The “Splash of the Day” award for the opening day of Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando must surely go to Airbus Helicopters for its big reveal of the H160 mid-sized helicopter. The new twin Turbomeca-powered helicopter is the first developed by the company under its new brand.
Airbus Helicopters debuted a year ago at the Helicopter Association International show as a rebranding of the former Eurocopter products. A flashy corporate video in front of thousands of attendees on the Heli-Expo exhibit hall floor kicked off the spectacle as a black drape fell to reveal a full-scale mockup of the sleek all-composite H160, which features new Blue Edge main rotor blades. The company claims the swept tips reduced exterior noise levels by 50 percent and allow an increased gross weight compared to traditional blades. The tail section carries the largest Fenestron shrouded tail rotor ever produced and the Airbus Biplane Stabilizer, a staggered placement of dual-level, interconnected stabilizers. The design improves low-speed and hover performance.
The lightweight composite fuselage, the first ever in a commercial helicopter, combined with the 1,100 shaft horsepower Arrano engine promises a 15- to 20-percent improvement in fuel burn, allowing the 160-knot ship to carry 12 passengers up to 120 nautical miles or, with full fuel, to marathon out to 450 nm with a 20-minute reserve. The former mission is ideal for offshore oil rig ops, the latter an ideal profile for public service and search-and-rescue missions.
Airbus originally announced the project back in 2011 and suggested there would be two different engine options, one of which would be Pratt & Whitney. More recently, when the company decided it needed more horsepower, Pratt & Whitney was dropped from the option list and Turbomeca became standard.
The H160 will begin “bench flying” in March and is expected to enter into service in 2018.
Among the tasks under the new Airbus Helicopters brand was to consolidate and simplify the product line’s naming structure. The various and confusing product names came about because of a series of mergers going back decades. In the 1990s, Germany’s MBB and France’s Aerospatiale merged to form Eurocopter. The combined product lines led to plenty of confusing names, some of them hybrids of both companies, such as EC130, AS365 N3+, AS565 MBE, EC135 T3/P3, EC145 T2, and then, simply the Tiger. Tour operators in particular had come to love the AStar and TwinStar names, which the company assures you can continue to use even though the models now uniformly begin with an H—something else learned from Airbus, which makes airplanes that have product names that logically begin with A, such as the A320 and the A380. So now from Airbus Helicopters, look for products called the H120, the H130, the H135, and so on. Military variants will append an M to the end of the model name, such as the H725M.
Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters President and CEO Guillaume Faury is focused on leveraging the safety expertise that is part of the culture on the airplane side of the operation. All new helicopters will have safety as an underpinning of development, he assured. To that end, the company has introduced a flight crew operations manual for H225 customers with FCOMs coming for other models soon—an industry first, according to Faury. The manuals for standardized operations are developed in conjunction with customers and industry, he said.
Confident in the new emphasis on safety and performance, the company also introduced extended warranties on new products, three years or 2,000 hours with labor included for the first year.