Certification of the EC145T2, an upgraded version of Eurocopter’s light twin, is now expected next spring rather than this year, as originally planned. Program leader Manfred Merk attributed the delay to longer-than-expected aerodynamic and avionics development work.
“It took us one month to solve a problem that was appearing in sideways flight,” Merk said. The helicopter was shaking, a certification red flag, so the engineers recontoured the edge of the vertical tail fin and the mod proved successful.
The flight deck also proved more challenging than anticipated. The EC145T2 builds on the same Helionix core used in the EC175. In fact, the EC175 program itself has been delayed by Helionix’s development. “We could not run the two Helionix efforts in parallel so the EC175 leads and the EC145T2 follows,” Merk added.
Helionix is designed to help the pilot look outside rather than look down and focus on instruments, Merk emphasized. So-called smart screens, while lacking touch controls, have saved weight because they provide some computing capacity. A four-axis autopilot will be standard on the T2.
The engine, the Turbomeca Arriel 2E, was certified last December. An upgrade of the Arriel 1E2, it features a new axial compressor, new blade material and dual-channel Fadec. Its takeoff power is 894 shp. Although fuel burn has increased, the payload-range diagram remains unchanged thanks to a 4-percent larger fuel tank, Merk said.
The upgraded helicopter reduces direct maintenance costs by 8 to 10 percent, says Eurocopter, thereby more than offsetting the higher fuel consumption. First, the engine’s 6,000-hour TBO is a major gain over the 3,500 hours typical for previous-generation turboshafts. Furthermore, the new avionics should help streamline the shop visit schedule, thanks to their maintenance data analysis function. Finally, the new tail design, with a shrouded fenestron rotor and no intermediate gearbox, lowers maintenance costs.
Eurocopter has received orders for 80 copies of its new light twin, keeping the production line fully booked until the end of 2015. Customers can be found primarily in the EMS, police and corporate markets, according to Merk. First delivery is planned for the middle of next year.