Digital Transformations Disrupting Aerospace Business Models - Andreas Bernhard, Chief Engineer, CH-53K Helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation

2018 AIAA SciTech Forum

 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


The design process for aircraft is one of the main digital disruptions in the aerospace sector. The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter that Sikorsky is developing for the U.S. Marine Corps is the Lockheed Martin subsidiary’s first production aircraft built with a completely digital, paperless design, said Andreas Bernhard, the helicopter’s chief engineer at Sikorsky. Looking ahead to the 2020s, Bernhard predicted, “our most profitable product is no longer going to be the Black Hawk, but the CH-53K.” New technologies on the CH-53K also include composite rotor blades that he said “generate enough lift to carry an empty Black Hawk,” a transmission with improved power density than previous generation Sikorsky helicopters, and digital engine controls in the cockpit.





[00:00:00] I'm very excited to be here today, to share a little bit of Sikorsky's vision of disruptive technologies and I'll do that with two videos and three vignettes that talk about the disruption that we are experiencing right now at Sikorsky and the disruption providing to our customer. What we're doing in our commercial fleets and then a little bit of a forward looking element of what we're doing beyond that.

[00:00:22] So let me start off with the CH-53K. Sikorsky Aircraft is a 90 year old corporation. It was originally founded and incorporated under United Aircraft. They sold us a couple of years ago because we no longer fit in their business model and Lockheed Martin decided to pick us up because of a very very parallel fit and alignment with their business model. But the disruption is this: Since 1974, Sikorsky has been a Blackhawk company. That venerable aircraft that you have heard about, seen, movies, print, media, performing yeoman service around the world. Over 3000 aircraft in every armed service  of the United States, in many state department services, fighting fires in California and operating for many Air Forces, Navies and Armies around the world. In the 2020´s, Sikorsky will generate more revenue with the CH-53K, then it will be with the Blackhawk. Our company is transforming, not only while being integrated into Lockheed, but our primary product, our most profitable product, is no longer going to be the Blackhawk but the CH-53K  and hand in hand with that, we're delivering a capability to our primary customer, the United States Marines, that is truly transformative and disruptive.

[00:01:40] In the early 2000s the Marines determined that they needed to triple their payload capability from ship to shore - to triple it! And if that challenge wasn't enough for us, they said, oh by the way we're not making any bigger ships, you have to fit that threefold increase in performance into the same footprint. How did we accomplish that. Since contract signing in 2006, we have developed this aircraft, that is based on four key technologies and an underpinning of digital elements that have made this a reality. Those four key technologies are a 79 foot diameter rotor with best in class composite rotor blades, the biggest rotor blades in the world. Each of these blades generates enough lift to carry an empty Blackhawk. Each of these blades sees a centrifugal force, that is as high as an entire CH-53K hanging off it. Those are connected to a best in class split-torque transmission. This transmission has a power density, 20 percent better than anything we've ever built. Dr. Pines worked a lot in transmissions and can appreciate the challenges and complexity of managing both the ability to put 17900 horsepower through a transmission, with a weight that still allows you to have payload in the aircraft. Those are coupled up with 3 General Electric GE38 engines. These have seven thousand five hundred shaft horsepower a piece, 60 percent increase in power, 60 percent reduction in parts. This then together is attached with a cockpit that has a 21st century glass cockpit, a fly-by-wire, full authority digital engine controls, Sikorsky's most extensively integrated vehicle health management system, which I'll touch up on in a little bit. And all of this comes together in a composite fuselage that allows the Marines to carry internal and external payloads, threefold performance increase under hot and high conditions.
So how do those digital technologies come together to do this for us. First of all, we're using CATIA V5 and LCA in such a fashion that this is Sikorsky's first paperless design, it's all model based. There are no more drawing. Our engineering materials and manufacturing materials are fully coupled and therefore provide a seamless integration into the supply chain. The drawing base is such that the technical publications and the training materials flow seamlessly from the parts. We have a collaborative design environment. When we started these trade studies in 2006 with the entire domain space opened, this aircraft shares only one common element with its predecessor and that is the shadow on the ground. Everything else is designed from ground up and brand new. That could only happen with this digital environment we did that in. Beyond that, we used advanced 21st century design tools and analysis to put this all together. So what does that mean. What that means is, we built this aircraft before we flew it. 20.000 parts over a thousand work instructions were assembled and tested before we even put the first parts together. The rate of engineering error per drawing was reduced by over 50 percent compared to historical rates, the rate of rework for example in 20 miles of harnesses for those harness assemblies was over 60 percent lower than we've had in the past. So for us this was truly a transformative event and disrupted the way we design and build helicopters in order to deliver an aircraft to the customer in a shortly time, manageable cost and to deliver the threefold increase in performance. As you've seen this is a machine, that will give the customers eighty eight thousand pounds max gross take off weight. That can carry thirty six thousand pounds on that book. And yes Dr. Pines when we were doing high speed flight, we had to rent a Cessna Citation for chase, because no other helicopter in our stable could keep up with it. And what we were doing with that is we are giving it to the customer at an affordable price. What they can do is, meantime between flight hours has been reduced by a factor of three, maintenance man hours befuddles been reduced by a factor of two and meantime to repair has been reduced by a factor by 30 percent.

[00:05:46] I touched earlier on this integrated health management system. Sikorsky starting in the 2000s with the S-92, made the decision to change its business model and every helicopter we have developed since then is equipped with an integrated vehicle health management system. Essentially a set of distributed elements, a processing unit and a spider web of sensors across the whole helicopter. We delivered our first S-92 in 2006 and ever since then, assuming the customers have agreed, we get a nightly download of their data. Over one point one million flight hours and 300 aircraft, over 30 terabytes of native data and 140 terabytes of processed data. Long gone are the days when diagnostics engineers, dynamics engineers sat like shamans in a cloud filled room in the back of the company and stared at squiggly lines of Dr. Pines [...] and things like that. We can no longer afford to do that. What we have done over these past ten years, is to develop the automated tools that data mining ,  the decision support technologies, such that we can allow our operators to fly longer hours with less downtime and lower maintenance costs. A couple of examples, in this intervening time on more than two dozen occasions we have contacted one of our operators and said you have a part that is going to be need to be replaced. We recommend you schedule, at your convenience, maintenance in the next x hours. Think about that. In the past the operator would fly the aircraft until either the cockpit warning system went off and said something or you had a puddle of oil during maintenance, or on the old style of condition based, the condition indicators, you found something you had to do it. Going from reactive to pre-managed maintenance. A big game changer for our customers. Beyond that, what we've all experienced in the aerospace industry, fleet grounding, something happens that you did not acknowledge or anticipate during flight test. The United States Navy had a gearbox problem the famous crack carrier plate, wherein they found that when they opened it up the main element that holds the planetary pins, was cracked and grounded their fleet. At that time we didn't have the analytic tools, a small company, Impact Technologies, figured out how to detect it, if you had the right sensors on it. Well today we do have the right sensors on it and there have been examples in the S-92 fleet, where something happened and they were able to quarantine, which aircraft, which components are subject to this condition and allow all the other aircraft to fly profitably, safely and effectively. A real game changer for Sikorsky, for our customers who can operate with a higher degree of confidence, higher availability and for Sikorsky, who can provide these services at a higher profitability for operations.
[00:08:38] For my third element, I would like to talk a little about our intelligence and automation. What you're going to see here, is a video, that is in two segments, where a pilot gets into both S-76, Sikorsky helicopter and then into a Cessna Caravan, with nothing but a tablet device to control the aircraft. After the video runs I'll give you a little bit of context on the way we at Sikorsky are taking the vision of unmanned flights and the next generation of flight, separate from what you have seen in the public press on electric aircraft and the small single four seat type of aircraft, evolo and all those very innovative, very exciting technologies, we have a different spin on that. What we're looking at are developing and continuing to develop aircraft that have full FAA certification for manned flight and then have the option, of giving the operator, the fleet operator, the battalion commander, the ability to fly the aircraft with one crew member, no crew members or to simply fly the machine with the mission operator. A Scenario to give an example. Battlefield in a place where none of us would ever like to be, the commander has 10 Blackhawks at his disposal for whatever reasons he doesn't have enough crews and he needs to run two missions, he needs to deploy a autonomous set of vehicles to place to go and do investigation whatever they need to do with that and he needs to go and drop supplies to some people who need it. He doesn't have enough pilots. He may have one pilot to go and fly the toughest decision making mission and for the others he can have a guy with a tablet sitting in his tent or sitting stateside, start the mission, fly from point A to Point B, pick up the roads drop, the supplies and as we've demonstrated for example here in West Palm Beach, pick up a linked autonomous vehicle, let the autonomous vehicle and the aircraft talk as to where they need to go to land it. Drop that vehicle, in this case it was in the swamps behind a flight test facility, let that vehicle go and do its mission fully autonomous, and then when the mission is complete, in this case a couple of days later, get the call come and pick that vehicle up and bring it back to its home base. So Sikorsky's vision here is to really change how we look at deploying aircraft and provide decision making assistance to the pilots, the operators and give the fleet vommander the opportunity to either have pilots in the loop, mission operators in the loop or in the grand sense, strategic operations were all these aircraft can be deployed semi autonomously. The last thing I'll share with you is a little bit in the area of artificial intelligence. We have two interesting initiatives going on amongst others but the first one of them is decision making. Todays warfighter is inundated with that variable barrage of information. He has to aviate, communicate, navigate. He has sensors from LIDAR to radar to weapons technologies and at any given point of time as a thousand rocks to look under. The human brain is a single processor, we can only do one thing at a time. There's some great myth busters episodes out there were people have claimed they can multitask, and proven time and time again that they can't. And so we have this human bias in decision making. If we let artificial intelligence do the right unsupervised unstructured learning to help you with that decision making and identify the ten rocks that you really need to look under to effectively execute the mission with lethality, survivability and effectiveness. That's a game changer.

[00:12:08] And then the last one I'll share with you in this context which I think is an unusual one, but for our company very very interesting. You look at large corporations like UTC or Lockheed Martin, thousands of employees, thousands of patents thousands of technologies,very very broad interests and time and time again, we discover that in our little stovepipe fiefdoms, we try and reinvent the same trade secrets, the same patent applications, because try as we might, we really are not very good at integrating across large domains and we have a couple of research projects were we're looking at, how do we enhance the connectivity across Lockheed Martin Corporation. How do we ensure that people with certain skill sets, certain technical areas of expertise, certain interests, certain projects, are connected with, aware of, and provide a productive, collaborative workspace environment, that transcends traditional stovepipe boundaries. In that sense I'm actually very happy to meet a Lockheed colleague here. We'll have to exchange some notes on breaking down some of those boundaries. So from my perspective a couple of thoughts on digital technologies that I'd work at Sikorsky and our large integration of Lockheed Martin. Thank you very much for your time.