Carson Helicopters has teamed with Sagem Avionics to upgrade the Sikorsky S-61 with a glass cockpit and digital autopilot.

Pennsylvania-based Carson, which operates eight S-61s, has already certificated new composite rotor blades that improve the performance of the 1960s-vintage helicopter. The new integrated flightdeck, featuring five 265mm (10.4in) liquid-crystal displays, is expected to be certificated within five months, says company owner Frank Carson.

Approval of the three-axis autopilot upgrade, using a duplex automatic flight control system and dual attitude and heading reference systems, is projected to take about a year. Carson, who expects the combined cockpit and autopilot package to sell for around $500,000, says it is designed to complement the improved performance provided by the $1.15 million blade upgrade and make the modernised S-61 a lower-cost alternative to new medium helicopters.

The composite main rotor blades increase lift by 900kg (2,000lb) and cruise speed by 15kt (28km/h), double service life and reduce maintenance costs. Carson has retrofitted its eight S-61s and sold another 12 shipsets. The blades are being evaluated by the US Marine Corps and UK Royal Navy.


Source: Flight International