Marenco Swisshelicopter on Feb. 1 announced that it was rebranding its fast-growing business. The company said the name change to Kopter marks a new chapter in the company's history, as it progresses through its flight test program and transitions from an engineering company to a manufacturing company. Kopter Group was founded in 2007 to develop, build, and support a new generation of turbine helicopters. Its SH09 single-engine helicopter offers a large cabin/cargo volume, excellent hot and high performance, and modular configuration.
The SH09 first flew Oct. 2, 2014, in Switzerland. With a maximum takeoff weight of 5,842 pounds, it will carry a pilot and up to seven passengers. Powered by a 1,020-shaft-horsepower Honeywell HTS 900 turbine engine, it will offer a maximum range of 430 nautical miles and cruise as fast as 140 knots.
Kopter displayed the second SH09 prototype at Heli-Expo 2018 in Las Vegas. Prototype 3 is being prepared to continue the flight test program. P3 and pre-series aircraft PS04 both will be used to obtain European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification, followed shortly by FAA validation. First deliveries are anticipated in 2019.
As a sign of its progress to date, Kopter Group received Design Organization Approval (DOA) from EASA on Feb. 21. The certification is a major milestone for Kopter, and makes it eligible to receive the SH09 type certificate, which is planned for early 2019.
Kopter announced a number of orders for the SH09 at Heli-Expo. Helitrans AS, one of Norway’s largest helicopter operators, has placed a firm order for 12 aircraft with an option for up to six more. Helitrans AS was founded in 1990 and currently operates a fleet of 17 multipurpose helicopters based at eight locations in Norway.
The first announced U.S. deliveries will be four SH09s for Paradise Helicopters, which will use them for air tours and charters in Hawaii. Paradise is based in Waikoloa, Hawaii. "The entire team is thrilled to be a launching partner, and looks forward to the certification and fielding of this new, powerful helicopter into the air tour and charter markets in Hawaii," said Calvin Dorn, CEO of Paradise Helicopters.
Rainier Heli International Inc. also has contracted to purchase five SH09 helicopters, with options for up to five more. The company was founded by aerial tour pioneer Elling Halvorson, who also founded and serves as chairman of Papillon Group, one of the longest-running family-owned helicopter tour companies in the world.
The company will continue to focus on the U.S. market. On Feb. 16 it appointed Larry Roberts as senior vice president of U.S. business development, responsible for the sales and marketing of the SH09 in North America.
Roberts has worked in the U.S. commercial helicopter industry for the past 20 years, including for American Eurocopter Corp. (now Airbus Helicopters Inc.) and Bell. Before he entered the commercial helicopter market in 1997, Roberts served as captain of criminal investigations for the Citrus County, Florida, sheriff’s department and as patrolman and watch commander for the Gainesville, Florida, police department. He was a founding member of the Gainesville Police helicopter unit. Roberts will be based in the Dallas area.