Eurocopter's Upgraded Models Coming Soon

 - October 4, 2011, 12:35 AM
The EC145T2 will feature not only a “fenestron” shrouded tailrotor and Fadec-controlled engines but also a new avionics suite, including a high-end autopilot. Certification is expected next year.

Eurocopter is upgrading most of its product range, with the goal of providing improved performance and reduced costs. The manufacturer is reporting progress on the developments of the AS350B3e Ecureuil (AStar), EC135T2e/P2e, EC145T2, AS365N3e and Super Puma L1e/C1e. All were announced at Heli-Expo 2011 in February.

The AS350B3e, the latest version of the venerable light single, was certified in June, Eurocopter reported late this summer. The helicopter has a 950-shp Turbomeca Arriel 2D in place of the 848-shp Arriel 2C1 engine of its predecessor. The Arriel 2D features a new axial compressor, new blade material and a dual-channel Fadec. It is said to provide better performance for lower fuel consumption.

Even with an inlet particle separator, performance remains unchanged, according to Eurocopter. In addition, the maximum takeoff power can be maintained for 30 minutes instead of five. The initial 4,000-hour TBO is expected to increase to 6,000 hours.

The tail-rotor design of the B3e has been simplified, reducing the number of checks the pilot must perform before starting. In addition, there are fewer tail-rotor maintenance requirements, allowing Eurocopter to increase check intervals on the helicopter, from 100 to 150 hours and 500 to 600 hours.

On the EC135 light twin, Eurocopter has added 88 pounds to the mtow. Combined with existing margins, the increase allows for the addition of another passenger, one of the designers explained to AIN. “The experience logged on the type, about two million flight hours, has allowed us to expand the weight envelope,” he said. Certification is pegged for this autumn. Retrofits will be available.

In response to customer demand, Eurocopter is also upgrading the larger EC145 with a fenestron shrouded tail rotor and Fadec-controlled engines. The new tail rotor ensures quieter operation, according to Eurocopter. The T2’s tail rotor also has redundant hydraulics.

The Fadec engines should simplify engine start, an important feature for the air rescue crews who fly the EC145. When they start the engines, they have to look at the engine parameters while watching outside for possible upcoming hazards in the usually unprepared takeoff area.

The new engines will be more powerful than the older ones, providing 894 shp for takeoff instead of 738 shp. Turbomeca will offer a “special 30-minute power rating for occasional use.” The TBO will begin at 4,000 hours before being raised to 6,000 hours, “at maturity.”

Performance test results will be released in March, with helicopter certification planned for late next year. The new Helionix avionics suite (to be adapted to other models, including the EC175) is still to be flight-tested, too.

Avionics Upgrades

Eurocopter is installing the EC225’s four-axis autopilot on the EC145T2 to reduce pilot workload and improve safety in poor weather. The new system will be able to fly SBAS (Waas or Egnos) lateral precision with vertical guidance (LPV) approaches to hospitals. Steep approaches can be automated “almost until hover.”

The T2 will replace its predecessor after a transition period during which both models (the conventional EC145 and the upgraded EC145T2) will be produced.

Eurocopter’s factory in Donauwörth, Germany, claims to have found quicker processes for final assembly of the T2.

Meanwhile, another aging airframe, the AS365 Dauphin, is being updated. New Turbomeca Arriels are slated to provide 15 percent more power. Unlike the 2Cs now in use on the N3+, the new engines will have dual-channel Fadecs. One-engine-inoperative operation is to be improved, Eurocopter says, thanks to the introduction of the main transmission gearbox of the EC155, a new Starflex rotor head and a reinforced rotor mast.

The mtow will be increased from approximately 9,500 to 9,900 pounds. With the more powerful engines, this should translate into three additional passengers in Category A helipad SL/ISA+20 conditions. The new capacity will thus be nine or 10 passengers for a radius of action of 100 nm, according to Eurocopter. At 5,000 feet, ISA+20 conditions, the extra payload should be 620 pounds.

Inside the cockpit, the crew should benefit from the EC225’s four-axis autopilot. A vehicle engine management display (to reduce pilot workload) and an integrated standby instrument system will be standard. A 10.4-inch screen will display moving map, weather/search radar, Tcas and H-Taws (EGPWS) information.

The European manufacturer projects that the changes on the N3e will reduce maintenance costs by 10 percent. Certification of the N3e variant is planned for 2013, with customer deliveries scheduled to follow late that year.

Eurocopter’s heaviest helicopter in the civil market, the Super Puma, is also to benefit from new equipment. The AS332L1e/C1e (the long and short variant of the airframe, respectively) will benefit from the EC225’s autopilot. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, it ensures some flight-envelope protection. One of the inputs the autopilot receives is the available power from the engines (or the engine, in case the second one is inoperative), from which it calculates some limitations. In addition, the Super Puma’s autopilot offers automated procedures for takeoff, transition to hover and engine failure. These are soft limits, however, as pilot action has priority over the system in case of an emergency maneuver, Eurocopter points out.

Another autopilot feature is vortex-avoidance laws. Finally, to prevent controlled flight into terrain, Eurocopter has programmed into the system an automated stabilization at 65 feet above the ground. This is useful in case the pilot specifies a negative vertical speed without setting a level-off altitude. Certification of the AS332’s “e” variant, once announced for mid-2011, is now expected “by the end of the year.”

Eurocopter declined to provide pricing information for the new versions.