IAF system keeps everything THUMS up for helicopters

Sophisticated system of sensors can tell in real time "when even one tooth on a cog has started to chip."

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
October 8, 2007 23:42
1 minute read.
AJ pic 2

IDF chopper 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Israel Air Force has developed a unique system to monitor its helicopters while in flight. The system, called THUMS (Total Health and Usage Monitoring System), keeps track of all the moving parts of the helicopter while it is out on missions. A sophisticated system of sensors "can tell when even one tooth on a cog has started to chip and can pinpoint exactly where the problem is," head of the project Lt.-Col. Ephraim Rabinovitch of the Tel Nof air force base explained to The Jerusalem Post on Monday. THUMS is designed to prevent accidents even before they happen. If the system notices a problem, it sends a warning signal to the pilot, who can then land in a controlled manner, rather than having to make an emergency landing when the problem spins out of control and causes drastic damage to the helicopter. Once the helicopter is back on the ground, a technician equipped with a laptop can download the data and examine exactly what the problem is and where it is located. The system's sensors penetrate deep into the inner workings of the helicopter's engines, which return data on parts not readily accessible. "Narrowing the problem to a specific part saves a lot of time and money instead of having to dismantle the engine and check everything by hand," Maj. Avi Zdroyevsky said. The system is not yet fully operational. "Right now, THUMS has been installed on 15 helicopters and is mainly in the calibration stage. We hope to install it on all of the IAF's helicopters in the near future and our next challenge is to figure out how to adapt it to the airplanes as well," Rabinovitch added during a presentation at the base. The IAF considered several foreign-made systems but decided that they didn't really meet its requirements and so turned to an Israeli company, RSL, to develop the system in conjunction with the air force. "Because the company is here and we are here, the system is tailor-made for us [something the other systems couldn't offer]," Rabinovich said.

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