A flood of new orders in recent weeks for military UH-72A Lakotas and civil EC-145es assures that Airbus Helicopters’s production line for those medium twins in Columbus, Mississippi, will remain open through at least 2023. Aggregate orders announced over the last 30 days amount to 76 aircraft - 51 UH-72As and 25 EC-145es. Both aircraft use the same airframe, with the former being used by the U.S. Army for primary training, National Guard, and homeland security missions and the latter by mainly civil EMS and utility operators.
Airbus and Metro Aviation announced an order for the 25 EC145es on February 27. Deliveries have already begun and are scheduled to continue over the next four years. The EC145e is a lower-cost variant of the out-of-production EC145C2, a model similar to the UH-72A. Metro was the first customer for the lighter-weight, lower-cost EC145e when it was launched in 2015, and it already flies six of them in air medical roles in various U.S. locations. Airbus's standard VFR avionics package for the EC145e features a glass cockpit with the Garmin G500H and GTN 650 GPS and communication system. It has an mtow weight of 7,903 pounds. The weight savings from Metro's VFR-only avionics package allow an extra 70 gallons of fuel or 200 to 250 pounds of payload, which translate into another hour of endurance or an additional patient, respectively, a Metro spokesman told AIN.
Metro is developing an STC for a lightweight IFR package that it will install into its EC145es at its Shreveport, Louisiana completions facility. Working with Genesys Aerosystems, Metro has developed and received FAA STCs for a VFR electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) and an autopilot and stability augmentation system for the EC145e. IFR certification is expected this year. Metro plans to operate some of the new EC145es in its own medevac fleet, but said it would also remarket others in medevac, utility, and VIP configurations.
On March 8, Airbus announced it had received an order for 35 UH-72A Lakotas from the Army valued at $273 million. The contract includes aircraft, associated technical and flight operator manuals, and program management. This procurement is broken into two configurations: 17 UH-72A Lakotas for the flight training Initial Entry Rotary Wing mission at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and 18 UH-72A Lakotas for the observer/controller mission at the Army’s Combat Training Centers. Two weeks later Airbus announced that it had received a second contract valued at $116.9 million for an additional 16 UH-72As to support the mission at Fort Rucker, the Army’s primary rotary wing flight training center. The contract includes the UH-72A production aircraft, associated technical and flight operator manuals, and program management. Fort Rucker is in the process of converting its mixed training fleet of Bell TH-67s and OH-58s to an all UH-72A fleet. Deliveries of this block of aircraft will continue through 2023.
Airbus says it has delivered more than 423 UH-72A Lakotas since the award of the first U.S. Army contract for the aircraft in 2005.