Offshore specialist Bristow has started operations with a Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma fitted with traffic alert and collision-avoidance (TCAS) avionics, after securing the first-ever approval of the system for a helicopter.
The company has installed Rockwell Collins TCAS II equipment on the aircraft and secured supplemental type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Bristow disclosed to Flight International two years ago its plan to explore the potential of adapting TCAS to the Super Puma after concluding that, even at lower operating altitudes, there was still a collision risk posed by other helicopters and even military aircraft.
"It was commonly believed that installation of TCAS II for helicopters would not be possible because of their speed and flight profiles," says Bristow director for European operations John Cloggie.
But the project, which has been backed by Shell Aircraft, has not involved any modifications to the Rockwell Collins TCAS-4000 system fitted to the helicopter, despite it being designed for fixed-wing types.
Bristow started operating the TCAS-equipped Super Puma on 9 April to perform offshore transport services between Aberdeen and the North Sea oil platforms in the East Shetland Basin between Scotland and Norway.
"The safety and operational benefits this brings will be appreciated by all rotary-wing operators, especially those operating in instrument meteorological conditions," says Rockwell Collins business and regional systems vice-president Denny Helgeson.
Bristow, whose parent group operates some 470 helicopters, is considering extending the TCAS programme to see whether the system can be applied to other types.
© Rockwell Collins