Airbus Helicopters is hoping to make significant inroads into the niche market for medium twin EMS helicopters with its new H160, said Ralph Setz, the company’s marketing director for helicopter EMS (HEMS). Airbus (Booth C305) is displaying a full-size H160 mockup configured with an EMS cabin at this year’s Heli-Expo convention in Atlanta.
Setz acknowledges that the current market for medium-sized HEMS twins is relatively skinny at present in the U.S., with only 60 operating currently, and about four times that number worldwide. Nevertheless, Setz is optimistic when it comes to growing the segment and making inroads against the current leader in it, the Leonardo AW139.
“We see this segment growing by up to 30 percent. As more hospitals consolidate, the need to transport patients longer distances will grow and helicopters flying those missions will need to carry more equipment and personnel, and they will need more space and comfort,” he said. Setz thinks goals for its dispatch reliability—95 percent at maturity—and reduced direct operating costs when compared to medium twins, with maintenance man-hours like smaller light twins, will make a compelling market case. “We are confident we can achieve this,” Setz said of the dispatch and cost targets. Airbus has yet to publicly announce a price for the H160.
Setz pointed out that the H160 is a strong IFR machine and will have a range in full EMS livery of at least 400 nm with reserves, 25 to 30 percent more than an H145. The H160 is particularly well-suited for long-distance HEMS missions because of its 150-knot cruise speed, low cabin vibration, robust cabin air conditioning, flat approach angle, easy loading and unloading, ample artificial and natural cabin lighting, and generous cabin volume that facilitates 360-degree patient access, he said. The helicopter's dual Safran Arrano engines are also designed for a two-minute quick start and quick restarts, features that will expedite dispatches, while the H160’s standard maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds will enable it to use a majority of hospital helipads. Setz thinks the eventual market for HEMS-configured H160s could be as many as 20 per year into the next decade.
Dynamic components continue to undergo maturity testing on the company’s “Helicopter Zero” dynamic integration test bed, he said. Pilot training for the H160 also will be eased as the aircraft incorporates the familiar Helionix avionics suite on its other aircraft and simulators are being readied. The equipment list includes a multifunctional adapter plate, side-loading stretcher system, medical swiveling seats, jump seat, multifunctional cabinet with integrated service and control panel and lighting devices, medical stowage racks, strap-down device with a drawer for 3x3-liter bottles, and optional incubator.
Airbus began talking to HEMS customers and suppliers early in the H160’s development to fashion flexible outfitting solutions that include uniform attach points and mechanical/electrical interfaces and quick-change cabins, Setz said. Some HEMS cabin concepts will be able to be changed out in as little as 30 minutes. As with the H135 and the H145, Airbus is offering H160 customers the option of integrating EMS cabins into the initial production build by bringing suppliers to its production line. Customers can also opt to have the equipment added post-production at a completion center.
The quick change cabin is of particular appeal to oil-and-gas customers such as H160 launch customer Babcock, which plans to use its helicopters in both passenger/utility and EMS roles, Stez said. Airbus remains on target to certify the H160 in late 2019, with the three prototype aircraft already accumulating 1,000 flight hours and the first pre-production aircraft taking flight late last year. That aircraft was recently dispatched to Finland for additional cold weather testing.