Avionics News January 2021 - 45

Tracy Stapleton, vice president of business development (left), and Frank Wallace, executive vice president and co-founder of
Ace Aeronautics, take a photo with the company's UH-60 Black Hawk prior to modifications and paint.

Shaping the future of avionics
Today, Stapleton puts all of that experience to work at Ace
Aeronautics as the vice president of business development.
Based in Guntersville, Alabama, the company offers
commercial and military off-the-shelf products for fixed- and
rotary-wing aircraft. It specializes in avionics systems that
reduce obsolescence of and capability gaps for older aircraft.
" My day-to-day role is networking with Black Hawk users
globally, looking for those individuals who want to update
their UH-60 or S-70 aircraft with a modern flight deck, " said
Stapleton, who joined Ace Aeronautics in 2018. " I manage
our social media, web presence and trade show efforts. I also
fly about 100 hours a year in support of company efforts. "
As legacy Black Hawks make it into civil service through
the military's Black Hawk Exchange and Sales Team program,
each one is stripped of its military electronics and systems. To
be flyable for civilian special missions, they require millions
of dollars of extensive maintenance, restoration and outfitting,
presenting a window of opportunity to upgrade the old-school
cockpit. For civilian operators currently flying the UH-60A/L
and S70A, an infusion of glass would improve safety, ease pilot
workload and ensure these unlimited-life airframes continue
working hard well into the future.
" The legacy Black Hawk and Sea Hawk - the UH-60A/L,
SH-60B/H/F and S-70/A helicopters are all analogous - are

beginning to see a lot of obsolescence issues within their
avionics suites, " Stapleton said. " The aircraft was fielded
in 1978, and most sold around the world still look like
1978 inside. We wanted to solve the obsolescence issue for
the aircraft and give the user the ability to customize their
mission equipment based on their needs. "
Last summer, Ace Aeronautics accomplished that goal
when it received a supplemental type certificate for its Ace
Deck VL-60, an integrated flight deck for the Black Hawk.
The commercial off-the-shelf IFR and RNAV-certified
flight deck upgrade brings Garmin G5000H glass panel
capabilities to the UH-60 and S-70 family of helicopters,
replacing the steam gauges, analog switches and knobs.
Valuable lessons learned
Given that he has a unique view as an experimental test
pilot flying new aircraft and systems before the public,
what does Stapleton expect for the future of avionics in
rotary-wing aircraft?
" I think in the next five years you'll see the transition to
more of a digital presence in the legacy fleets of aircraft, " he
said. " The new items will spawn from the development of
the future vertical lift platforms FLRAA (future long-range
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Avionics News January 2021

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