Eurocopter advocates green ratings

Aviation International News » October 2010
September 30, 2010, 6:30 AM

Eurocopter is proposing CO2 and noise ratings to make the environmental performance of its helicopters–and those of its competitors–visible at a glance. The letters A through E could replace the current “x pounds of CO2 per hour” or “y EPNdB.” In a number of countries, electric household appliances can be compared using such a rating system for energy consumption.

Presenting noise data is quite straightforward because ICAO already has standards for takeoff, flight and approach phases. “We just created categories using the letter A through E,” Jean-Michel Billig, Eurocopter’s executive v-p of research and development, told AIN. An A rating signifies that the noise level is 4 to 6 EPN dB below ICAO’s current standards.

CO2 emissions are proportional to fuel burn. Eurocopter has chosen to measure them per flight hour “because simple transport flights from point A to point B represent 30 percent of the missions performed by helicopters,” Billig explained. The automotive industry expresses emission levels in terms of distance traveled. “We received positive feedback from our European competitor [AgustaWestland],” Billig continued.

Three flight phases are being taken into account–hover, best endurance speed and maximum speed (or 120 knots for those that can fly faster). A working group within the American Helicopter Society (AHS) is trying to determine a weighting system for the three phases of flight. “We are trying to determine whether hover, for example, should account for 20 percent or 30 percent of the final number,” Billig said.

Who will publish the new environmental categories? “ICAO would be a good idea. AHS [would be] as well,” Billig suggested.

He added that technological progress could draw a lot of aircraft into the “A” category, calling for revision of the classes in future. In addition, other criteria–such as nitrous oxide emissions–could be added. However, this would call for the helicopter manufacturer to reach an agreement with the engine maker.

AgustaWestland, Bell and Sikorsky declined to comment on the initiative.

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