Eurocopter details oil-and-gas EC175 development schedule

 - May 27, 2011, 4:40 AM

Eurocopter released details late in April about the development of the seven-metric-ton-class EC175 twin, confirming plans for type certification this year but clarifying that a complementary certification for the offshore oil-and-gas configuration is expected by the middle of next year. This configuration has features such as emergency flotation gear, life rafts, radio navigation system and dual FMS, Tcas II and air conditioning. The company is also studying quick-role-change versions.

The second prototype, the oil-and-gas configuration, has been flying since December. It is “close to its final version, as it includes all the aerodynamic modifications that have been integrated over the course of the program,” Eurocopter said. The first and second prototypes are continuing with their respective EASA, FAA and Transport Canada certification processes in parallel.

The first production airframe arrived at the manufacturer’s Marignane, France factory from China, where Avicopter is Eurocopter’s partner in the 50-50 joint program, in December. It is undergoing final assembly and is expected to fly by year-end. This aircraft will be used for the aforementioned complementary certification. It will also be the platform for the certification of an “ice protection system” by 2016.

The second and third production airframes will reach Marignane mid-year. They will be used to assemble the first two medium twins to be delivered to offshore operator Bristow. Delivery is expected by the end of next year.

The MSG-3 maintenance program is said to be on schedule. The first milestone was the EASA’s nod for the policy and procedure handbook. Eurocopter is now saying that the maintenance review board, a collaborative effort between the company and the certification authorities, is validating the maintenance program for each of the aircraft’s subsystems. Eurocopter previously made it clear MSG-3 was a major challenge, since this process was devised for fixed-wing aircraft.

As for training, Spain-based Indra will manufacture the first full-flight simulator, which will be installed in Marignane “in time to train pilots ahead of the first deliveries.”

Meanwhile, Eurocopter is working on two quick-change variants of the EC175. The first one will allow the conversion from oil-and-gas worker transport to a search-and-rescue (SAR) configuration “in minutes.” It will include a searchlight, dual rescue hoist, Flir and an autopilot system derived from that of the EC225 SAR . This version is planned to be ready by 2014. Eurocopter is also considering converting the oil-and-gas interior into a more comfortable corporate layout.