It was much ado about something as Eurocopter unveiled its new EC 175 medium twin yesterday at its booth (No. 631) in the main Heli-Expo hall. As the curtain dropped and the spotlights came up, the full-scale mockup was revealed in shades of gray and carrying 16 passengers dressed as offshore oil workers.
Doing the honors of presenting the newest Eurocopter was company president and CEO Lutz Bertling, who noted that the program, launched two years ago, is on schedule for certification and first deliveries. The design was frozen in December, production has begun on the first prototype and EASA certification is expected in 2011, he said.
Bertling also introduced William Chiles, president and CEO of Bristow Group, the EC 175 launch customer. Bristow operates a fleet of some 550 helicopters, primarily in support of the offshore oil and gas industry. The UK-based operator was part of a customer advisory committee for design of the EC 175 and expects to take the first five off the production line and seven of the first 20. The first delivery is expected in 2012.
Chiles said the EC 175 was “designed to mission,” and in terms of range (more than 200 nm), capacity (16 passengers) and safety. “It’s what we wanted.”
The EC 175 is a joint program with China and the airframe will be produced by Harbin Aviation Industry Group. “Being here in Houston, capital of the oil and gas industry, offshore operators will be pleased to hear that the EC 175 has been designed to be ready to best perform their mission, with more than 40 equipment options available from the beginning,” Bertling said.
The EC 175 will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT6C-67E engines. Technology advances include four-axis, digital automatic flight controls; glass cockpit and avionics suite; and a five-blade Spheriflex main rotor. Eurocopter claims it will be the quietest helicopter in its class and that it will also emit the least pollution per transported passenger.
Also present at the ceremonies here was Ken Norie, president and CEO of VIH Aviation Group of Canada. VIH, also heavily involved in support of the offshore oil and gas industry, is the EC 175’s Canadian launch customer.
Both Bristow Group and VIH Aviation Group have been launch customers for previous Eurocopter models.