HAI Convention News

Tiny French-made Cabri takes on Robinson’s R22

 - February 18, 2008, 11:49 AM

Guimbal Hélicoptères, a French startup company, announced it has received EASA certification for its light twin-seater, the Cabri G2. Bruno Guimbal, the designer of the small piston-engine helicopter, told HAI Convention News he has received 12 firm orders to date.

The Cabri is a Eurocopter-sanctioned challenger to the Robinson R22. It has been designed with three primary missions in mind–training, aerial work and private transportation. It is powered by a 145-hp Lycoming O-360 engine and is equipped with digital spark control and silent exhaust. The empty weight is 940 pounds, while mtow is 1,540 pounds. Maximum speed is 100 knots and cruise speed is 90 knots (at 85 percent power). With a total fuel capacity of 45 gallons, endurance is five hours, which translates to about 460 nm of range.

The biggest difference between existing two-seat helicopters and the Cabri lies in the French design’s technological enhancements and flight qualities rather than its performance, Guimbal said. The airframe is made from carbon-epoxy composite material, for example. The fuel system and the seats meet the latest crashworthiness standards.

The affiliation with Eurocopter came naturally. Guimbal used to work for Eurocopter and there are several Eurocopter family features included in his design. For example, the multifunction display is Eurocopter-style, the three-blade main rotor rotates counter-clockwise and the tailrotor is shrouded.

“Stating that the Cabri is part of Eurocopter’s range of products is not correct,” Guimbal said. “However, I hope the Cabri will become a natural step before entering the Eurocopter world.”

On February 8, Eurocopter officially announced an order for one firm and two optional Cabris. These are slated for delivery to the manufacturer’s training centers.
The biggest commercial challenge for the Cabri centers on the R22’s market dominance. Moreover, the euro-dollar exchange rate remains strongly in favor of the U.S. rotorcraft. The Cabri sells for ?248,000 ($360,000), while the R22 is priced at $240,000, according to Guimbal.

French-based operator Ixair is the Cabri’s launch customer, with 10 orders, five of which are firm. The first delivery is pegged for late March. Asked about the price gap with the R22 (which the Cabri will partly replace in Ixair’s fleet), Mathias Senes, sales director for Ixair, said the comparison is irrelevant.

“There are 30 years or so between the two aircraft, just like the difference between a Bell 206 and a Eurocopter EC 120,” he said, insisting the design quality of the Cabri, thanks to Eurocopter’s involvement, is superior to that of the Robinson. Moreover, longer engine TBOs on the Cabri offset the acquisition price over a lifecycle, he claimed.

Since the beginning of the Cabri program, Eurocopter had wanted to draw a line of distinction between itself and Guimbal Hélicoptéres. As Guimbal told HAI Convention News, “When I left Eurocopter in 2000 to create my own business, senior management encouraged me but made it clear they wanted a clear separation.”

Nevertheless, the two firms also have formed a joint venture, Vertivision, to develop an unmanned derivative of the Cabri.