David Learmount/LONDON

HEALTH AND USAGE monitoring systems (HUMS) are to be fitted to all Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook helicopters during the next three years, and "progressively" to the entire UK military helicopter fleet, according to the winning equipment supplier, Smiths Industries Aerospace.

The UK contract will be worth about £100 million by the year 2000. Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense has been "closely observing" the UK Ministry of Defence evaluation of competing systems, Smiths says.

Also on the MoD HUMS-contract shortlist were GEC Marconi and a consortium led by UK-based Stewart Hughes and including US companies Teledyne and Honeywell. Providing continuous monitoring of critical-component condition, HUMS is a preventive-maintenance tool for engineers and a safety-warning device for aircrew.

The HUMS contract was put out to competitive tender by the UK MoD in July 1995, 13 months after an RAF Chinook crashed into the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland, killing all on board. Although the accident was judged not to have been caused by an aircraft fault, the event highlighted the fact that RAF helicopters did not carry flight-data recorders (FDRs) or cockpit-voice recorders (CVRs). Smiths' 200-parameter quick-access HUMS incorporates a "crash-survivable" FDR and a CVR.

The MoD is becoming increasingly worried by the prospect of litigation in the event of further transport-helicopter accidents, particularly involving non-service personnel, it is believed. The RAF's Aerospatiale Puma fleet is thought to be next on the HUMS list.

Chinook flight-trials with the equipment start in 1997. The first fully-operational HUMS will be installed in "less than two years", says Smiths.

Source: Flight International