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Flight testing of the Airbus Helicopters H160 medium twin is progressing and performance is on target, the airframer has told Vertical.
Some 250 flight hours have been logged on the type from Airbus Helicopters’ Marignane, France, headquarters. “Performance goals have been met or exceeded,” said Olivier Michalon, head of global sales for the type. Vibration on the prototypes is said to be particularly low. One factor contributing towards this is the optimized height flight-test pilots and engineers have chosen for the main rotor mast.
The engine seems to be contributing to the satisfactory development. Safran Helicopter Engines is confident the 1,100-1,1300 shaft horsepower Arrano 1A will be 100 percent “on specification” at entry into service. “We are on target, or better, for power and fuel burn,” said Maxime Faribault, Safran Helicopter Engines’ executive vice president for OEM sales. Engine certification will happen “six months prior to helicopter certification,” he predicted.
An undisclosed number of letters of intent have been signed for the H160. They are to be converted to firm orders from 2017, “when we a have a good level of confidence in performance and price,” Michalon explained. Interest is coming from “all segments – oil-and-gas, EMS, VIP, homeland security etc.” Pilots working for customers and prospective customers were recently allowed to fly a prototype.
A major objective is maturity at entry into service. This was also a focus for the H175’s launch in 2014, with Airbus’ first “operational maturity campaign” before the type’s entry into service. This time, the airframer expects to do even better thanks to the new “system helicopter zero” and “dynamic helicopter zero” integrated test beds. However, the first H160 delivery, once anticipated in 2018, has slipped to 2019, Michalon said.
The aeromechanical configuration was validated in late July. A third prototype is scheduled to join the flight-test program next year.