A little a lot more than a 10 years in the past, aviation journals ended up buzzing about the inclusion of cutting-edge fly-by-wire know-how on the Canadian military’s new CH-148 Cyclone.
It was portrayed as bold.
Sector gurus mentioned the electronic system opened up a planet of new opportunities for flight operations and the long term of helicopter aviation in basic.
That was mainly because the U.S. producer, Sikorsky, experienced — at the time — under no circumstances created a helicopter which didn’t have a mechanical backlink between the cockpit controls and the key or tail rotors.
In the Cyclone, flight command computers do all of the work. Unique to the Cyclone was the so-identified as “flight director” mode, which is carefully linked to the flight command system and permits maritime helicopter pilots to automate look for styles, amongst other factors.
A host of unanswered inquiries
That certain piece of technologies is at the centre of the military’s investigation into the crash of Stalker-22 off the coast of Greece on April 29, which claimed the life of six users of the armed service.
“At this stage in time, it is as well early to say that there is an issue with the flight command program.” Brig.-Gen. Nancy Tremblay, director-general of the air force’s technological airworthiness authority, claimed at this week’s specialized briefing.
The air force — and maybe even the Liberal authorities — had far better pray there just isn’t.
A total host of flight protection, defence and general public policy troubles are wound about this higher-tech spoke.
Amid other matters, the particular character of the computer software problem (or ‘bias” as flight protection investigators choose to phone it) raises a host of questions about the advancement of the aircraft and its flight certification.
Tremblay was adamant that the validation technique caught everything.
“The flight regulate process certification of the Cyclone helicopter was a really demanding method,” reported Tremblay, who mentioned the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Transport Canada and the Countrywide Research Council of Canada have been all associated in the analysis of this one of a kind system.
‘Not for the faint of heart’
A person aviation qualified has worries.
“Heading to a fly-by-wire procedure, with no mechanical backlinks, is not for the faint of coronary heart and requirements really thorough awareness about software and components and all of that form of thing,” reported Shawn Coyle, a former Canadian armed service pilot and civilian accident investigator.
There are just a couple of helicopters in assistance all around the environment with that variety of engineering. They include things like the European-built NH-90 and the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.
The scarcity of fly-by-wire choppers has led to a scarcity of expertise, Coyle claimed.
“There are really couple of people today who’ve finished a certification on fly-by-wire regulate process on a helicopter,” he told CBC Information.
“Performing something with program is not usually simple,” he said, adding programmers don’t normally think “of every thing.”
The Canadian armed forces has long gone back and requested Sikorsky about “other potential eventualities that could direct to this kind of a [software] bias,” reported Lt.-Gen. Alain Pelletier, commander of the 1st Canadian Air Division, who requested the Cyclones back again to the air this 7 days with much better crew education and some flight limitations.
Echoes of the Boeing 737
The crash is being explained by the air pressure as one thing “totally unforeseen.”
But it bears a passing resemblance to the tragic Boeing 737 Max crashes. In a person occasion, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Program (MCAS) flight manage personal computer aboard the 737 threw the airplane into a dive each individual time the pilots attempted to pull up.
The situations of the Cyclone crash are very similar to the case of the 737 — but distinctive in that the software package fault with the Cyclone apparently designed up over time, and flying in flight director (or semi-autonomous) mode was not suggested anytime the helicopter was demanded to do limited, snappy manoeuvres.
As Stalker-22 approached HMCS Fredericton — with the computer system executing most of the traveling — the pilot keyed a collection of inputs into the flight personal computer. The computer did not respond to the commands, sending the plane straight into the ocean.
“Now that we have understood what has transpired, the flight protection investigation will focus on the why,” mentioned Col. John Alexander, the air force’s guide investigator.
Was the armed forces completely ready to deploy the Cyclone?
Comprehension the “why” could guide investigators toward some unpleasant conclusions for the air drive — which waited a dozen many years while the Cyclone was created.
If program improvement isn’t really to blame, and if no even further “biases” are recognized, then the public’s interest may perhaps switch to the query of how geared up the army was to bring the helicopter into services soon after the Conservative governing administration, in 2015, requested the armed forces to commence retiring the old CH-124 Sea Kings.
They might also ask how well the pilots recognized the nuances of the aircraft.
Coyle can sympathize. When he labored at Transport Canada and was in the system of checking out the Bell 407 helicopter — which had only a solitary personal computer, not three, as the Cyclone does — he was approached by a European pilot who provided his condolences.
“He informed us, ‘It’s not effortless and you will make faults,'” Coyle claimed.