Kopter SH09 flight-testing accelerates

Since the SH09’s third prototype (P3) has been flying in Sicily, Kopter has been swiftly gathering test data and the company is about to make final aerodynamic choices.

Kopter is aiming for the SH09 to reach an altitude of 16,000 feet and a velocity to never exceed (VNE) of 151 knots at sea level. Kopter Photo
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“We have just begun flight-test block 4 – the first one took place in Mollis, Switzerland, from November 2018 to February 2019 and flight-test blocks 2 and 3 here this year in Pozzallo, Italy,” said chief technical officer and head of flight operations Michele Riccobono. The first three blocks were dedicated to flight envelope expansion of the light single.

In block 4, “we are starting to refine the aerodynamic configuration of the fuselage, empennage and horizontal stabilizer,” Riccobono explained. The flight-test block is scheduled to end late this month or early in August. The configuration will be selected by then. “The main goal of these aerodynamic refinements is to optimize the aircraft directional stability and the performance,” said Riccobono.

After block 4 is complete, the main gearbox will be replaced. The design is essentially unchanged. Aeromet, the new supplier, is expected to provide Kopter with a component that will bring back the whole design load envelope. The previous upper housing suffered from quality issues that restricted it.

The conforming gearbox will enable flight-test engineers and pilots to fly the full SH09 design envelope. It will be fully explored in terms of maximum take-off weight (MTOW), longitudinal center of gravity (CG) and maneuvers such as tight turns, said Riccobono. Kopter is aiming for the SH09 to reach an altitude of 16,000 feet and a velocity to never exceed (VNE) of 151 knots at sea level.

The definition of PS4, the first “pre-series” aircraft, will thus be completed by the end of September. Some long-lead items have been ordered already. PS5, which will be identical to PS4, will “follow shortly and be dedicated to the expansion of the envelope to cold climate and hot-and-high altitude airfield operations,” said Riccobono. This aircraft is planned to be operated in Alaska and Colorado.

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Despite indications last June that the SH09’s certification may slip to 2021, the company’s target remains to reach this milestone within the end of 2020. The test site in Pozzallo is meeting expectations and the number of weekly flights – an average 9.6 – during a flight-test block is twice the initial target.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will award the certification. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to validate it soon after, Riccobono said. “To expedite the FAA validation we are going to involve them very early to accommodate, in the certification testing plan, any specific request that may originate from the differences existing between CS27 and FAR27.”

Delivery of the first production aircraft, the sixth SH09 to be built, is scheduled for December 2020. The first two customers to receive an SH09 are scheduled to be Air Zermatt and Helitrans, but who will take the first production aircraft has yet to be decided.

Meanwhile, the search for one or two additional shareholders is progressing, according to a Kopter spokesperson. In June, it was hoped for August and it is now foreseen in September or October.

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