American Eurocopter announced Tuesday that Air Methods Corp., the world’s largest operator of helicopters for emergency air medical transport services, has become the U.S. launch customer for the Eurocopter EC135 P3.
The EC135 P3 is the latest version of the popular twin-engine helicopter that is a favorite of the air medical transport industry. The order for six aircraft was confirmed by Air Methods officials in ceremonies at the Heli-Expo 2013 helicopter industry trade show that opened Tuesday.
“We are extremely pleased that an industry leader like Air Methods has chosen to add this high performance Eurocopter model to its fleet,” said Marc Paganini, President and Chief Executive of American Eurocopter. “Air Methods, by choosing to be the launch customer of this new variant, has endorsed the quality, safety and reliability of Eurocopter products and the customer support of American Eurocopter.”
The commitment to acquire the EC135 P3 is part of an order placed by Air Methods in December 2012 for a total of 22 Eurocopter aircraft valued at more than $80 million. That order also included 10 EC130T2 and six AS350B3e single engine helicopters.
“We are excited about continuing to improve transport capability and safety for our crews, patients and customers,” said Archie Gray, senior vice president, Air Methods Aviation Services. “The P3 will give us the ability to operate in extreme environments without any compromise to safety, and shows Eurocopter’s commitment to continued product improvements.”
Air Methods, based in Englewood, Colo., continues to equip its fleet with new aircraft incorporating the latest in safety and technology improvements. Air Methods already operates more than 330 Eurocopter helicopters, comprising about 80 percent of its fleet. The new EC135 P3 helicopters will be delivered beginning in mid-2014.
The EC135 P3 is equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada PWC 206B3 turbine engines that, combined with new rotor blades that have been extended 10 cm, provide a significant increase in performance in hot/high conditions. It also features optimized FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) software and enhanced air intakes compatible with inlet barrier filters, which protect the engines from sand, dust and foreign object damage (FOD). The EC135 P3 variant has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 6,569 pounds, a 66 pound increase. Extended range is provided by a new external auxiliary fuel tank, while operational safety is enhanced with improved one-engine inoperative performance.
Nearly 1,100 EC135s are in operation globally. Since introduced in 1996, the EC135 fleet has logged about 2.6 million flight hours. In addition to the P3, the latest EC135 variant is also offered with Turbomeca Arrius 2-plus engines (the EC135 T3). The development of the P3/T3 variants was conducted in consultation with selected key customers in order to confirm that design goals met market requirements.