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How technology helps old aircraft get better.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Having never owned an “old dog,” I have to figure they’re right. But what I do know is that whether it’s through modern engine/airframe improvements or new-generation digital avionics and systems upgrades, there is an increasing number of ways for operators teach an array of aging aircraft some amazing new tricks.

And that’s a very good thing. While every private, civil service and military operator would love to get their hands on brand new airplanes and helicopters, the cost makes that unrealistic. So being able to acquire aging airframes and upgrade them to next-to-new-generation capabilities is the next best thing.

We recently had the opportunity to be closely involved with one of these amazing transformation programs. This one is for the venerable Sikorsky UH-60 military helicopter. Introduced in 1979 as the replacement for the UH-1 Huey, the Black Hawk, and all of its variations, are arguably the most prolific twin-engine military helicopters in use around the world.

And with Sikorsky having produced around 4,000 UH-60’s and variants, there are plenty still in the fleet with lots of productive hours left on their airframes. Upgrade the avionics and electronics and these old dogs can perform like “new pups” for years to come.

Out of that notion, an upgrade program was born in partnership with XP Services and the Sierra Nevada Corporation. The first part is to upgrade the avionics changing out the obsolete cockpit instruments with the Genesys Aerosystems integrated avionics suite including four new-generation IDU-680 electronic displays. Providing features like synthetic vision, Highway-In-The-Sky (HITS), enhanced helicopter terrain awareness and warning (HTAWS) and hover vector, the new cockpit gives flight crews an incredible leap forward in safety and situational awareness.

The second part of the upgrade included earning IFR certification for our IFR HeliSAS (Helicopter Stability Augmentation System) with a three-axis autopilot. This approval came just this past March for the Airbus EC-145e and will soon be added to the UH-60. Now, along with the advanced panel displays, these fortunate pilots will benefit from a truly advanced autopilot capable of flying coupled VHF and GPS Approaches via the WAAS enabled EFIS.

Imagine the added safety of a UH-60 pilot being able to fly a coupled GPS approach down to minimums! That is truly wonderful for any legacy aircraft, but for a decades-old helicopter, it is just amazing.

Of course, the avionics are just part of the entire SIERRA FORCE® UH-60 upgrade. All-in, the ‘new’ UH-60 is almost that at a fraction of the price of a new-gen aircraft.

Whether it’s affordably breathing new life into legacy military, commercial, business or private airplanes, everyone at Genesys Aerosystems is proud that we can deliver avionics products that create solutions and enable safer, more capable operations the world over.

Until next time, fly safely,

Jamie