Brakes and clutches with lifesaving capabilities and motion control systems are critical aircraft elements. They not only help pilots navigate smoothly during challenging weather conditions, but they also play a lifesaving role during mid-air emergencies. SEPAC products are developed with reliability at the forefront of design and, through a partnership with Genesys Aerosystems, have helped to make helicopter flight safer.

Mid-Air Mayday: Air Evac Lifeteam Helicopter Crew Survives Pilot Medical Emergency

Pilot incapacitation is one of the worst-case scenarios for any flight. When it happens in light helicopters flown by a single pilot, however, it usually means catastrophe. In 2018, there was no form of autopilot or stability augmentation system (SAS) in Air Evac Lifeteam LongRanger helicopters. If the pilot stopped actively controlling the helicopter, control would be lost within seconds. 

Luckily, this was not the case for one crew in Kinder, Louisiana. While transporting an elderly woman to a nearby hospital, the pilot experienced a medical emergency. With the aircraft about 800 feet above the ground, the pilot became incapacitated. Luckily, this helicopter had recently been updated with Genesys Heli-SAS stability augmentation systems and autopilot.  

Flight nurse, Tara Coupel, made a mayday call to Air Evac’s headquarters where communications specialist, Tim Cinotta, quickly realized that Heli-SAS was the crew’s best chance at survival. Cinotta assumed that the Heli-SAS was working since, “had the autopilot or SAS not been engaged, they probably never would have called,” he explained in an interview with Vertical Magazine

Then, suddenly, the pilot looked at a nearby open field and said, “There.” His flight crew encouraged him to land the helicopter in that location. Coupel knew the autopilot would disengage as they approached the ground and expected a rough landing. However, the smooth control continued until the aircraft reached the ground. Coupel called it “the most controlled, gentlest landing” she’s ever experienced. 

Heli-SAS® Autopilot and Stability Augmentation System with SEPAC Motion Control

Heli-SAS technology equipped with SEPAC motion control products is essential for reliably responding to urgent situations. SEPAC clutches are used in throttle control actuators and autopilot control actuation to deliver high levels of torque and low backlash. In these applications, actuator performance is directly related to a pilot’s ability to control the helicopter.

The Heli-SAS Autopilot and Stability Augmentation System (SAS) is a simple autopilot that will take aircraft close to the ground in controlled runaway environments. This system is a crucial component of flight safety measures and disaster preparedness. Reliability for these components is crucial since total failure means an inability to control the aircraft. SEPAC’s commitment to quality helps ensure these control systems perform without failure.

Preparing for the Unexpected with Motion Control Technology

SEPAC’s Motion Control technology features custom-designed products that have been optimized to deliver the highest possible level of reliability. Electromagnetic systems offer enhanced dependability compared to hydraulic actuator systems, which can be challenging to control and require higher maintenance demands, leading to more frequent downtime. Electromagnetic systems offer a much higher degree of control and greater security.

There have been many helicopter crashes relating to failed hydraulic actuator systems. The 2009 A-Star AS350B air ambulance crash in Doyle, California, is one of numerous unfortunate tragedies that are suspected to have been caused by failed hydraulic actuator systems. The Aviation Law Monitor states that in this particular crash, the pilot was unable to attempt an emergency landing after losing control of the aircraft due to a suspected hydraulic actuator system failure. “A problem with the hydraulic system can make the helicopter difficult to control,” they report. 

Reliable Clutch and Brake Systems from SEPAC

SEPAC is committed to quality and reliability in clutch and brake systems. Our products help flight crews prepare for the unexpected and better navigate emergencies. In addition to our standard product offerings, we also specialize in prototype development and design engineering. Our design engineering department is equipped with the most advanced technology and top engineering experts, allowing SEPAC, Inc. to develop clutch and brake solutions that meet even the highest performance requirements. 

Our custom products are made with the highest quality materials and designed to endure the harshest environments. You can learn more about our custom design capabilities on our website or by contacting our team with any questions. If you’re interested in a quote for a specific project and would like to fast-track the process, you can fill out our RFQ application data form

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