Rig testing of the Helicopter Electromechnical Actuation Technology (HEAT) digital flight-control system, destined for use on future versions of the AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin helicopter, began earlier this month.

The fly-by-wire and actuator technology - developed by a consortium comprising the manufacturer and BAE Systems, Bristol-based actuator developer Claverham and the UK Ministry of Defence - will replace existing mechanical, accessory gearbox and secondary hydraulic systems with an all-electric primary flight control system. It provides weight savings and reduces aircraft complexity, says AgustaWestland.

"The rig, in one room, has an EH101 cockpit with seats, a console and real flying controls linked to it from another room. In a third room a hydraulic system will apply the flight loads to the rig [as if it were flying]," says AgustaWestland.

The tests will run until the fourth quarter this year. If successful a converted Merlin could begin flight tests by the end of the year. AgustaWestland has a Royal Navy Merlin on site at Yeovil and work has already begun to modify it.

The rig was built following individual component testing, but trials were delayed due to actuator development difficulties. Flight trials should have started in 2003 (Flight International, 30 April-6 May 2002).

Source: Flight International