Two helo makers–Eurocopter and Bell–have thrown their proverbial hats into the medium-twin market. Eurocopter, in partnership with China’s Avicopter, has entered with the EC175, while Bell’s recently announced Magellan has yet to reach the drawing board.
Eurocopter currently is flying two EC175 prototypes, and is expecting EASA certification later this year, with deliveries to begin next year.
The EC175 also is directed at a diverse clientele, including coastal patrol. At last year’s Heli-Expo the company unveiled a SAR concept demonstrator of the helicopter that included a 360-degree search radar, an electro-optical system, high-intensity searchlight, two class-one rescue hoists, bubble windows and additional aircraft lighting.
Eurocopter says the EC175 is ideally suited for SAR because of its large cabin and extra-wide, sliding passenger doors. The cabin area is large to accommodate multiple casualties and an extensive amount of medical equipment, while the doors ease hoist operations. The EC175’s avionics suite, integrated and designed by Eurocopter, also complements SAR operations. It includes a digital four-axis automatic flight control system (AFCS) linked to the flight management system that provides area navigation and automatic search patterns.
Bell Helicopter announced the launch of the Magellan program in a company memo circulated to its employees January 19. The new helicopter widely is believed to be a medium-twin replacement for the venerable 412–a basic airframe design that dates back to the early 1960s--and is to be aimed primarily at the superheated deepwater offshore oil and gas market. The memo said the Magellan is a follow-on to “Project X.” It also is believed that it will have civil and military applications, but Bell declined to comment on the memo, sent by Jeff Lowinger, vice president of engineering, and Larry Roberts, senior vice president for commercial programs. A Bell spokeswoman said the company will not be releasing further details on the program here at Heli-Expo.
While giving few details, the memo said the Magellan is part of a strategy to provide customers with a “comprehensive product line-up that best meets or exceeds their operational requirements.”
The memo disclosed that a customer advisory panel already had been formed for the Magellan and that Larry Thimmesch, vice president of commercial programs, will lead the development team.
The memo further stated that the Magellan would differentiate itself from the competition “by applying an intensive effort of listening and meeting our customers’ needs into the product definition.”
If it is a medium-twin, the Magellan would be Bell’s second attempt at fielding a replacement for the 412. In 1998 the company had formed a joint venture with AgustaWestland to develop what is now the AW139, but was forced to recuse itself from that project to meet the resource demands of the military V-22 Osprey tiltrotor program. Subsequently, the AW139 has grown into an unchallenged commercial success, with more than 300 delivered and nearly 500 ordered.
Deliveries of the AW139 began in 2003 and it has attracted a diverse clientele, including oil and gas, police, air ambulance, executive and coastal patrol. Maritime, border patrol and security agencies from countries including Japan, Malaysia, the UK, U.S., Spain, Estonia, Cyprus, South Korea, UAE and Italy, have selected or are already operating the helicopter. A militarized variant badged the AW149 also is in development.