Eurocopter to accelerate EC175 program

 - October 27, 2010, 6:08 AM

Eurocopter continues to flight-test its new medium twin, the EC175, and says it is on target for EASA certification in next year’s second half.

Expansion of the flight envelope is progressing well, program director Francis Combes told AIN.  Only one prototype, PT1, has flown since the flight-test program began in early December last year. The second test aircraft, PT3, is slated to fly late this year and will be dedicated to certification testing.

“PT1 is for debugging and for freezing aerodynamic shapes and solving vibration issues,” Combes explained, and his team wants to fly PT1 enough (“quite a lot of hours”) so that PT3 will be as close as possible to the final, certified configuration. As of late September, PT1 had logged about 70 hours aloft in 80 flights. By year-end, the plan is to put the 100th flight hour in the prototype’s logbook.

So far the EC175 has achieved a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet, said to be “on target,” and test pilots have taken the helicopter to its 175-knot Vne. Testing at this juncture suggests the cruise speed will be close to 140 knots. “We have flown in hot temperatures but not a lot in cold weather,” Combes added.

He would not disclose the precise mtow of the seven-metric-ton-class (15,000- pound-class) helicopter. In offshore operations, with its maximum load of 16 passengers, the EC175 will have a radius of action of 90 nm. Ferry range is 680 nm.

Few details are available about the cockpit, for which Eurocopter is the ­integrator. “We author the software and the core system,” Combes said. He did reveal that the panel will have four six- by eight-inch displays. A major feature will be ­prioritized information delivery, ­especially in the event of a failure. The autopilot builds on that of the EC225 and will be “even better,” he claimed.

While Eurocopter expects to achieve EASA certification in next year’s second half, “the most difficult work still has to be done,” Combes noted. The design team has been working closely with the certification authorities for three years and hopes this relationship will make the approval process smoother. Already demonstrated is the ability of the main gearbox to operate 30 minutes without oil.

On the MSG-3 standard for lighter, tailored maintenance, Combes reported progress again but said it was laborious. “It is new for us and new for the EASA, too,” he noted. The company completed a significant step with EASA approval of the policy procedure handbook, but there is more work to be done, Combes said.

The manufacturer has what it calls “purchase intentions” for 114 copies of the helicopter but has not yet begun converting these to firm orders. “We want to progress a bit more before we commit on aircraft performance, which is on target or even better,” Combes said. Conversions should begin early next year.