Eurocopter Developing a Number of New Helicopters
Eurocopter is currently working on three “X” projects–the X indicating they are more or less secret–to replace the Dauphin and Super Puma and an undetermined model. Meanwhile, the EC175 program has slipped a bit more to the right.
“On the X4, the supply chain is almost in place,” CEO Lutz Bertling said during a recent press conference in Paris. The X4 medium twin will replace the Dauphin series, also known under its AS365 and EC155 designations. The helicopter will be released in two versions, one in 2017 and one in 2020, the latter more capable than the former. Chief technology officer Jean-Brice Dumont confirmed the second version will feature fly-by-wire controls and an entirely new man-machine interface, probably a futuristic cockpit.
Beginning with the first version of the “more electric” helicopter, customers will be able to choose between Turbomeca and Pratt & Whitney Canada power. The TM800 and the PW210E will be rated at approximately 1,100 shp.
Eurocopter is also understood to be developing a Super Puma replacement for 2020, codenamed X6. According to previous statements by Bertling, one version of the X6 could be a compound. Eurocopter has tested a compound demonstrator, the X3, reaching 232 knots in 2011.
Referring to the X3 concept, Bertling confirmed the company is in “the early stages of development of a first product” but pointed out that the design office first has to agree with the authorities on a firm certification basis. He also hinted the aircraft might be more efficient than initially predicted, offering higher speeds without a significant increase in operating costs.
Rounding out the current X series is the X9, expected to enter service two years after the X6. AIN understands the X9 will have an mtow of less than 10,000 pounds.
Projects Near the Finish Line
Much farther along in development, the EC175 is approaching certification. The first delivery, initially scheduled for late last year, is now slated for the fourth quarter. Bertling declined to name the first customer for the 16,500-pound twin, saying the client does not want publicity yet.
Bertling attributes the EC175’s certification delay to two factors. First is the better-than-hoped-for speed and range, necessitating that the manufacturer revisit some aspects of certification.
Supplier delays on the Helionix avionics have also contributed to the slippage in the certification timetable. Eurocopter had already emphasized last year that “with Helionix, the EC175 is the first helicopter in Europe to adopt the latest international avionics standards [RTCA DO-297 and SAEARP 4754], following their introduction on the Airbus A380.” These standards call for more thorough testing of system architecture, functions, software and hardware, to “provide a more mature and reliable product” at entry into service. As a result of these tests, Eurocopter decided to add “two full software versions,” to ensure system maturity at delivery but adding time to the certification process.
Finally, the EC145T2 has entered the last stages of the certification program and Dumont is confident the EASA will certify the upgraded light twin this year.