World's first Helicopter with a Fly-by-Light Primary Flight Control System Takes Off in Ottobrunn
(Source : Eurocopter ; issued Jan. 29, 2002)

MARIGNANE, France---The Franco-German helicopter manufacturer, Eurocopter, once again confirmed its leading role in the research and development sector.

On January 28, 2002, the first aircraft worldwide featuring a series production capable primary flight control system via optical fibres ("Fly-by-Light") successfully completed its official maiden flight at Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH's Ottobrunn facility near Munich. The fully-redundant flight control system for pilot and co-pilot was integrated into a production EC135 helicopter. The aircraft was flown by Eurocopter test pilot Herbert Graser and flight test engineer Manfred Hausner. They were impressed by the capabilities of the new system which represents a quantum leap in helicopter flight control.

Conventionally, helicopters are controlled via mechanic control rods. Electrical flight control ("Fly-by-Wire") already represents a major advance and is incorporated in the NH90 transport and naval helicopter, jointly developed by Eurocopter, Agusta, and Stork-Fokker. The NH90 which is the first production helicopter worldwide to be equipped with a fly-by-wire system, will go into service with the German Armed Forces in 2004.

Fly-by-Light control represents a highly progressive, innovative system whereby, in contrast to Fly-by-Wire control, the control signals between the pilot's station, the flight control computer, and the actuators for the rotor-blade control are not transmitted electrically, but optically via optical fibres. The advantages compared to electrical data transmission comprise comprehensive immunity to electromagnetic interference, a much broader transmission spectrum favouring the realization of future, demanding flight control and mission systems, and low weight.

Further, this new system contributes to enhancing flight safety. The controllability and stability of the aircraft are improved, the susceptibility to gusts is reduced, and the availability of automatic control modes is optimised. The resultant gain for the operator is the best possible utilisation of the full potential of the aircraft and at the same time reducing pilot's workload.

Eurocopter's Fly-by-Light helicopter is designated ACT/FHS, i.e. Active Control Technology demonstrator/Flying Helicopter Simulator. The fully-digital flight control system is a completely new development. It is subdivided into a core area and an experimental area. The core area has four lanes in each primary control axis and comprises of a test pilot and a safety pilot station, a cockpit interface computer, and actuators with integrated control electronics ("Smart Actuators"). The experimental area comprises computers, sensors, a data-recording and telemetry system as well as the work station for a flight test engineer. The system architecture has been selected to fulfill the stringent safety requirements for flight critical control systems, at the same time offering a high degree of flexibility for performing advanced handling qualities experiments.

The ACT/FHS is being developed within the framework of a technology programme by Eurocopter Deutschland and Liebherr in co-operation with the German Aerospace and Space Centre (DLR) and the German Armed Forces test centre (WTD61). The development activities commenced in March 1996, and the programme is funded by the Federal German Ministry of Defence as well as by the DLR and the two industrial companies. Upon completion, the ACT/FHS will be used in research activities by industry and the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) test centre as a technology demonstrator and flying simulator.

During the ten years since its foundation, Eurocopter has received several prizes for its research and development work. The light helicopters EC 120 and EC 135 received the prestigeous Flight Aerospace Industry Award for outstanding innovative achievement, and the Environmental Award of the French government for environmental compatibility; Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH's development sector was honoured by the Quality Award for Research and Technology of the German Federal State of Bavaria.

Eurocopter is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company). With revenues amounting to _ 24.2 billion in 2000 and a workforce of over 100,000, EADS is the largest European aerospace company and the No. 2 worldwide. It is active in the sectors of commercial aircraft, helicopters, space, military transport and combat aircraft as well as defence technology and services.


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