Welcome To RotorInfo
I often wondered why more information is not readily available to all of us who enjoy helicopters whether it's flying or fixing them. Knowledge can only be gained by sharing. If you have ideas - share them and maybe together we can develop the tools that everyone desires, but cannot develop. In the software industry, open source has been extremely powerful in developing new software solutions through collaborative efforts and sharing of knowledge. It has resulted in some incredible tools and forced a rethink of how business is conducted in many industries. I am inviting anyone in the helicopter industry with a penchant for software (and we all know we like gadgets) to join in and see where we can go.....
I have always remarked, that in our business we have an excellent front office with glass cockpits etc etc, but sometimes sadly our back office leaves a lot to be desired. My other comment was that when i first started in the business, a common measurement was the ratio of 'maintenance hours/flight hours'; now the more common measurement is 'lbs of paperwork/flight hours'. All that being said, I started thinking of tools that I might use which were just not available, prohibitively expensive or just restricted for no reason other than the fact that someone just decided they wouldn't share it. How can we improve what we do and how we do it. The web is more and more becoming the de-facto standard for sharing information, developing tools and generally getting the job done more safely and more efficiently. With innovative products like Iphones and Ipads, HTML5 and more on the near horizon, we are seeing ever increased functionality replacing the desktop applications of yesterday. This all combined makes it easier for us to create and share knowlegde and tools. I thought of a few things.
One of my first projects for this site was developing a knowledge base. Often I wondered why we couldn't just search a database of information on a particular helicopter type and have the answers made available to us instead of digging through manuals (if you had them), so I started gathering information. I did this for the AS350 - because I know it well and then i added the EC135 and AW139 because the information was very good. I would like to add more.
Whether it's a Flight Manual, Training Info, or that Generator which won't come on line for some obscure reason. When you can't find that elusive person on the factory floor who has been doing it for 20 years, we can rely on one another. An example of this can be found under Knowledgebase - AS350 - Search Topic - Fault Diagnosis. This topic provides a flowchart troubleshooting diagram based on technical data and extensive experience. It will certainly help when troubleshooting AS350 starter generator faults.
The knowledge base is by manufacturer, model and material source -
RFM: Flight Manual
TM: Training Materials
TD: Technical Data
UM: User Materials
To search the knowledgebase, simply type in a topic or words and the database will be searched for that term(s) based on the helicopter model selected. You may limit searches to the sources noted by the checkboxes. If you are having trouble finding a topic try - 'Exhaustive Search' Select that option and all text for all documentation will be searched and the relevant topics listed with the best matches that can be found, similar to a google(TM) to search.
Another fellow industry insider asked about updating his crews when he had flight safety or other information to distribute. Other than email, how can we get this information out there, accurately, quickly whilst tracking who is actually reading it. I came up with Opstrack which allows the uploading of your word documents which are converted to pdf, and then it simply advises crews electronically that they are available in a central repository over the web. These days you can even add SMS notification, in addition to email for more urgent communication eg. Notices to Flight Crew, Safety Information, Operational Documentation.
Every 6 months, comes a proficiency check. We used to give both the oral and the check ride which came on the back of a little CBT (computer Base Training) quiz that we developed. If we can get relevant questions in the quizzes based on helicopter type, this is another very useful tool for staying current and staying safe. All of my pilots would spend all sorts of time answering questions to challenge themselves - if only they knew where to find them. I added a teaser for the AS350 and I would welcome adding more.
My brother flies EMS and one day remarked that dispatchers often had fat fingers and there was nothing worse than firing her up and waiting for the GPS to acquire satellites, only to discover that your destination based on lat/long was showing 250nm beyond your maximum endurance. Well using google now, we can get some pretty good idea of where we are going and what the area looks like with excellent satellite imagery , as well as confirmation that the lat/long matches where we are supposed to be going. I created Quikplot to do that, giving you a distance/bearing to a lat/long or station identifier and then added the google satellite map and metars along route, radar plot and thanks to Airnav you can even pull up a current VFR sectional in the US.
Some other ideas I would like to pursue:
- Integration of internet access and web based applications in the cockpit using things like the Ipad/Iphone, dismissing proprietary and expensive electronic flight bags.
- A more comprehensive knowledgebase for all helicopter types encapsulating all documents produced for the type.
- An electronic component log card tracking service providing authentication of serialised parts from birth to death and all entries in between.
- An easy way to generate documents on the go eg. General Decs, manifests, weight and balance data.
- Online SMS and flight risk assessment. The goal for everyone is the same - a safe flight. The questions are invariably the same, pilot experience, weather. Let's standardize it and make it easier for the pilot to assess the conditions for flight.
- Use cellular/GPRS technology for inexpensive tracking solutions integrated to existing mapping services. Give every pilot a smart phone and you're tracked.
- A basic web based maintenance tracking and inventory solution that's freely available for all to use.
- A searchable database of offsite landing areas for EMS crews so that when they have to go to a scene, they can quickly pull up any prior used landing areas near by. With today's smart phones with built in cameras and geo-tagging we can make it easy for them to upload this info with comments. In time, the community will have a valuable database of very usable information.
- I'll think of others and I hope you do too! Leave a note on the forum ideas board or 'contact us' - I'll be happy to brain storm anything to do with helicopters and technology tools.