In-flight propeller testing

The Goal: Extend the life of helicopter rotors and save millions of dollars

The Challenge

Helicopter Transport Services, Inc. (HTSI) owns a fleet of firefighting helicopters that was destined for the scrap heap unless the service lifetime of their rotors could be extended. To do this, they needed to demonstrate to the FAA that even though the rotors were old, they’d never been used as hard as they were designed for. To make their case, they’d somehow have to measure the behavior of the rotors in-flight.
HTSI hired FAA-certified principal engineer Dave McClenahan to oversee the testing and analysis. Dave hired engineer Dick Meridith to attach strain gages to the air frame and rotor and collect data during as a helicopter was put through its paces. A consultant was enlisted to write the collection program, which he promised to do while on a vacation from his day job. The vacation ended and there was no working program and time was running out, so Dick asked National Instruments what he should do. After a call to Moore Good Ideas (MGI), David Moore was on a plane the next day.