EC 175 begins flight-test program

 - December 28, 2009, 6:25 AM

The prototype of the Eurocopter EC 175 made its “official maiden flight” on December 17, almost two weeks after its actual first flight on December 4 in Marignane, France. The flight-test phase is now well under way. The event, attended by customers, employees, suppliers and journalists, was also the opportunity for Eurocopter to highlight the cooperation with China’s Avicopter. The European manufacturer has received letters of intent for 114 EC 175s.

The December 17 flight was actually the sixth for the prototype, and by December 17 the flight test crew had taken the helicopter to 140 knots. Moreover, the flight on December 4–the helicopter’s first–lasted one hour and 10 minutes. “This is exceptional and shows how mature the helicopter is,” flight-test engineer Patrick Bremond noted. Usually, a first flight lasts about 20 minutes and is followed by two weeks of work on the ground, he said.

Few performance numbers are available yet. The target cruise speed is understood to be approximately 140 knots. The radius of action offshore at ISA+20, with 16 passengers, will be 270 nm. Maximum range, “with very few passengers,” will be 700 nm. Two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67E turboshafts supply around 2,000 shp each.

Chinese Partnership

Avicopter, Eurocopter’s Chinese partner on the helicopter, delivered the airframe for Eurocopter’s second prototype on the same day. That aircraft is expected to fly late this year.

Avicopter is producing the Z15 based on a “common standard vehicle” with Eurocopter. The prototype (PT2) for that helicopter–the only prototype for the Chinese Z15–will fly at an undetermined date but AIN understands this will not take place until next year or 2012.

The Chinese company is building the entire airframe, including flight controls, and is developing the tail-rotor transmission and the fuel system.

“It is also responsible for some equipment integration–namely the landing gear and the engine,” program director Francis Combes told AIN. Finally, Avicopter builds the main rotor. Eurocopter’s responsibilities consist of the main gearbox, the tail rotor, doors, electric systems and the entire avionics system, including the autopilot.

The two firms have invested a total €600 million in development, through the definition of the production standard. This is where the Europeans and the Chinese part ways. The helicopters will have different options, including hoist, emergency floats, cabin interior and so on.

Two separate certification pro-cesses will be undertaken with the EASA and China’s CAAC.