Heli-Expo 2011: Eurocopter Takes Wraps Off Its EC145T2

 - March 6, 2011, 10:25 AM

With dry ice, bright lights, loud music, CEO Lutz Bertling in the cockpit and four glamorous passengers in helmets and flight suits, Eurocopter rolled out its newest helicopter here at Heli-Expo shortly after the convention opened yesterday morning. The EC145T2 introduces a fenestron, new engines, a new main gearbox and what Bertling described as “25 percent more mission performance” than its predecessor. Four operators have already signed up for 17 copies of the new helicopter.

The EC145T2 takes a platform well proven by the 2.8 million hours logged by the BK117/EC145 and replaces the original Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshafts with dual-Fadec Arriel 2Es for a boost in power that is especially apparent with one engine inoperative. The new helicopter also gets a new digital avionics suite and four-axis autopilot.

The most visible distinguishing characteristic of the T2 is its fenestron shrouded tail rotor, replacing the exposed tail rotor used thus far. The fenestron in the T2 has new composite blades, duplex tail-rotor actuators and dual hydraulic circuits, along with a newly designed gearbox intended to incur lower maintenance costs. Also new is the all-composite tail boom to which the fenestron is attached.

The new helicopter’s empty weight is up by 143 pounds, to 4,299 pounds, and its mtow is now 8,047 pounds. Cruise speed is up 5 percent, to 137 knots, vice president Manfred Merk told AIN.

The customers that have already ordered T2s are Spain’s Inaer (10 aircraft in EMS configuration) and three U.S. operators–Metro Aviation, Shreveport, La. (five aircraft configured for EMS); Leading Edge (one for executive transportation); and Lewis Energy (one for oil and gas operations). The T2 at Eurocopter’s display here features an EMS interior completed by customer Metro Aviation.

Eurocopter By The Numbers

Eurocopter Group total revenues were $6.7 billion last year, versus $6.2 billion in 2009, and the company claims a 49-percent share of the worldwide market. American Eurocopter took in $821 million last year, up from $784 million in 2009, staking its claim to a 64-percent share of the U.S. market. Worldwide, Eurocopter saw 46 percent of its deliveries go to military customers, with the remaining 54 percent going to civil and parapublic operators. Exports accounted for 67 percent of deliveries. Of that $6.7 billion in group revenue, 53 percent came from helicopter production, 36 percent from support and service work and 11 percent other.

Eurocopter’s order intake last year was for 346 helicopters worth $6 billion, down from $7.8 billion in 2009, $6.4 billion in 2008 and $8.6 billion in 2007. Last year the U.S. ranked number three in bookings per region, with signatures for 111 aircraft worth $607 million. Asia topped the rankings, with orders for 71 aircraft worth $1.32 billion, reflecting that region’s appetite for large multiengine machines. Latin America was second, with orders for 86 aircraft worth $694 million, and Europe ranked fourth with orders for 62 aircraft worth $526 million.

American Eurocopter president Marc Paganini said, “We’re going to work hard to get the U.S. market back to number one this year,” but he conceded to AIN afterward that it all hinges on the economy here. Paganini is encouraged, though, that tour operators in Las Vegas are having their best year ever so far in 2011, better even than 2008. Paganini is also confident in growing demand for replacement helicopters, noting that the average age of helicopters operating in the U.S. is between 17 and 20 years. Bertling singled out American Eurocopter as being the role model for providing product support, a segment that accounted for $310 million of AEC’s revenues last year.

On the X4, a rotorcraft under development to replace the Dauphin and EC135, Bertling offered this curt but intriguing teaser: “The first time you sit in this aircraft you will be missing something–the cockpit.” He said the helicopter’s specifications are “quite frozen–not completely yet but later this year.”

On a hybrid electric helicopter, Bertling was also coy: “We are actively working on a hybrid electric, but that is all I want to say at present.”

On diesel power, he said: “The EC120 will be the first application, and it will give that helicopter a second life.”