Cover Photo by HAI/Robb Cohen Photography

Eye in the Sky: Cockpit Data Recorder Photo by HAI/Robb Cohen Photography

Small businesses bring innovative products to the industry.

While news from large companies dominated the daily headlines at HAI HELI‑EXPO 2019, the industry’s small-business ­innovators had their own stories to tell. From safety programs to inventive crew resource management solutions, new products and services supporting everyone from pilots and operators to OEMs made their debut on the show floor. Below is a sampling of the small-business creative spirit that keeps our industry growing.

New Services

HeliExperts International: Heliport Safety Certification

With no universal oversight regulations, heliports around the world vary considerably in level of safety. HeliExperts International (HEI) launched its Heliport Safety and Certification Program at HAI HELI‑EXPO 2019 to address critical industry needs for increased heliport risk mitigation. Using best practices from the FAA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and industry leaders, the program seeks to identify risks before they can cause an accident.

“Without standardized heliport regulations regarding heliport safety, the vast majority of heliports contain significant safety risks,” says HEI Managing Member Ray Syms, whose company has designed more than 850 heliports and audited more than 3,000. “The idea behind the program is to provide a solution for operators, insurance companies, and ­municipalities to determine if heliport risks are mitigated to the highest degree possible.” For more information, visit the company’s website at www.heliexperts​​

Napoleon Engineering Services: Bearing Engineering

With OEM supply-chain headaches slowing deliveries, manufacturers are bringing more services in-house to meet customer deadlines. Napoleon Engineering Services offers a unique service: reverse engineering type-certified bearings in support of parts manufacturing approval authorization.

“Our mission is to remove barriers to supply chains due to the difficulty in obtaining bearings,” says Chris Napoleon, president and chief engineer at Napoleon Engineering Services. “We reduce lead times to 16–26 weeks, compared to OEM lead times that are typically 50–90 weeks.”

The company typically performs reverse engineering services in about six weeks, delivering a full technical packet for submission to the FAA. Napoleon Engineering also offers full bearing manufacturing capability with the ability to manufacture bearings with outside diameters between ¾ inch and 14 inches. For more information, visit  www.nes​

New Programs

Flightdocs: Cloud-Based Flight Operations Platform

Flightdocs unveiled its Flightdocs Operations tracking and communications platform. Flightdocs Operations integrates with the company’s popular Flightdocs HMX maintenance tracking platform, currently used by more than 200 operators for more than 1,000 helicopters, to create a complete end-to-end operations management solution for helicopter operators. The platform’s core functions include flight scheduling, service planning, crew and passenger management, customizable flight logs, and expense reporting, and includes a secure messenger communication tool.

“Flightdocs Operations is the modern, cloud-based, real-time mobile platform our customers have been requesting,” says Flightdocs President Greg Heine. According to Heine, 12 companies were already signed up for the program by the first day of HAI HELI‑EXPO 2019. For more information, visit

New Products

Eye in the Sky: Cockpit Data Recorder

In February 2015, the 18-year-old son of New Zealand helicopter legend Louisa “Choppy” Patterson was killed when the Robinson R44 he was riding in broke apart in midflight. In response to this tragedy, Patterson began developing Eye in the Sky, a durable and lightweight audio, video, and data in-flight recorder.

“The accident report said there was an in-flight break-up, but there was no determination of probable cause,” says Patterson, who is also CEO of Over the Top, a New Zealand–based air tour operator. “Had there been a product like Eye in the Sky onboard, there wouldn’t be as many questions [about the cause of the accident]. We could increase safety.”

The crash-resistant camera and data recorder captures HD video, high-resolution images, and data, including location (via GPS), airspeed, altitude, g-forces, pitch, roll, and yaw. The device’s SD card can hold 40 hours of data. The onboard battery continues to record after shutdown and immediate power loss. For more information, visit

Aviation Specialties Unlimited: Night-Vision Goggles

Once known as a reseller of night-vision products, as well as service and repair, Aviation Specialties Unlimited, Inc. (ASU) is now an OEM. The company introduced its new white phosphor E3 Lightweight Night Vision Goggles in Atlanta. Paired with the Aeronox mount and battery pack, the full system shaves 200 grams off standard night-vision goggle weights.

“Weight is a big concern, and it always comes back to haunt pilots as neck and back issues,” says ASU Chief Executive Officer Mike Atwood. “We listened to what pilots wanted and developed a lighter, more versatile goggle system with the expanded capabilities they need for mission success.”

In addition to its light weight, the new goggle system is easily repairable, fits multiple helmet styles, and features a retractable breakaway lanyard. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.asu​

HeliTrak: Collective Pull Down and Autopilot for Robinson Helicopters Photo by HeliTrak Photo

HeliTrak: Collective Pull Down and Autopilot for Robinson Helicopters

Chris Nehls, president of HeliTrak, developed the Collective Pull Down for the Robinson R22 and R44 to ensure pilots avoided dangerous low-rotor RPM in the low-inertia rotor system helicopters. The Collective Pull Down is a mechanical device, tied to the low-rotor RPM light and horn, that lowers the collective when RPM reaches 97%.

“The No. 1 comment we hear is ‘that’s a great idea for other people, but I don’t need it,’” says Nehls. “However, low rotor RPM accidents still occur for high-time pilots. The [Collective Pull Down] system is easily overpowered, offering downward pressure on the collective to get the pilot’s attention. The real threat to low-rotor RPM is not low-inertia systems. It’s situational awareness.”

HeliTrak is also in the final stages of completing a self-contained, two-axis autopilot for the Robinson R44. Weighing less than 10 pounds, the system requires no additional equipment and can be added to analog or glass cockpits. Final certification for the autopilot is scheduled for third quarter 2019, with deliveries beginning in fourth quarter 2019. For more information, visit the HeliTrak website at

True Blue Power: Lithium Ion Batteries Photo by True Blue Power Photo

True Blue Power: Lithium Ion Batteries

As customer demand for lighter aircraft and new electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with hybrid-electric engines increases, the pressure is on to build lighter batteries to power them. Answering the call, True Blue Power announced its fifth-generation lithium-ion battery family at HAI HELI‑EXPO 2019. Weighing between 23 and 60 pounds lighter than standard lead-acid batteries (depending on the size), the lithium-ion batteries offer three times the energy density.

“These batteries eliminate the pain points customers have with lead-acid and NiCad batteries,” says True Blue Power President and CEO Todd Winter.

Designed to meet the needs of specific aircraft, these engine-start batteries are maintenance free and communicate real-time state-of-charge and state-of-health data. They are also free of toxic metals and acid, which reduces carbon emissions and makes them recyclable. For more information, visit

Essex Industries: Ergonomic Collective Grip Photo by HAI/Robb Cohen Photography

Essex Industries: Ergonomic Collective Grip

Pilots often let go of the collective to make adjustments to the controls located at its end, even resting their hands at the top in cruise flight. Essex Industries took this comfortable position and made it useful with the new Ergonomic Collective Grip.

Installed at the head of the collective, the grip fits the hand’s shape, placing a switch for easy access at the end of each digit. The grip gives the pilot control of such items as multifunction display, trim, landing and search lights, cursor slew switch, and heads-up display (HUD) switch. Switches can be changed and customized for customer need.

“With this grip, you don’t have to remove your hand or rely on the copilot to make switch inputs for you,” says Robert Hale, business segment manager for aerospace and defense at Essex. “We did studies with F-35 fighter grips and used that experience to transition that ergonomic shape to the collective.”

Originally designed for the UH-60 Black Hawk, the grip can be modified to fit any helicopter platform. For more information, visit

AKV: Engine Instrument iPad App Photo by HAI/Robb Cohen Photography

AKV: Engine Instrument iPad App

AKV, Inc. announced the iPad Mobile Display for its ETM1000 exceedance and data-trend monitoring system to support external-load operations. Currently available for the Bell 407 and Airbus H125, the app connects to the company’s ETM1000, displaying the engine gauges exactly as they appear on the instrument panel. The iPad can then be placed or mounted in a location that keeps the gauges in the pilot’s direct line of sight.

“We developed the app to reduce fatigue and strain on the pilot, who is constantly turning to look at the gauges while monitoring an external load,” says AKV President Jonathan Gunn. “Being able to put your engine instruments in your direct line of sight reduces that strain while helping avoid exceeding limits.”

The app is currently available for the Apple iPad platform only. For more information, visit the company’s website at

Shotover: Compact Gimballed Camera System Photo by Shotover Photo

Shotover: Compact Gimballed Camera System

Aerial imaging system manufacturer Shotover announced its new B1 camera system, the lightest and smallest system from the New Zealand company to date. Weighing under 50 pounds and measuring only 10 inches in diameter, the system is an ultra-compact, gyro-stabilized platform with Shotover’s six-axis technology, allowing the camera to look directly below the aircraft, and to perform in low light and daylight.

“The B1 brings broadcast-level technology opportunities to people who have not had access before,” says Shotover CEO Brad Hurndell. “Because of the lighter weight and smaller size, lighter helicopters like the Robinson R44, Robinson R66, and Cabri G2 can film commercials, documentaries, sports coverage, and more. The B1 also opens markets such as industrial surveys and law enforcement, providing more versatility than they have available today in terms of affordability and compatibility with smaller helicopters.”

In Atlanta, Shotover announced launch customer EuroTec’s order for two B1 systems for utility-configured Airbus H125s. EuroTec will conduct the first North American install of the new camera system. Delivery of the new system is scheduled to begin in late 2019. For more information, visit

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Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer is the principal of her own firm, Flying Penguin Communications. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and holds commercial, instrument, flight instructor, and instrument instructor ratings in helicopters and a private rating in airplanes. She has worked as a professional journalist and marketing communicator in the aviation industry since the early 1990s.