EBACE Convention News

Marenco Steps Up Flight Testing of New SH09 Helicopter

 - May 22, 2016, 12:15 PM
Competing with other single-engine utility helicopters, the Marenco Swisshelicopter SH09 has a large-capacity cabin and five hours’ endurance, making it also attractive in the VIP role. The second prototype’s striking paint scheme is a recent addition.

Unfortunately, you won’t see either of Marenco Swisshelicopter’s two SH09 flying prototypes here at the EBACE show. But the good news is, that’s because they’re too busy flying missions in support of Phase A2 of an aggressive certification-test regime.

Marenco has been accepting letters of intent (LOI) for its composite SH09, the first model for the start-up company, which is based at Mollis near Zurich.

As of shortly before EBACE, the number of LOIs was “about 90” according to CEO Martin Stucki. Earlier this year at U.S. HeliExpo show in Louisville, Kentucky, Marenco announced orders and LOIs for 15 more SH09s, including Canadian operator Horizon Helicopters (1) and another follow-on order a second machine from Costa Rican operator Rotorworld. Three orders came from South Africa, including two from local operator Saphire Blue and one from businessman David Gold. Brazil’s Helisul Táxi Aéreo signed LOIs for 10 aircraft.

The SH09 is a 5,843-pound-mtow single-engine helicopter with an all-composite airframe and a 1,020-shp Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft powerplant. It is expected to have a high-speed cruise speed of 140 knots (259 kilometers per hour) and range of 430 nautical miles (796 km) or five hour’s endurance. It is designed to compete with Bell’s Model 407 and Finmeccanica Leonardo’s AW119, as well as the Airbus H125 and H130.

Its dual-redundant electrical and hydraulic systems are expected to be an advantage in the single-engine market, especially for instrument-flying. Another plus is on-condition maintenance capability for its engine, gearbox and rotor blades. Sling-load capacity is targeted at 3,300 pounds (1,497 kilos).

The aerodynamic configuration is essentially set, Stucki said, with some minor modifications possible to the horizontal stabilizer. “We made it long, deliberately, because it’s easier to trim it to reduce drag than it is to add to it,” he told AIN, with a smile, adding, “And as you can see in the most recent photos, they’ve surprised me with some exciting red stripes added to the paint scheme. I came back from lunch one day to find the new colors.”

Stucki reported good financial support for the program that is currently about midway through its second phase of flight testing. Phase One began in October 2014 and consisted of some 40 hours aloft. Stucki anticipates a total of five test-flying phases, with most of the certification work accomplished in the first three. “Phases A4 and A5 will be for refinements,” he said. For example, the company plans on initial certification to 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) maximum altitude, with later expansion of the envelope to 25,000 feet (7,620 m) after a high-altitude testing series in Leadville, Colorado, where the airport elevation is just less than 10,000 feet (3,048 m).

“You can do hover-out of-ground-effect [HOGE] testing with just a little space, so we can do them here,” said Stucki, “but for the advanced tests at high altitude, you need a runway.” Initial certification is expected around midway through next year.

Stucki said the geographical distribution of LOI holders is around 50 percent North America, 20 percent European and the remainder scattered throughout the rest of the world. He said the primary target market is for utility operators, though Marenco sees good possibilities within the corporate VIP market as well.

“We think we bring some strong capabilities to the table [for executive operators],” Stucki added. “For example, we’ve explored a seven-seat layout. With two pilots and five passengers, there’s still lots of legroom and baggage capacity for passengers. There is also plenty of window area for a good outside view.”

The helicopter could also be configured with three business-class passenger seats. Marenco has already explored partnerships with interior design companies, though Stucki said, “A VIP interior is usually tailored, perhaps to match the interior of a company jet. But we have laid out preliminary plans for a basic VIP interior concept, that can be customized to meet buyers’ needs.”

Another advantage he sees for his helicopter in the executive transport role is its fuel capacity. “With 750 liters [198 U.S. gallons], an operator can plan most trips without needing to refuel before returning to home base, where he might have a better price on fuel. It certainly saves time, as well.”

Another possibility Marenco envisions is a quick-change “combi” configuration that could perform utility work one day -- transporting tools and workers, perhaps -- and VIP executives the next.

Finally, Stucki said that most of the long-lead-time components for the third prototype, P3, have been ordered, and are scheduled for delivery before year-end. “We’re going ahead ‘full steam’ on P3,” he concluded.