Eurocopter sets itself apart from Avicopter on EC 175

 - June 15, 2009, 10:56 AM

Eurocopter has distanced itself from Chinese partner Avicopter on their joint seven-ton-class civil helicopter program saying the EC 175 and the Z15 will be “two different aircraft.” In a press conference held next to the EC 175 mockup here at the Paris Air Show, executive vice president for commercial programs Joseph Saporito also confirmed the first flight will take place by year-end.

“These will be two different aircraft, with two different areas of marketing, two different civil certifications, two different assembly lines and two different support organizations,” Saporito insisted. Avicopter has two companies involved in the Z15 program. SHRDI is responsible for the design, while Harbin-based HAIG is in charge of production.

The helicopter platform will be the same, under a “common basic vehicle” concept. However, Eurocopter and Avicopter will offer different options. Eurocopter had not previously hinted at such a differentiation.

The first flight will take place from the European company’s factory in Marignane, southeast France. Certification by European, U.S. and Canadian aviation authorities is pegged for 2011. The first two deliveries will take place from Marignane in 2012. The ramp-up should be gradual to a maximum 40 to 50 per year. Eurocopter has not begun cutting metal for production aircraft.

The letters of intent received for 111 helicopters are mainly for the EC 175 (as opposed to the Z15). The offshore configuration accounts for 95 percent of those letters. Saporito added Eurocopter has not started working on the VIP version yet. Moreover, marketing efforts have slowed down because of the already big backlog, which accounts for three years of production. Saporito said the ongoing downturn has caused no cancellations yet.

Primarily designed for oil and gas offshore operations, the EC 175 can seat 16 passengers with survival suits and luggage. Its range, with such a payload will be 100 nm at ISA+20 conditions. “We have 30 minutes of extra safety margin on top of regulatory requirements,” Saporito asserted. Other safety features include certification for sea state 6, a low capsizing risk and additional life-raft inflation handles.

The EC 175 will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67E engines. “With Pratt, we are modifying an existing engine so that the -67E will be the first PT6 turboshaft with a dual-channel fadec,” Saporito stressed. He kept tight-lipped about the helicopter’s cruise speed.

The new avionics suite will be integrated under Eurocopter’s responsibility. It will appear as four six- by eight-inch displays. “It will have an optional fifth display and many options to customize the cockpit,” Saporito claimed.

Separately, Eurocopter is exhibiting its “Bluecopter” engine concept on the static display here. The diesel engine, dubbed “high-compression engine” for marketing purposes, is supposed to bring greener performance to light singles. Targeted are a 40-percent cut in CO2 emissions and a 53-percent reduction in nitrous oxide emissions. The main challenge is weight, however. Look for more details in
AIN tomorow.