As Skycore Aviation continues its series, we explore how mission equipment transforms utility helicopters into VIP helicopters for “Very Important People”. Previously Skycore published MedEvac, firefighting, combat, utility/multi-purpose and search and rescue (SAR) mission equipment articles.
Today’s travel environment mandates that VIP helicopters are more than just comfortable. Those who have reached the pinnacle of success want the very best; a safe, quiet and productive environment for flying. To meet this demand, VIP mission equipment is designed to transform utility helicopters into exquisitely finished luxury aircraft.
VIP Helicopter Travel
At one time, VIP helicopters only flew heads of state but now high standing government officials, CEOs, business executives and their families travel in these aircraft. VIP government aircraft not only have luxurious interiors, the highest safety standards, state of the art communication technology and amenities but also have survivability equipment and weapons systems of combat helicopters. Helicopters designed for the military, such as the Black Hawk, have been transformed by VIP mission equipment. The United States, Bahrain, Jordan and United Arab Emirates all use Black Hawks to transport their heads of state.
Civil VIP helicopters may have survivability and VIP mission equipment like government aircraft, but also focus on comfort, at times to the extreme. VIP interiors have been designed by fashion icons such as Hermes and Versace, and luxury automobile maker Mercedes-Benz. The combination of the reputation of the designers and their extravagant options add millions of dollars to the cost of the VIP helicopter.
A utility helicopter must be configured to allow the VIP and staff the room to work, move about and rest. Seating configurations are designed to meet mission requirements / number of passengers. Depending on the helicopter, seating can accommodate a large number of passengers. As an example, the S-92 can be configured to accommodate from 9 to 14 passengers plus attendants while including a refreshment center, luggage compartments, captain’s chairs and writing tables.
VIP mission equipment may include custom features such as a lavishly appointed galley, lounge, closets and even a full bathroom. Hidden compartments, recessed consoles and ample aft storage are often requested. In addition, entry and exits are typically large, easy to move through with clam shell cabin doors and automatic, retractable steps as seen in the S-92 VIP picture at the bottom of the article.
VIP mission equipment also includes state of the art amenities. Luxuriously appointed and customized interiors include the best of everything:
- sumptuous, high-end upholstery
- finest wood and leather finishes
- wood for the floor and ceiling panels
- ambient lighting, adjusted to different color and brightness settings
- LED reading lights for each passenger with individual switches
- dimmable (chromatic) windows
Cabins have superior air quality and climate control systems to consistently maintain cabin temperatures. The newest technology for wireless internet and satellite communications are installed along with premium sound systems and touchscreen in-flight entertainment systems.
Acoustic VIP mission equipment strives to provide a whisper quiet cabin and an ultra-smooth ride. Cabin design, interior fabrics and flooring that convey a luxurious feel also absorb sounds and add to the quiet. Utility helicopters have different solutions for reducing vibrations and delivering a smooth ride. For example, the Sikorsky S-92 helicopters feature an active vibration control system with vibration sensors and structurally mounted force generators. The system provides for comfortable flight and acoustic levels below certification requirements and prolongs air-frame life by reducing fatigue loads on the aircraft. The S-76 has cutting edge technology quiet tail rotor and improved main rotor blades for reduced acoustic levels.
Safety is paramount in VIP helicopters and the latest safety equipment delivers both safety and resilience in all weather conditions. VIP mission equipment provide redundant systems for flight controls, avionics, cockpit displays and health monitoring systems that captures and records operational data. The S-92 has Rotor Ice Protection (including blade heater mats) is FAA / JAA certified to fly in known icing conditions. The equipment also has a number of safety features such as flaw tolerance, bird strike capability and engine burst containment incorporated into its design. An Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) is standard on the S-76D executive helicopter along with a combined FlightData Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). Other equipment can provide protection against lightning strikes and divert ice from engine inlets.
Skycore Aviation is an international helicopter personnel services and UH-60 Black Hawk provider (www.blackhawk360.com). Our knowledge and experience enable Skycore to provide personnel and turnkey solutions for helicopter programs tailored to meet our customer’s operations, maintenance and training needs. To stay atop of the rotary wing industry, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.