Safran’s helicopter subsidiary Turbomeca could be back in the contest to provide the powerplant for the Z15 helicopter following China’s recent decision to re-evaluate the engine. Late last year, executives with Eurocopter’s EC 175 program indicated that discussions are under way for the possible launch of a new engine for the Chinese version of the medium twin.
In December 2005 when the program was launched as a joint venture between Eurocopter and China’s Avic group, Pratt & Whitney had been chosen over Turbomeca to provide the powerplant.
Turbomeca is offering the Chinese a more powerful version of its Ardiden turboshaft for the helicopter. The Z15 is not identical to the EC 175 and the differences, which have not yet been revealed, are said to be optional equipment and features. The new model is intended to fill the gap between the Dauphin and the Puma.
In other developments, the engine maker recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Civil Aviation Flight University of China (CAFUC) to develop training programs for initial helicopter engine maintenance, advanced courses in line maintenance and inspection of Turbomeca engines, and to train new engineers to work on future models of engines. The Turbomeca training network will work under a “training know-how manual,” based on more than 40 years of experience, to meet European EASA Part 147 standards and their local equivalents.
In a further bid to upgrade customer service, Turbomeca Asia Pacific and Helipartner have agreed on a strategic joint partnership to improve maintenance, repair and overhaul services offered to helicopter operators. Under the new service center agreement the partners will carry out maintenance on Turbomeca engines, with the work gradually becoming comprehensive, including engine removal module replacement. The aim is be more responsive to the needs of operators in markets such as Malaysia and Indonesia, eliminating the necessity to transport helicopters out of Asia for technical support.
Turbomeca Asia Pacific, whose staff of 32 provides support for more than 120 helicopter operators using 800 engines in over 16 countries, is one of 15 Turbomeca sites that manages maintenance, service and distribution centers in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila, with field representatives stationed in Malaysia, India, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Kuala Lumpur-based Helipartner is to be approved to provide level-three maintenance. The company also has branches in Norway and Indonesia, and is preparing to open a new facility Hong Kong.
Today, Turbomeca lays claim to being the leading provider of helicopter engines in China, with powerplants fitted on some 460 civil and military helicopters. The Chinese transport ministry recently ordered two EC 225 helicopters powered by Turbomeca Makila 2A1 engines.
The Safran group subsidiary’s activities in China began with an order from the Chinese army for Turmo III-powered Super Frelon helicopters from Aerospatiale, now Eurocopter, in the 1970s. Subsequently, Turbomeca and China’s Avic II group began working together, and the first license agreement, initiated by China National South Aero Engine Corp., was signed for production of the Arriel 1 engine in the 1980s.
In 2005, a cooperation agreement was signed with Avic for the delivery of 200 Arriel 2C engines (known in China as the WZ8C) under license, and in 2009 Avic itself placed an order for another 80 engines.
Turbomeca’s first joint venture with an Avic subsidiary was initiated in 2006 when it signed a contract with Beijing Changkong Machinery creating Beijing Turbomeca Changkong Aero-Engine Control Equipment Co. Ltd. The company assembles and tests the hydromechanical parts of turbine engines for Turbomeca and Beijing Changkong Machinery in their respective markets.