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Airbus Helicopters has commenced factory installations of the optional BLR Aerospace FastFin system for the H125, giving operators the opportunity to benefit from the FastFin system from the day their aircraft is delivered.
BLR announced at HAI Heli-Expo 2018 that the first factory installation of an H125 FastFin system has now been completed, for an aircraft that will be delivered in June to Heli-Austria. The operator is a long-time supporter of BLR FastFin systems, employing them on its Bell medium helicopters as well as its H125s.
“The H125 systems we are already flying with are operating very well,” Heli-Austria president Roy Knaus stated in a press release. Knaus said that while the FastFin system is beneficial in all flight regimes, the company considers it “essential for high-altitude operations,” with Heli-Austria aircraft routinely working at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, and sometimes up to 13,000 feet.
BLR became famous in the helicopter industry with its FastFin systems for Bell medium helicopters, which have proven to be so popular and effective that they now come standard on the Bell 412EPI. Like the Bell medium solution, the H125 FastFin system directs airflow more efficiently to improve aircraft performance, although the systems differ in their details.
The H125 FastFin system uses an “Advanced Tailboom Aerodynamic Cowling” to change the shape of the left side of the tail boom, increasing lateral force on that side. A line of vortex generators further increases lateral force on the left side of the tailboom, while a small strake reduces lateral force on the right side.
According to BLR, the system increases useful load by up to 120 pounds (55 kilograms) in hot and high conditions, while also delivering a 10 percent improvement in pedal margins. As Vertical discovered during a 2016 test flight, the enhanced handling qualities associated with the FastFin system also make the H125 significantly smoother to land and hover.
Since the H125 system was first certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December 2016, BLR has sold more than 30 kits for aircraft operating in seven countries. While Bell mediums still account for the vast majority of the more than 1,100 FastFin systems flying worldwide, BLR president Mike Carpenter is optimistic that the H125 system will find similar success as the market gains exposure to it.
“That’s what happened with the Bell 412,” he told Vertical before Heli-Expo, explaining that after the first firefighting operator won contracts with FastFin-equipped Bell mediums, “it just spread after that — everyone jumped on.”
Whereas adoption of the FastFin system for Bell medium helicopters was primarily driven by operators seeking improved performance, Carpenter said that H125 customers are also expressing interest in the improved handling qualities.
“Relative to the 412 FastFin system, the [H125] FastFin system has a more pronounced stability and handling qualities improvement,” he said. “So I think that while our Bell 412 FastFin system is sold generally to people who need to lift more stuff, with the system for the H125, there will be a bigger percentage of the market that buys it because it makes such a significant difference in the way the aircraft handles.”
In addition to the system now being installed at the factory, 25 Airbus Helicopters Customer Centers worldwide have also been authorized to sell and install the FastFin system. Carpenter said that BLR is now working with those centers to train them on the installation process, and expects them to become “a big part of our sales funnel going forward.”
Carpenter emphasized that Airbus has been an outstanding partner in bringing the H125 FastFin system to market. “They’ve really been great to work with,” he said.
In a press release, Axel Aloccio, head of the H125/H130 program at Airbus, stated, “We are excited to work with BLR to offer our H125 customers worldwide the FastFin system for both factory installation and retrofit. The FastFin system enhances the H125 performance in hot and high conditions and further reinforces the superiority of the H125 in the single-engine helicopter market.”