Although popular with police, EMS and offshore operators in Europe and Asia since its introduction in 1999, the Airbus Helicopters (née Eurocopter) EC155 has been slow to catch on in the U.S. market. Customers panned the initial model for its unreliability and inadequate engine power. Those issues were largely addressed with an improved variant, the EC155B1, which entered production in 2002 and introduced uprated engines.
Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) is here exhibiting the Hermès luxury version of its EC135, and is soliciting new possibilities for customization. The helicopter manufacturer (Booth 6613) is seeing a steady market in private and business aviation, with a combined 150 helicopters sold in the world last year by rotorcraft OEMs. Company design engineers are now working on the VIP version of the EC175, with hinged doors and an escalator for passengers.
The rarefied offshore energy market continues to be the prime driver for development of new civil helicopters, but the training and entry-level market is also heating up, with Bell and others announcing or hinting at new models. Various studies predict that worldwide civil helicopter production will double between now and 2020 in terms of overall sales value as OEMs focus on delivering larger and more expensive helicopters.
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.
Eurocopter has received two more firm orders for VIP versions of the EC175 medium twin helicopter, bringing the total backlog to 48. Deliveries to both unidentified customers are scheduled for 2016. The interior design, which accommodates six to eight passengers, was done by Peder Eidsgaard of Pegasus Design. Cabin completion will be performed at Eurocopter’s factory in Marignane, France. Once planned for 2011, certification of the EC175 is now expected early next year.
In 1996, Eurocopter became the first Western rotorcraft maker to enter the Russian market and it is testament to the sector’s great potential that the company is now facing a more concerted challenge in the country from rivals such as AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopters.
Eurocopter has received orders from China’s State Grid General Aviation Company for two AS350B3e AStar/Ecureuils and one EC225. They will be used to support the country’s electric grid development and for other airlift missions. The B3e light singles will be delivered late this year. Handover of the EC225 is scheduled for 2015. Eurocopter has also signed contracts with Japan’s National Police Agency for one EC155B1, one AS365N3+ and two EC135P2es to replace aging aircraft. Deliveries are scheduled over the 2014-2015 period.
More than 22,500 pilots who have trained in Helisim helicopter flight simulators since the company opened in 2000 have contributed to it reaching a 100,000-hour milestone, which was celebrated by the French company just before the 2013 Paris Air Show.
Helicopter broker Heli Asset has sold the first Eurocopter EC155B1 medium twin into Switzerland, according to the Paris-based company. Zurich-based business aviation charter operator Heli-Link, a subsidiary company of DC Aviation of Germany, took delivery of the 2008 EC155, configured with eight VIP seats. Heli Asset says it placed 18 helicopters in 2012.
Turbomeca (Booth No. C3901) is ramping up production of its turboshaft engines this year. Simultaneously, the company’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activity is growing, too. In new developments, Turbomeca is busy with helicopter engine upgrades to the Arriel family and the new TM800 that will power the Eurocopter X4 medium twin.
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