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It’s no secret that tough times have been had in the helicopter industry, but this has not stopped Airbus Helicopters. On the contrary–the leader in the civil and parapublic market yet again this year continues to set its sights on providing the best helicopters and services to customers who protect, serve, save lives and transport citizens in the safest and most efficient way possible.
Thanks to a robust product development and internationalization strategy, the company is drawing closer to customers in key emerging markets, improving its existing products and setting the standard for the future of rotary-wing aviation.
At this year’s Helitech International Helicopter Expo and Conference, Airbus Helicopters will showcase on stand No. C100 an H145 for emergency medical services (EMS) use, as well as a private and business aviation (PBA) H125.
Building on its leadership in the PBA market, Airbus Helicopters launched last May Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH), offering a unique level of quality finish, craftsmanship and bespoke service for the most demanding requirements. The versatile H125 is a go-to aircraft for multiple missions, with more than 4,500 in operation around the world.
The twin-engine H145 is one of the company’s best sellers for EMS, law enforcement and offshore wind turbine missions. Since the beginning of the year, German company Wiking Helikopter Service has been flying the first H145 in offshore configuration to operate in the North Sea.
Wiking transports men and equipment to offshore wind power platforms and facilities, a mission that requires helicopters to meet the most stringent safety, performance and cost-effectiveness requirements. With most of its flights taking place in the colder months of the year when the sea is too rough to transport people by boat, Wiking relies on the power and reliability of the H145.
Another reason for the success of the H145 in this specific mission is its increased maximum power with one engine inoperative (OEI) and the ability to hover outside ground effect for two minutes. This allows Wiking to carry an additional 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of payload, which is crucial for offshore wind farm operations.
A considerable advantage of the large and diverse Airbus Helicopters fleet is the true standardization in the cockpit, thanks to the in-house designed avionics system, Helionix.
Available on the H175, H145, H135 and the future H160, Helionix has been hailed by users for its intuitive human machine interface and autopilot, allowing pilots to concentrate on the mission rather than multiple instrument feeds and inputs. The rotary-wing element of the U.K. Military Flying Training System was the first program to benefit from Helionix across its H135 and H145 fleets, with the customer’s initial fielding team demonstrating how the commonality Helionix offers can help optimize the training experience and ease transition to frontline aircraft.
To date, Airbus Helicopters has already delivered all three contracted H145 aircraft and 12 of the 29 H135s on order–all fitted with the latest standard Helionix system. Two additional Helionix H135s are scheduled for delivery to NOLAS and DRF this year. The H135 is the unbeaten market leader in light, twin-engine, multi-purpose helicopters.
Earlier this summer, the heavy twin H215 helicopter, a member of the world-renowned Super Puma family, demonstrated its multi-mission capabilities for firefighting, power line missions, law enforcement, and passenger transportation during its debut demo tour in China–a key country for Airbus Helicopters’ development.
The two-week-long tour took the H215 on ferry flights from Zhuhai to Shenzhen to Lijiang, covering more than 2,000 kilometers (more than 1,200 miles) and attesting in real time to its excellent long range capabilities, power, speed, and large useful payload. The highly robust and versatile H215 is perfectly suited to meet China’s growing demand for heavy helicopters as it prepares to build up its forest aerial surveillance and firefighting capabilities.
It will easily complement the current fleet of nearly 40 Super Puma aircraft already in the country. Airbus Helicopters is the leader in the civil turbine market in China with a market share of about 40 percent, and has seen steady annual growth of about 20 percent over the past five years. Construction has begun on the H135 final assembly line (FAL) in Qingdao, which is the first FAL established by a Western helicopter manufacturer in the country.
The H160, unveiled at Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando, Florida, is pioneering changes in the way Airbus Helicopters designs, industrializes and supports helicopters with new development tools such as the system helicopter zero and the dynamic helicopter zero and three traditional prototypes, all aiming to bring the aircraft to a level of operational maturity at entry into service. By July 2017, the two flying prototypes had culminated around 500 flight hours and were expected to be joined at the end of the summer by a third prototype.
“We will be continuing flight demos in the second semester for potential customers so that they can experience first-hand the advantages of Helionix and the incredible cockpit visibility,” said Bernard Fujarski, senior vice president and head of the H160 program. “They will also experience the new standard in vibration levels even at high speeds and the groundbreaking advance in sound control provided by the Blue Edge blades,” he added.
While the prototypes continue certification testing like this summer’s hot weather campaign, ahead of entry into service in 2019, the H160 program has been focusing on preparing the industrialization and the maintenance aspects of the serial aircraft. During the summer, one of the prototypes was used during the Operator Zero campaign to mature the maintenance plan, the technical publications and support tools prior to entry into service. Airbus Helicopters will inaugurate the H160’s brand new integrated final assembly line which will start operations at the end of 2017.
The H175, coming to a platform near you
The H175 has made a strong debut in the oil-and-gas world, demonstrating a new standard in comfort and reliability in offshore operations and having flown more than 10,000 hours to date.
There are currently 13 H175s flying for offshore transportation for three different customers in the North Sea and one in the Gulf of Mexico, as the H175 makes its mark in this mission segment. The H175 provides outstanding performance and unmatched cost efficiency, offering low direct maintenance costs (DMC) for its class.
The maximum take-off weight (MTOW) extension to 7.8 tonnes was certified end of 2016 and will be introduced in all H175s this year. Customers appreciate its excellent handling characteristics, speed and range, and passengers are impressed with the cabin comfort, smooth ride and low sound levels.
In the North Sea, the H175 can already be seen flying out of Aberdeen, Den Helder and Ejberg.