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Since January, Airbus Helicopters has been fitting all new production H125 and H130 Ecureuil family light singles with a Garmin G500H avionics suite instead of analog instruments, a major upgrade aimed at improving safety. It is based on a primary flight display, which includes synthetic vision and accompanying terrain awareness and warning system, and a navigation display. In addition, a touchscreen improves the human-machine interface for navigation preparation. The existing vehicle and engine management display remains unchanged.
Airbus designed the upgrade with visual flight rules pilots in mind – the displays should not distract the pilot from looking outside, Thierry de Boisvilliers, marketing product manager for light singles, emphasized. “The G500H brings reduced pilot workload,” he added. Some aerial work operators were a bit reluctant, expressing concerns about the reliability of such a glass cockpit, but were ultimately convinced, according to Boisvilliers.
A G500H modification was already available as a Federal Aviation Administration supplemental type certificate. “It is now EASA-certified, fully integrated and comes without any weight penalty,” he sayid. The first delivery is understood to be imminent.
The upgrade adds approximately $50,000 to the price of an H125 or H130. There is no plan to offer it as a retrofit.
Meanwhile, a maintenance cost reduction program is underway for the H130 and all preceding versions of the EC130. The elimination of the 12-year calendar check is a major factor, as it was translating into a four- to six-month downtime. Some of the inspections that were part of the 12-year check still have to be performed, under a different schedule and regrouped with other tasks.
Similar benefits will be available in one or two years for the H125, Airbus said.