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World-record Robinson R66 flight gets a helping hand from HeliSAS.

As the world’s largest maker of autopilots for airplanes and stability augmentation systems for light helicopters, Genesys Aerosystems equipment is involved with a lot of very interesting and often record-setting flights. We’re very proud that pilots trying to achieve the extraordinary put their trust in our systems.

One such aerial adventurer is Peter Wilson who recently completed the second of two world record-worthy flights in his Robinson R66 light helicopter. On his first record-setting flight, a 16,600-nautical mile single-pilot trip around Africa, Peter experienced something every helicopter pilot dreads, and few survived – a total brownout at 7,500 feet over the Sahara Desert.

I’ll let Peter pick up the story from here, “About an hour out of Algeria, I was cruising at 115 kts at FL075 (7,500 feet) over the Sahara when quite suddenly I was engulfed in a total brownout. I’ve heard that flying a VFR helicopter in IMC is next to impossible and I quickly understood why. It was very frightening,” he said. “I tried descending to 3,000 feet, but that made no difference in visibility. But it did get a lot hotter. The OAT read 35 degrees Centigrade, (95º F).”

“On top of that I had lost radio contact with Algiers controllers. I had to rely on relays with other aircraft,” he continued. “After nearly two hours of near zero visibility and stress, the haze finally lightened up.”

After an uneventful landing in central Niger, Peter said he learned a lot from this harrowing inadvertent trip into IMC experience and promised himself to do something about it before he started out on his next adventure – an around-the-world R66 flight with fellow pilot Matthew Gallagher.

What he did was install a Genesys Aerosystems Helicopter Autopilot and Stability Augmentation System (HeliSAS).

“During our successful around-the-world record flight, the autopilot made all the difference. It reduced workload and increased the safety margins,” Peter stated. “Matthew and I experienced IMC conditions a number of times including another encounter with desert haze crossing Saudi Arabia, thick haze/smoggy conditions in Dhaka, Chittagong, Manila and Kaohsiung and rain in Malaysia, Indonesia, Western Canada and the Faroe Islands.”

“We also used it during the VFR portions of the flight,” he said. “It allowed Matthew or me to let go of the cyclic for periods to rest, use the Delorme Iridium communication system or just take some good pictures of the scenery.”

After completing the 121-day, 32,000 nm, eastbound circumnavigation of the globe, Peter said that the balance to strike when flying safely is to always fly within your personal limits and not those of the autopilot system.

Everyone here at Genesys Aerosystems sends their warmest congratulations to Peter and Matthew on their successful flight and we are extremely proud that our HeliSAS system was able to play a part in the safe completion of this adventure and all of Peter’s future ventures.

Until next time, fly safely,