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Talking the same language

Talking the same language

Effective communication is one of the most important elements of safe missions in the vertical flight industry. Whether relaying information to emergency teams in critical rescue missions, communicating with ground crews or air traffic controllers, the ability to do so accurately and efficiently is critical. The Vertical Flight Expo & Conference (VFE) team addresses the challenges for communication both on the ground and in the air, and how new technology is aiding mission success.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, London alone saw more than 22,300 helicopters take to the skies in 2018[1]. To ensure the safe passage and arrival of an aircraft and its passengers, the communication between pilots, air traffic controllers and ground crews is paramount. In fact, a lapse in communication can mean the difference between a mission’s success and its failure, and in extreme cases – life or death.

In its most basic form, communications and connectivity help ensure operators across the aviation industry can work safely in what is a vast and complex environment – global airspace. Managing just a small region of the world’s airspace requires significant coordination, with communication at its heart. Take the helicopters flying in the London (Heathrow) and London City Control Zones (CTRs), all of which are subject to an Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance. Single-engined helicopters are required to fly along designated helicopter routes, while multi-engine helicopters can be provided with an ATC clearance to transit on more direct routes through the CTRs[2].

In addition, police and Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) operating multi-engined helicopters are subject to special requirements due to the nature of the tasks they are performing. Here, HEMS and police operators will often have the clearance to fly at lower altitudes or hold over specific locations.

And, while communicating with ATCs and flight control centres is critical, it is just the first step in understanding the role communication plays across the industry. Every single aircraft operating in the global airspace is an information hub, it receives and transmits a stream of data from relaying important information from tactical information, instructions from ATC, navigation, GPS, distance measuring equipment (DME), Satcom telephones, weather radar systems. And, more importantly, all of these streams of information must be coordinated and accurately understood in order to be compiled with.

Ultimately, communications not only help to avoid collisions but assist in important mission-specific information. Take HEMS missions, for example. On or above the scene, a pilot must be able to monitor flight and weather conditions, relay information to trained crew, accept instructions and in many examples, navigate remote and dangerous locations. This will no doubt sound familiar for the search and rescue teams who have encountered this scenario more than 2,438 times in the UK in just a 12-month period[3].

And it’s not just the HEMS industry facing these challenges. Revealed in the Department for Transport, Search and Rescue Helicopter Statistics: Year ending March 2019, the UK’s Sumburgh Search and Rescue (SAR) base was identified as having the highest proportion of rescue or recovery missions (83%) with the majority taking place at sea. These often complicated, high-risk operations require a highly-efficient communications process to reduce redundant information relayed to the aircraft, helping both the pilot and crew focus on what is directly required in each unique SAR mission.

Unfortunately, despite the critical role of communications in the wider aviation industries, there are many challenges that hinder efficient and accurate communications in the air. While the challenges posed by the aircraft’s own noisy environment have largely been conquered with efficient noise-cancelling technology, microphones are also required to filter out loud cockpit noises to allow for smooth crew conversations.

And, interference, such as electrostatic discharge (ESD), still cause problems onboard.

Advances in technology

Demonstrating the importance of communications for successful missions across a multitude of sectors, exhibitors at this year’s Vertical Flight Expo will highlight the advances in technology that is enabling improved dialogue between pilots, air and ground crews.

One such company demonstrating the future of airborne communications is Axnes As. The company will demonstrate its advanced and highly durable wireless intercom solutions that are designed to perform in extreme conditions and on a wide variety of platforms. For example, its PNG System is a mission capable wireless ICS extension, which enables crew to maintain full-duplex communication. It can be retrofitted and configured to work with any existing ICS or helmet/headset combination. In addition, secure communications are made available through software or hardware encryption according to operator requirements.

Becker Avionics GmbH will showcase its TG660-VHF/AM Transceiver, a land-based panel for airfields, airports, airlines and control centres, allowing for balanced voice recording output and with built-in battery for emergency operations. While Flightcell International, a global producer of airborne integrated-mobile communications, will highlight its Flightcell DZMx, described as the ‘world’s only all-in-one satellite and cellular solution for global voice, data and aircraft tracking’.

Designed to maximise space within the cockpit – which is already at a premium – the DZMx also offer operators with a built-in WiFi hotspot and router that provides a cellular broadband data connection for onboard smart devices and connected equipment without the need for a separate WiFi router installation. It means that operators can move data and information to and from the aircraft, easily enhancing operations.

Communication is key

The importance of effective and efficient communications in the aviation industry cannot be overstated. Understanding, translating and acting on the five primary channels (verbal, nonverbal, written, written and graphics, and human-machine and machine-machine) is critical for the success of a mission, the safety of those on board, and the ongoing management of global airspace.

[1] https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP1456Graphs2007ToSeptember2019.pdf

[2] https://www.caa.co.uk/Data-and-analysis/Airspace-and-environment/Airspace/London-helicopter-operations/

[3] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/808276/sarh-statistics-year-ending-march-2019.pdf

Vertical Flight Expo & Conference announces expert speakers in packed conference programme

Vertical Flight Expo & Conference announces expert speakers in packed conference programme

The inaugural Vertical Flight Expo & Conference (VFE) is gearing up to host a packed conference programme where industry veterans and experts will offer insights and advice on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft industry.

From the 5-7 November at Farnborough International, VFE – formerly known as Helitech International – will welcome thousands of aviation buyers, operators and suppliers travelling from around the world to discover the latest technologies and solutions driving safer, leaner, better VTOL missions. And, following a considerable growth in the civil helicopter market in recent years, which is largely in part to its ability to reach remote and high altitude regions while assisting in areas impacted by natural disasters, the industry is continuing to show improvements.

In fact, industry analysts forecast the helicopter market will grow at a CAGR of 2.92% during the period 2018-2023. In addition, one of the fastest-growing segments of the aviation sector – Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – will be responsible for a £42bn uprise in GDP in the next ten years[1]. Amid cautious optimism, attendees can join hand-picked speakers as they step into the spotlight throughout the three-day event to deliver valuable insights on a wide range of topics, including the future of urban air mobility and infrastructure; how to financially navigate the changing market; and safety in UAVs, air space and air traffic management.

Now and Next

Exploring the ever-expanding aviation industry, VFE will offer visitors the full birds-eye view of the VTOL sector from fixed-wing commercial aircraft to the growing popularity and application of unmanned systems. Kicking off the first day, a panel of experts including Alastair Fallon of IBA Group Ltd, Alix Leboulanger of Avescent, Nadav Kesleer at Asian Sky Markets, and Clark McGlinn of Uplifting Advice will provide a Global Market Overview, with insights into how the industry will evolve over the next few years – particularly given recent restructures.

Meanwhile, in the event’s second conference theatre, Jim Payton, VP Customer Business, Rolls Royce will lead a series of short sessions in air mobility and infrastructure to address the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Robert Garbett, CEO of Drone Major – an official show partner for 2019 – will provide a global overview of future regulations and standards. Clive Lewis, Managing Partner of the ADS UAM Group will then offer insights into the current UK marketplace before Martin Dvorsky of MGM Compro provides an exclusive insight into propulsion systems – the keystone of every e-VTOL project.

Focus on health & safety

Anticipated European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) 2020 announcements will require MRO operators to adopt a risk-based approach through the implementation of safety management systems (SMS). Helping operators understand the challenges and prepare for the future, Chris Drew, Senior Manager at CAVOK Group will talk about the goals for MRO operators within the new regulations, while Colin Chesterton will discuss the latest pulication on electronic consipicuiity from the Civil Aviation Authority.

With safety continuing to be high on the agenda, no stone will be left unturned in what promises to be a popular topic for discussion. Looking ahead to the future safety of the aviation industry, Robert Garbett will return with others to take visitors through the Lessons Learned from Gatwick: One Year On. The session will explore the safety loopholes breached by drones and the counter-measures being implemented throughout the world today.

The future of flight

The future generation of engineers and pilots will also take the spotlight at this year’s VFE when a dedicated Careers Day is launched on 7 November to offer military leavers, new license holders and professionals within the industry looking for a role change the chance to find out more about the opportunities within the aviation industry. Run by this year’s official show partner, the British Helicopter Association (BHA), the sessions will be led by the likes of Albie Liddiard, Apprenticeships & Skills Manager at Virgin Atlantic, and Angela Beasant of the Royal Air Force. The sessions offer an unparalleled opportunity for young and old enthusiasts and professionals to explore deeper into the career opportunities within the VTOL sector than ever before.

Jonathan Heastie, Energy, Marine and Rotorcraft Portfolio Director at Reed Exhibitions added:

“With a host of leading industry experts confirmed to speak at this year’s Vertical Flight Expo, we can be sure the show will be one to remember. The programme has been curated to tap into the latest trends, challenges and opportunities facing the industry with a focus on key markets, such as HEMS, Offshore, Oil & Gas and the future of UAVs. And, with a new focus on careers, we hope to inspire current and new aviation professionals as they discover the potential this exciting industry has to offer.”

For more information or to register to attend, visit http://www.verticalflightexpo.com

[1] https://www.pwc.co.uk/intelligent-digital/drones/Drones-impact-on-the-UK-economy-FINAL.pdf

Aerial Guardians: The flying doctors above us

Aerial Guardians: The flying doctors above us

Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) is one of the most recognisable and applauded operations within the rotorcraft industry. Tasked with delivering specialist medical care to the seriously injured, the missions completed by HEMS operators can be the difference between life and death for many. And, with the need for a wide range of diverse capabilities to respond to medical emergencies, a focus on innovation is critical to understand the growing requirements of the sector, improve procedures and the resources available to them. With HEMS firmly on the agenda at this year’s will Vertical Flight Expo & Conference (VFE), we investigate the growth of the HEMS sector, and the innovations helping our flying doctors save lives.

As with many EMS innovations, the concept of the air ambulance originated in the military where it became common practice to evacuate the wounded by helicopter during the Second World War. However, with limited capabilities, the ability to treat passengers came much later with the 1970s through to late 80s proving a pivotal time for the development of HEMS operations.

In the UK, the first dedicated HEMS helicopter was commissioned in Cornwall in 1987. The same service today flies around 700 missions each year, and as of 2012, had exceeded 26,000 missions in total.

In the UK, there are currently 22 HEMS services in operation, including the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance helicopters and rapid response vehicles which have attended 24,311 incidents[1] since 1998. While the Great Western Air Ambulance received 971 call-outs, equating to 162 a month, or more than five a day in the first six months of 2019 alone.

In response to this remarkable demand for HEMS aircrafts, air operations officer, John Wood, said: “We have seen a steady increase in the number of patients we have been able to help over the years and it’s only through the help and support of our local communities that we are able to respond to this increase in demand for our service.”[2]

To put the frequency of support in context, in the UK an Air Ambulance helicopter takes off every 10 minutes to respond to an emergency. [3] However, despite HEMS being among one of the growing sectors within the civil sector, there are several hurdles threatening to limit the abilities of the crew and aircraft alike.

Modern-day challenges

For HEMS operators, communication, time and manpower are key to mission success. While consolidation, funding, enhancing safety and an adequate supply of pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) are among the modern-day challenges facing the industry.

Over the past few years, consolidation in the number of HEMS programmes has been seen nationwide, with estimates that two-thirds of air ambulances in the US are owned by just three for-profit providers. The trend for consolidation has largely been attributed to longer distances between hospitals and private equity investments.

While for-profit operators are increasing their investment and expanding fleet sizes to cater to this burgeoning market, funding for not-for-profit operators continues to be an ongoing barrier for greater uptake. Here, charitable donations are key to many of the world’s HEMS services airborne. In the UK, it is estimated that regional services need £3 million a year to stay air-worthy, fuelled and manned. This sum is currently reached through public donations alone with no day-to-day funding from National Lottery or Government available.

And, the current outlook for skilled pilots is raising concerns about the ability to meet demand, with fewer pilots being inducted into training programmes or being hired by operators. This leaves a critical gap between demand and the ability to fulfil missions in the future. Based on interviews and surveys completed by 250 helicopter companies in 2018, the University of North Dakota predicted a shortfall of 7,649 helicopter pilots and 40,613 mechanics (across all aviation sectors) in the US until 2036.[4]

This was reiterated by Tim Fauchon, Chief Executive of the British Helicopter Association – official show partner for Vertical Flight Expo 2019 – who said that “a lack of new entrants into the aviation industry” was a key concern in 2019. To combat this, Vertical Flight Expo and the BHA have partnered to launch its first careers day at the show in November, offering advice to school leavers and aviation personnel, with dedicated sessions highlighting the opportunities presented by the Armed Forces resettlement programme.

While widespread challenges – such as the skills shortage – impacting the wider aviation industry, challenges in communication are also presenting additional barriers within the HEMS sector. Becky Steele, General Manager of the Association of Air Ambulances – an official VFE partner – explained: “In 2016, it was planned that the replacement for all the emergency services radio networks would be launched to replace the current Airwave system that allows air to ground and ground to ground communications between services. To date, the project has been delayed with the transition of services estimated to be completed in late 2022.”

With new solutions emerging, improving communications between on the ground teams with those in the air, is ripe for innovation, with leading suppliers such as Axnes AS, Flight Cell International and LD Switzerland all confirmed to appear at this year’s exhibition to demonstrate new communication systems that both the pilot and wider crew’s ability to receive up-to-date information on the go.

Excellence on the scene

In addition to overcoming communication and mechanical challenges, Vertical Flight Expo exhibitions will also demonstrate the new technologies helping crews to carry out important life-saving missions. This includes the STILA board, from Northwall srl. The composite long board is designed to immobilise a trauma patient, allowing HEMS operators to easily load the trauma patient while minimising any further stress.

While Global Aviation Industries GmbH will present its Emergency Medical System complete with medical equipment carrier, oxygen station, medical cabinet, stretcher and more.

Long proven in the aviation sector, helicopters are ideal for transporting critical trauma patients because they can effectively decrease the time between an accident and arrival at a medical facility. Despite the challenges and adversities faced, the continued advances, further research and innovation spearheaded by the industry will help to continue this valued service of medical care.

[1] https://www.ehaat.org/missions/

[2] https://www.gazetteseries.co.uk/news/17773930.air-ambulance-attends-record-number-incidents/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jul/16/emergency-services-air-ambulance-charities-crisis

[4] https://www.verticalmag.com/features/does-the-helicopter-industry-have-a-people-problem/

Vertical Flight Expo & Conference sky high with a stellar programme for 2019

Vertical Flight Expo & Conference sky high with a stellar programme for 2019

Europe’s largest vertical flight exhibition – Vertical Flight Expo & Conference, formerly known as Helitech International – is set to open its doors from 5-7 November, offering international operators the chance to stay abreast of the latest industry trends and source the latest technology for their vertical flight missions. The event returns in partnership with the British Helicopter Association (BHA) under a new guise and moves to the world-famous aviation hub, Farnborough International, for the first time.

Insight from Industry-leading speakers

Renowned for its insightful conference programme, the Vertical Flight Expo will welcome many of the industry’s foremost thought leaders to share their knowledge of topics including the latest market trends, UAV-Helicopter operations, firefighting and SAR missions, as well as regulation updates.

Kicking off the first day, a panel consisting of Alastair Fallon, Aviation Analyst at IBA, Nadav Kesleer, Sales & Business Development Director at Asian Sky Markets, Clark McGlinn, Principal at Uplifting Advice and Alix Leboulanger, Research Associate at Avescent, will come together to provide attendees with a Global Market Overview, looking at how the vertical flight market will evolve over the next few years.

Elsewhere in Conference Theatre 2, Jim Peyton, V.P. Customer Business at Rolls Royce, will chair a discussion on the Future of Urban Air Mobility and Infrastructure. He will be joined by Robert Garbett, CEO of Drone Major, and Sameer Savani, Head of Innovation and Engineering at ADS Group, to set the scene on global and UK activity and look ahead to what sectors of the UAV market will make the most impact.

Advising attendees on how best to manage airspace including policy and technical updates, Fabio Mangiaracina, Senior Technical Project Manager at Techno Sky, Karim Cosslett, Head of Business Development and Sales at Thales, and Andy Sage, Head of Unmanned Traffic Management at NATS, will each deliver short presentations on Safety: Air Space and Air Traffic Management.

Concluding Conference Theatre 1 on the first day, a session on Market Sectors: Offshore, Oil & Gas & Decommissioning Markets will look at aspects impacting the offshore sector, from market predictions and opportunities to more technical elements to ensure best safety practices. Joe Leask, Decommissioning Manager at Oil &Gas UK, will begin with a talk on Oil & Gas Decommissioning Market Outlook, followed by Steve Robertson, Director of Westwood Energy who will discuss the Offshore Market – Evidence That Things Are Looking Up.

Rowan Greenwood, Director of Airtight Aviation Services will also take to the stage to talk about Workplace Safety, What Offshore Needs to Know About SAR. Concluding the discussion, Alex Knight, Managing Director of Helideck Certification Agency will share his thoughts on Fixed Helidecks, whereas Dave Howsom, Flight Operations Research Manager at Civil Aviation Authority, will discuss Moving Helidecks.

Robert Garbett, CEO of Drone Major, will return on the second day in Gatwick One Year On: Lessons Learned, to delve into what went wrong as well as providing Resultant Strategies for Organisations to Prepare to Counter Different Threat Levels. Helping attendees to gain a 360-degree view, Damon Knight, Head of Air Traffic Services at Southend Airport, will join the line-up to explore Unauthorised Drone Activity from An Airport Perspective.

Addressing Blue Light Services, Fred Jones, President and CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada, will deliver a presentation on Canadian Search and Rescue, sharing insights on how they carry out operations across the pond. He will be joined by Bobby Youang, Cofounder and CEO of Skybrowse who will examine Car Crash Inspections, Standardising Methodologies: Saving Police Lives, while Jim Winkel, President of ASU NVG, will share Feedback From The Frontline: Night Vision Goggle Uses in SAR.

Networking: literally at your fingertips

This year sees the return of the show’s popular networking and buyer’s initiative, Vertical Connect. The online business meeting assistant will offer all attendees a focused onsite networking tool as well as a concierge service to help both visitors and exhibitors make the most of their time at the show by scheduling the most fruitful business meetings to meet their company objectives. The free platform is back by popular demand after launching successfully last year, where a total of 545 meetings were confirmed and users rated the quality of their meetings as an average of 4.1 out of 5, with just under half (48%) of all participants rating the experience as five stars.

Fly in for free

Vertical Flight Expo lands in a brand-new location for the first time this year. The exceptionally well-connected Farnborough International will enable exhibitors to show off their products and services through the availability of test flights and live demonstrations, improving the experience for both exhibitors and attendees. Enabling exhibitors to arrive in style, attendees can gain a first-class experience, will Vertical Flight Expo covering all costs for operators to land at the venue.

Global exhibitors

Returning exhibitors such as Pratt & Whitney Canada are an example of the vast and global expanse that not only the event, but broader industry of aviation can bring together in one place.

In a desire to demonstrate the very best of innovation in this challenging but rewarding corner of manned and unmanned flight, exhibitors such as AUK Protection, Axnes AS and Northwall srl will display the impressive services that vTOL aircraft can provide in the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) sector. Whereas, CAE, Starspeed Training and Thales, will represent flight training, an essential service in the strive to maintain airborne excellence in the future.

Nurturing future flyers

Helping to inspire the next generation of engineers and pilots into the aviation sector, the British Helicopter Association (BHA) will host a dedicated aviation careers day on the final day of the show. Split into two sessions, the Careers Day will provide students with important information on qualifications, cadetships, apprenticeships and sponsorship opportunities.

To begin the day, students will hear from Albi Liddiard, Apprenticeships & Skills Manager at Virgin Atlantic, as he provides information on the Fly Virgin Apprenticeship Programmes. Charlotte XX from Starspeed will then share her personal story in Women in Aviation, followed by Nigel Orme, Chief Strategy Officer at Helispeed showing students exactly How To Become A Helicopter Pilot. Completing the morning sessions, Angela Beasant, Royal Air Force, will enlighten students on RAF Apprenticeships while Tim Glaspool, Head of Flight Operations at Bristow Helicopters will share key details about the company to inspire the students.

Jonathan Heastie, Energy, Marine and Rotorcraft Portfolio Director at Reed Exhibitions said:

“With new features, a comprehensive conference programme and a fantastic list of exhibitors, I’m confident that Vertical Flight Expo & Conference will demonstrate the best of aviation in the VTOL sector. With our new location for 2019, we’re particularly excited to offer a ‘Fly in for free’ service which will give exhibitors the exclusive opportunity to demonstrate the fantastic helicopters and UAV on show.

“We’re looking forward to bringing together all corners of the vertical flight community for the first time giving exhibitors and attendees the chance to explore opportunities for collaboration, as well as the latest products and innovations from across the globe.”

For more information or to register to attend, visit http://www.verticalflightexpo.com