Airbus Helicopters announces H125 upgrades for aerial work

Airbus Helicopters has announced a series of performance and safety improvements targeted at aerial work with the H125 AStar (also known as the Squrriel/Ecureuil) light single.

The improvements to the Airbus H125 will further enhance its suitability for utility work. Anthony Pecchi Photo
The improvements to the Airbus H125 will further enhance its suitability for utility work. Anthony Pecchi Photo
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A power rating increase on the Safran Arriel 2D engine gives an additional 308 pounds (140 kilograms) external load capability. Thus far, the typical capability has been one metric ton, said Axel Aloccio, head of light helicopter programs at Airbus.

When used with BLR Aerospace’s FastFin tailboom aerodynamic enhancement, the additional load is 420 pounds (190 kilograms), said Aloccio. BLR’s components can be installed in production for approximately $70,000. The combination also increases hover ceiling from 11,100 feet (3,380 meters) to 13,400 feet (4,080 meters).

“Today, the Arriel 2D is derated on the H125 because we were unsure about how the airframe would withstand full power in terms of stress, loads and fatigue, and we were worried about controllability,” Aloccio explained. In recent months, Airbus conducted flight tests to measure precise stress levels. They proved the airframe can “absorb all the power.”

The modification is only a software change in the vehicle and engine management display supplied by Thales. It is free of charge in forward fit. In retrofit, Thales will charge “a few thousand euros,” Aloccio said. Thales would not confirm pricing. Approximately 1,000 H125s (including some sold under its previous name, AS350 B3e) are flying worldwide.

Airbus expects certification of the modification this summer. The H125 will henceforth offer the same takeoff power – 952 horsepower – as the heavier H130, instead of the current 847 horsepower. The flight manual will be updated and no training will be required, said Aloccio.

For sling load operations, the cargo swing is located right under the fuel tank, increasing the risk of fuel leak after a crash. Certification of a crash-resistant fuel system (CRFS) that can cope with that piece of equipment was received this month. The system guarantees no fuel will leak for 30 minutes after an accident and Airbus is making it standard on the H125.

The accompanying price increase, €35,000 ($39,000), is said to be below the actual cost of the CRFS. Retrofit is available for the same price on every model certified after 1994 in the Ecureuil family, such as the AS350 B3 and the EC130. The weight penalty stands at 33 pounds (15 kilograms), said Aloccio.

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In the cockpit, the first limit indicator (the instrument that displays the first limit an engine parameter will reach) can now be used with a remote display. A Supplemental Type Certificate was received for the data retrieval and bluetooth transmission unit, said Aloccio. The remote display can be a tablet, for instance, and enables easier engine parameter monitoring during sling load operations, when the pilot has to focus on looking outside.

The other improvements are about visibility – a response to competition from the in-development Kopter SH09.

The instrument panel can be made 40 percent more compact, at no extra cost, while a “max pilot view kit” replaces part of the conventional floor with glass. Two additional upper windows are optional.

A cleansheet-design Ecureuil replacement program is unlikely to be launched any time soon. Aloccio said he asked his company’s chief financial officer. “She answered, ‘Guys, you have a 70% percent market share, why do you want a new helicopter?” he said.

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