An algorithm boosts efficiency of helicopter maintenance, cutting costs and downtime dramatically
For high-specification helicopters, 5–12% of all flying hours are dedicated to maintenance. This is mainly aimed at reducing rotor-induced vibration by following the rotor track and balance (RTB) process. Due to the complexity of rotor dynamics, RTB is normally an iterative process, requiring significant flying hours and hence expenditure.
Research conducted at Bristol, led by Professor Nick Lieven, resulted in an algorithm which substantially reduces the number of dedicated flights required to perform RTB and so cuts both downtime and cost. Through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University’s Rotorcraft Technology Centre, this algorithm has been implemented by Helitune Ltd as the ‘minimum flight routine’ (MFR).
The efficiency of the MFR has given Helitune a significant competitive advantage across the world. The collaboration with Bristol has led to Helitune being awarded a major production contract with the UK MoD and an upgrade contract with the South African Air Force, as well as securing annual maintenance contracts with the MoD and the German armed forces.
Peter Morrish, then Technology Manager at Helitune and the industrial supervisor of the project, said: “We were able to combine our applications experience and the University’s theoretical knowledge and enthusiasm to get solutions flying fast. We simply could not have achieved this level of innovation and success without working together.”