Air2 innovated the provision of helicopter-assisted utility construction and maintenance services for extra-high voltage (EHV) transmission lines throughout North America. The company maintains and flies of fleet of MD 500 helicopters with pilots, crew and mechanics that are highly trained and specialized for the work they do.
The high voltage power lines the crews at Air2 work on are too in demand to take out of commission for repairs. The Air2 team flies their helicopters into very close proximity to these lines, taking advantage of a thorough understanding of the properties of electrical transmission. The same properties that allow birds to land on power lines without getting electrocuted allow Air2 crews to do their important work, actually transferring linemen from the ship to the line while in hover just feet away from the line. It’s a process you must see to fully appreciate:
Given the critical nature of the work that Air2 does, keeping its ships maintained and in proper track and balance is essential. Tim Galeotti is an Air2 mechanic who helps maintain the eight-ship fleet. Performing regular track-and-balance procedures is part of the maintenance routine. “Well, track and balance, of course, affects the whole aircraft,” says Galeotti. “The closer you can get that reading or vibration down to none in the aircraft, of course, extends the life of your aircraft parts.”
Before acquiring a DynaVibe GX3 with the DynaTrack optical blade tracking accessory, Galeotti had access to two track-and-balance systems from different vendors. Both of these systems had their limitations and both were complicated to use. One broke frequently, and the software on the other one was unreliable. Given the importance of the track-and-balance procedure and the frequency with which Air2 does it for their fleet, having reliable track-and-balance gear is important. Another important factor is gear that is easy to use and allows mechanics to complete the process quickly, “because time is money,” states Galeotti.
Having used other track-and-balance gear, Galeotti was impressed with how easy it was to perform the main rotor track and balance on the MD 500 using DynaVibe with DynaTrack. “I was quite impressed because I've used several other devices,” said Galeotti. “What I found really nice was how user friendly it was. I mean, you didn't have these multiple buttons you had to push to get your result, and all we need is a clock angle, its reading; then, we can just plot it out on a chart. Also, with the tracker, it was nice to show exactly how to move that blade up and down in terms of how many inches or half-an-inch, or whatever you need to do.”
One reason the DynaVibe system with DynaTrack is easy to use is because you don’t need another person to hold, aim, and operate a light gun to do blade tracking. A single person can do everything needed to capture accurate readings. The DynaTrack optical blade tracking accessory attaches to the inside of the ship’s windscreen via a suction cup. The pilot or mechanic simply presses the “push-to-talk” button to measure one or two channels of vibration plus blade track, logging results from up to eight flight conditions per flight. “Holding like a gun... it's hard to hold there and get that image,” says Galeotti about the gun tracking systems he’s used, “but this [DynaTrack] here just takes it. I like that.”
The DynaVibe GX3 and DynaTrack is portable, allowing Galeotti to take the system anywhere the ships go, enabling the track-and-balance procedure to complete even in the field. “It's one of the simplest devices I ever used, and the smallest and lightest. In comparison to others I've used, it's top-rated I'd have to say. For the money that you spend on that, in comparison to others, you all have a product which is cheaper and works better.”