Eurocopter flight tests 'EC146,' an upgraded EC145

 - February 24, 2011, 7:02 AM

Eurocopter is believed to be working on an improved EC145–possibly to be designated the EC146, if recent trademark filings are any clue–featuring a fenestron shrouded tail rotor and Fadec-controlled engines. Aircraft spotter photographs reveal the light twin is already in flight test. An industry source told AIN that customers have been clamoring for Fadec since the commercial launch of the EC145 program. Swiss rescue organization Rega is one of the EC145 customers pushing for Fadec. The 145’s current Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshafts have no Fadec, requiring the pilot to monitor parameters closely while starting the engines. This can be demanding during rescue operations, when the crew is often launching from unprepared takeoff areas. While the fenestron is a plus for ground safety, its sensitivity to crosswinds suggests it might not satisfy BK117/EC145 pilots who have long wanted more tail-rotor power. A Eurocopter spokesperson would not confirm the existence of the program.