Airbus Helicopters is exhibiting the H215 heavy twin here at Heli-Expo and is planning a demo tour in the U.S. right after the show. A major target is California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which has issued a tender for 15 helicopters. The winner could be announced at the Aerial Firefighting 2016 convention late in March in Sacramento. “If we win, this will be fantastic publicity,” said Fabrice Arfi, Airbus Helicopters v-p for business development. The requirement is for carrying 2.5 metric tons of water and accompanying firefighters, according to Arfi.
Airbus Helicopters also sees a huge potential for the replacement of aging Sikorsky S-61s and Russian Helicopters Mi-8/17s. But these markets were so far deemed out of reach. At the factory the company is now building in Brasov, Romania, lower labor costs will combine with a new industrial model. Only two standard configurations–a short and a long fuselage–will be offered, still allowing customers to add optional equipment. “In Brasov, we think we will reduce costs that we did not manage to reduce in Marignane [where all Super Puma family helicopters had been manufactured so far],” a spokesman told AIN. The first H215 delivery from Brasov is expected in mid-2017.
The H215 is the new name of the AS332 C1e/L1e, and while it can be viewed as a lower-cost version of the H225, it features modern avionics, including the same four-axis autopilot. In a basic aerial work configuration, price is said to be in the $15.4 to $16.5 million range.