Rapid technological advances in the aeronautical field have minimized the risks of air accidents, making this means of transport one of the safest and most sophisticated today. In the region, countries such as Colombia have made a significant investment in the modernization of the main aircraft of their military aviation, achieving not only certifying these modernizations but also significantly improving their capabilities to carry out safe air operations. This article analyzes the reasons why the modernization of the equipment of the fixed-wing aircraft of the Peruvian Army is a critical factor for increasing security in the air operations of the Army Aviation.
Keywords: Modernization, technology and aviation.
International aeronautics, both military and civil, is constantly evolving due to rapid technological advances that allow the modernization of aircraft with state-of-the-art equipment. For this reason, it is not strange to notice that when a new aircraft model is released on the market it is known that an updated version of it is already being worked on, which forces manufacturers to constantly update their products. The different missions for which these aircraft are required require manufacturers to update their products through efficient and innovative teams of engineers and scientists, in order to be able to offer the market an updated version and prevent competition from displacing them and positioning them in this important field.
In this context, the Peruvian Army is not strange to the need to have new technologies and state-of-the-art equipment due to the various strategic roles it fulfills and the different scenarios in which its aircraft are used for the benefit of Defense and National Development, particularly in support of the National Disaster Risk Management System. For example, during the COVID 19 pandemic, the use of its aircraft has been more demanding, reaching missions in places where weather conditions are often adverse.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic causes emerging countries or countries with constant political and social tension, such as Peru, to allocate a large percentage of the national budget to improving health services and meeting the primary needs of the population. This fact makes the acquisition of new aircraft for the Armed Forces unlikely, so modernizing their equipment is the most viable solution given the constant evolution of aeronautical technology.
In Peru, the fleets of aircraft with which the Air Force, the Navy and the Army have been implemented -incipiently- with state-of-the-art equipment to achieve their greater and better exploitation because, at present, it is its modernization more viable than the purchase of new aircraft. However, in recent years, the purchase reference is the acquisition of 24 MI171 SHP helicopters, of Russian origin, and Spartan transport aircraft, of Italian manufacture.
This article analyzes the reasons why the modernization of the equipment of the fixed-wing aircraft of the Peruvian Army is necessary for a better exploitation of these assets, complying with the minimum safety standards for the execution of air operations.
With the passing of history, aviation -both commercial and military- has been evolving thanks to technology and the constant competition between large aircraft manufacturing companies such as Boeing, Air Bus, Beechcraft, Cessna and others, which are disputed an increasingly demanding market. In this sense, Edmundo Ubiratan, a specialist in aeronautical issues, points out that the cabin of an airplane has always aroused the curiosity of passengers due to its infinity of buttons, clocks and dials, thus highlighting that aircraft cabins arouse interest and general curiosity, including pilots, who are surprised by the level of technological advance generated by increasingly sophisticated and automated aircraft. However, it should not be forgotten that this improvement is due to specialists who, with proper preparation and training, improve the safety standards of air operations.
The digitized airplanes and helicopters that formerly were also equipped with analog instruments (clocks) for backup in the event of an electrical failure in their systems, currently depend on solely digital equipment, both in their main systems and as backup or stand-by systems. In this regard, Air Bus, the aircraft manufacturing giant, notes that since the early days of aeronautics the aviation industry has worked to develop better ways for pilots to understand the position of their aircraft relative to the ground. This evolution has gone from visual signs outside the aircraft, to digital monitors inside the cabin that show information about the environment.
Since its beginning, aviation has always been a field in constant evolution, with aircraft that turn out to be highly complicated due to the number of instruments used, but capable of transporting – quickly – both passengers and cargo. Although it is true that these updated cabs seem to be very difficult to understand and operate, it is necessary to constantly train and update the crews in the correct use of this sophisticated equipment, in order to minimize the risk of accidents due to misuse or inappropriate use of them.
According to the international AIRBUS, the world trend in the evolution of aeronautical technology predicts that an annual increase of 4.3% in air traffic in the period 2019-2038, would make it go from the approximately 23,000 current aircraft to 47,680, of which 39,210 would be new. With this increase in aircraft, both for personnel and cargo transport, the modernization of all fleets of aircraft and helicopters will be required with state-of-the-art equipment to meet this demand.
Francisco M. McGregor, a commercial pilot for 44 years, maintains that every day there is some new advance in the technology used in aviation, which makes the aviation sector increasingly sophisticated and reliable. However, it can be seen that a large part of the recent air accidents that these aircraft have suffered are due both to improper handling of the equipment by the crew, and to equipment failures.
What happened in the Boeing 737 Max in Ethiopia, which resulted in the death of 157 people, is an example of this type of failure. In this case, an error in the operation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Increase System (MCAS) software was the cause of the terrible accident though, in the first place, the software bases its answer on the data of a single angle of attack sensor, even though the aircraft has two of these sensors. This type of artifact, on the front of an airplane, measures the angle at which the air stream is located. Relying on just one of these sensors means that if it fails, the system can deploy at the wrong time and press the nose of the aircraft down when it should instead be climbing. Second, although the pilot can use manual control of the aircraft, MCAS repeats itself in cycles, repeatedly forcing the nose of the aircraft downward.
Faced with this reality, some questions arise: how safe is it to modernize an aircraft? What are the benefits of modernizing an Army Aviation aircraft? How are training and education related to the use of technologically new equipment in Army Aviation aircraft? Will it be safe to continue operating obsolete technology in Army Aviation aircraft? Among many other questions.
One of the countries in the region that has best understood the need for this type of investment is Colombia, whose Army Aviation has managed to certify the modernization of its Beechcraft aircraft, which now have modern equipment, significantly improving their capabilities to conduct air operations. In this sense, the Colombian Army’s Air Assault Aviation Division recently announced that it has been certified to advance the modernization processes of the Beechcraft King Air 200 and B200 type aircraft, specifically to replace the analog cabin of these aircraft with the systems Garmin 1000. In fact, this process has already been carried out on the first of the seven aircraft of this type, a job that lasted five months and is certified by the Garmin company.
In this sense, it is necessary to specify that the flight units of the Peruvian Army Aviation do not have the necessary means (laboratories, test benches, qualified personnel and others) to carry out the modernization of their aircraft cabins, which obliges to contract the services of authorized companies that have the certification of the manufacturer or competent authority.
According to the data collected and analyzed during this work, some conclusions can be reached that will help to have a clearer perspective on the technological innovation that should take place in the control, navigation and communication equipment of Aviation fixed-wing aircraft Army. In the first place, one cannot ignore the advancement of technology, much less in the field of aviation, since new equipment is created or built daily that make air operations safer worldwide. Second, the current health crisis in the country makes the acquisition of new aircraft for Army Aviation unlikely, so the modernization of its equipment should be prioritized in order to maintain the best safety rates during operations areas to be carried out. Third, it must be recognized that having modernized aircraft does not ensure that they can be exempt from an accident, since an accident is the result of a sum of dangerous events. Fourth, taking into account the experience obtained by the Colombian Army Aviation, the Peruvian Army can establish some type of strategic alliance to achieve the long-awaited modernization of its fleet of transport aircraft. Finally, the modernization of the aircraft must be accompanied by adequate preparation of the Army Aviation crews, since some of the accidents that have occurred in international air transport have been the result of the misuse of sophisticated technological equipment installed in the aircraft.
- Edmundo Ubiratan, “La Evolución de la cabina de los aviones desde 1949 hasta el 2020”, Aeromagazine.net (Artigo: August 11, 2020), https://www.aeromagazine.net/artigo/la-evolucion-de-la-cabina-de-los-aviones-desde-1949-hasta-2020_1242.html (Cited June 5, 2021). ↑
- Drafting A21, “Nuevos instrumentos de cabina: alta tecnología”, A21.mx (Mexico: July 25, 2018) https://a21.com.mx/aeronautica/2018/07/25/nuevos-instrumentos-de-cabina-tradicion-y-alta-tecnologia (Cited June 6, 2021). ↑
- Vicente Gómez, “Tecnología aeronáutica para aviones más eficientes”, MAPFRE Global Risk (Madrid: June 23, 2020) https://www.mapfreglobalrisks.com/gerencia-riesgos-seguros/articulos/tecnologia-aeronautica/ (Cited June 7, 2021). ↑
- Francisco M. McGregor, “Tecnología en la Aviación” A21.mx (Mexico: August 17, 2017) https://a21.com.mx/index.php/cambio-y-fuera/2017/08/17/tecnologia-en-la-aviacion (Cited June 7, 2021). ↑
- Teo Leggett, “Boeing 737 Max: ¿Qué ocurrió dentro de la cabina de los aviones que se accidentaron en Etiopía e Indonesia?”, BBC New Mundo (UK: June 8, 2019), https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-48475878 (Cited June 7, 2021). ↑
- Erich Soumeth, “El Ejército colombiano logra la certificación para modernizar sus King Air 200/B200”, Infodefensa.com (Bogotá: October 20, 2017) https://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2017/10/20/noticia-colombianota4es-aviacion-ejercito-colombiano-certificada-adelantar-proceso-modernizacion-aviones-200b200.html (Cited June 9, 2021). ↑
- Ibid. ↑