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B-3 glass cockpits

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Don't know how the VEMD reacts to cold, but the Arizona heat doesn't seem to affect it much.  Even with our ground A/C's, cabin temps can be horrendous when the aircraft sits on the pad for hours at a time.  Winter is definitely harder on electronics than summer.   I could recall the nightmare of cold-soaked Apaches at Graf in January, but I'd probably just scare myself.


The term "Glass Cockpit" is a bit misleading.  While the Vehicle Engine Management Display (VEMD) gives engine parameters it does little else, save for a back-up rotor RPM.  Its primary function is to allow the pilot a one-instrument reference for critical parameter management.   The First Limit Indicator (FLI) combines T4, Tq & Ng into one quick reference indicator that monitors the limits of each.  That function is great for limiting system crosschecks during the critical periods of takeoff and landing.  I can't think of any aircraft, or pilot, that wouldn't benefit from the FLI system.


That said there are some drawbacks to the VEMD.  First of all, it is big.  So big that the flight instruments (A/S, altimeter, VSI, T&B) are reduced to silver dollar size.  The attitude indicator is a whopping 2-inches in diameter (approx).  That's not a good thing for those zero-illume cross-country flights.   The Caution/Warning panel had to be placed so high on the instrument panel that about a third of it is blocked by the glare shield for any pilot close to six feet tall.


VEMD brightness control is a BIG problem for night flying.  We've resorted to placing window tint film cutouts over it for all night flights.   We do the same for the XPDR, VHF Comm. pkg. and the GPS.  Apparently Eurocopter didn't envision the A-Star series doing much night flying.  Turn the VEMD's lighting down too far and you'll get a "Failure" message during shutdown.  That error will almost always say "Brightness Failure".  Of course you don't know that it was just a nonsensical "Brightness Failure" until you scroll thru a couple of hundred previous failure messages to get to the last flights data.  That may sound picky, but it's a real pain to scroll through all those previous failure messages.


Ever get an "Over Limit" message just by turning the BATT on?  Well, it occasionally happens in the B3.  Apparently, just energizing the VEMD and Digital Electronic Control Unit (DECU) can cause a false exceedence for Ng or rotor RPM.  Could be a power spike or something doesn't energize in the right sequence, but it's a bit disconcerting to get an "Over Limit" message before the engine is cranked.  Makes one wonder how accurately the system is monitoring when you’re actually flying.  


Those petty gripes aside, the VEMD system is a pretty good deal.  It monitors and stores all operating parameters so that maintenance has a good idea of system health.  It gives a digital readout of fuel remaining and fuel endurance.  That's cool.  The FLI system is a real break-through for helicopter pilots by allowing more time for looking out the windows.   I suspect the bugs will get completely worked-out in future generations by re-programming the software.  Hopefully, sometime down the road, the VEMD will get smaller and the flight instruments will get larger.

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I can't speak much for the VEMD not working well with the harsh environment (cold and wet) as I haven't flown them on Heli-Skiing.  I have flown them during the winter time up here in Alaska on charters and Medivacs and haven't had a problem yet.  One thing I can say is that the FLI is sure handy during sling operations.  I have only a handfull of hours slinging in the B3, but the FLI made gauge scanning a bit easier.  As for the comment regarding the brightness on the display at night, there is a dimmer switch ("day" or "night" settings) for the display.  Not having flown around in anything beyond twilight in the B3, I don't know if these two choices are enough.  As for the rumor about TEMSCO trading the B3's in for BII's, it is just a rumor.

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JAM I do the same thing. For myself, the VEMD won't dim enough for me to see on those dark nights so in addition to putting the selector to night and dimming it to it's darkest I also put a small piece of limo tint (found at any hardware store in the US) and placed this over both screens of the VEMD. That limo tint sure is a life saver! Looks like that should have come as standard equipment looking at how many other pilots also do this.

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