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Flight testing is accelerating for Kopter’s SH09 single-engine helicopter and the Swiss airframer is simultaneously preparing customer pilot training.
The third prototype, P3, has logged 50 hours of tests, including 12 hours in flight, according to chief technical officer and head of flight operations Michele Riccobono. “We are generally happy and did not find anything unexpected,” he told Vertical.
The maximum altitude during the testing of the aircraft was 5,000 feet and it reached a maximum speed of 126 knots in level flight. The testing team performed an autorotation at 100 knots.
During the test phase for new aircraft, European Aviation safety rules require the use of runways of a specific length, but as testing progresses, that minimum length can be reduced. For the SH09, takeoff and landing evaluations have already proved a runway shorter than 650 feet (200 meters) can be used, added Riccobono. Those tests took place at Kopter’s test and production facility in Mollis, Switzerland.
The aircraft is now being shipped to Pozzallo, Italy, for testing in warmer weather conditions, set to begin on March 11. The flight envelope will be further opened and “configuration upgrades in aerodynamics will be implemented,” said Riccobono.
P3 has yet to be retrofitted with a new main gearbox upper housing. “We have cleared the current housing for an envelope that is large enough for our flight tests to progress,” Riccobono explained. The existing part suffered from a quality issue and Kopter has found another supplier.
Kopter has also begun design reviews for PS4, the first pre-series aircraft. Kopter’s engineers are “pre-releasing the drawings to secure the long-lead items,” said Riccobono. Assembly has yet to begin.
“An important evolution is the enlarged cabin of PS4, allowing [the aircraft] to carry one more passenger – up to eight passengers in addition to the pilot, resulting from the new design of the fuel tank system,” the company said in a press release. The SH09’s payload capability is confirmed at 2,970 lb. (1,350 kg), while its take-off weight has been increased to 6,285 lb./2,850 kg (or 6,615 lb./3,000 kg for external loads), signaling a 440 lb. (200 kg) maximum takeoff weight increase.
PS4 will be used to develop mission configurations as well as test avionics, cabin interiors and optional equipment.
Kopter is also planning on building a second pre-series aircraft, PS5. It will be tested in both hot-and-high and low-temperature conditions.
Meanwhile, Kopter is developing with VRM Switzerland an innovative flight simulator. Thanks to virtual reality features, it will offer training capabilities that would otherwise be unaffordable in the world of single-engine helicopters, said Riccobono. The simulator’s motion platform has six degrees of freedom. The controls are conventional. “The rest is simulated,” said Riccobono, as the pilot is wearing virtual reality goggles – the instrument panel is virtual, for instance. The European Aviation Safety Agency is supporting the principle of such a VR simulator, he added.
Kopter plans to hire four pilots soon to set up a training academy.