUMS Monitoring Equipment Fitted To AW139 Air Medical Helicopters
Ornge, which provides ground and air medical transport for the province of Ontario, Canada, has just received the first of 10 AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters equipped with GE Aviation health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS).

HUMS Web Services, which include GE’s artificial intelligence based Advanced Anomaly Detection (AAD) technology, automatically collects information from the worldwide AW139 fleet and transmits it to a central server. It is then automatically analyzed using AAD to detect and diagnose problems and compare individual aircraft against fleet standards. It also makes that information securely available to subscribers via the web, letting them see how their helicopter’s health measures up against the fleet and alerting them about potential problems.

“Ornge’s maintenance engineers will download the data and analyze it on a daily basis, staying on top of when certain parts might need servicing or replacing,” said Rick Potter, chief operating officer for Ornge Air. “They’ll also be automatically alerted if any of the data exceeds predefined thresholds.”

The new helicopters, which are currently being outfitted with medical interiors, will replace Ornge’s 20 to 25-year-old fleet that relies on analogue gauges. By contrast, the HUMS will automatically digitally record and process information about the helicopters’ critical components, from the bearings to the gears to the drive shafts and rotors, using an array of sensors that measure things like vibration, torque and temperature. The information is stored in an integrated unit, about the size of a shoebox, onboard each helicopter.

The transport medicine crews at Ornge, one of the largest emergency medical transport operations in North America, work day and night to save the lives of the critically injured and ill, carrying them from accident sites and between hospitals. Beginning this fall, as they watch over the health of their patients being transported in the organization’s new fleet of helicopters, an onboard electronic monitoring system will watch over them as it keeps tabs on the health of the aircraft itself.

“Rather than wait for a part breaking, we can replace it and ensure continuity of service,” Potter said, noting that although Ornge has an excellent safety record, there have been times when a Helicopter has taken off on a mission but had to turn back because of a mechanical failure. “This is a giant leap forward in technology and a giant leap forward in safety.”

“The HUMS technology, which dates back to 1991 when GE developed the world’s first certified system, has just taken a giant leap forward itself with the launch of HUMS Web Services,” said Andy Dollin, business manager for information and services support at GE Aviation. The new web-based service for AW139s, introduced by GE and AgustaWestland in April, will give engineers at Ornge and elsewhere access to a centralized repository of data and will offer even more effective monitoring.

For Ornge, it adds up to a big advantage that will let their transport medicine crews stay focused on the health of their patients rather than monitoring the health of their aircraft, Potter said. “The HUMS is very transparent. It’s totally passive in terms of the workload on the crew. We prefer they keep busy doing other things.”
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