Helitech 2011: Two French Designs Vying for R22’s Spot

 - November 1, 2011, 9:00 AM
Heli Air Design

At Helitech 2011, two French companies, Hélicoptères Guimbal and Heli Air Design, exhibited light two-seaters they claim bring new technology to a market dominated by the Robinson R22.

While Guimbal received EASA certification in 2007 and has delivered almost 30 Cabri G2s, Heli Air Design, a subsidiary of precision manufacturing company Serolor, has yet to fly its Helineo. The main difference between the two aircraft is the engine; Guimbal’s Cabri uses a piston, while a turboshaft drives the Helineo.

Guimbal has delivered 28 aircraft to customers in countries such as France, Germany, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. The helicopter maker recently received its first repeat order, from Germany’s Heli Aviation. That company has flown 1,500 hours in 14 months with its two Cabris and ordered another two.

Guimbal has previously set a goal of producing two helicopters per month and might meet that objective next year. “We now have enough staff and hardware,” founder and CEO Bruno Guimbal told AIN. There are 25 employees at the Aix-en-Provence factory. Last year the company delivered only 13 helicopters, despite a more ambitious goal. One challenge has been to have reliable suppliers–and not to disappoint them when it comes to actually buying their components, Guimbal said.

The order book for the Cabri extends through the first half of next year. The list price stands at €275,000 (about $385,000). The announced specifications include a 90-knot economy cruise speed and an empty weight of 940 pounds.

Meanwhile, the Helineo has completed its ground tests. As of late September, the company expected the first takeoff–originally scheduled for July–to take place in “the coming weeks.” The aircraft is an all-composite design, although the prototype has some metal in the tailboom.

The turboshaft is a 160-shp Solar T62 T-32. In fact, the T62 is known mostly as an auxiliary power unit and is available only on the second-hand market. For the Helineo, Heli Air Design claims a cruise speed of 90 knots and an empty weight of 660 pounds.

The target price for a complete aircraft is €250,000 ($350,000). Deliveries of the kit version (slightly less expensive) are slated to begin in next year’s second half. Then, LSA2/ELA2 certification is expected in 2013.

Heli Air Design is hoping for additional funding in the coming months. The hoped-for partner is “experienced in aerospace.”