EBACE Convention News

ACH160 Shines in Strong Airbus Lineup

 - May 20, 2019, 9:00 AM
One of the H160 test aircraft undertook a North American sales trip in 2018. The first two orders for the ACH160 were announced at Heli-Expo in March 2019. (Photo: Airbus Corporate Helicopters)

Airbus Corporate Helicopters is exhibiting at EBACE following a strong year for sales in 2018, its first full year of operation since being launched as a separate entity at EBACE in May 2017. Among recent orders are 10 for the ACH160, the €12 million ($13.5 million) corporate version of the latest H160 medium helicopter that is now undergoing certification testing.

Three flight-test helicopters are involved in the certification campaign and had amassed more than 1,150 flight hours by early April. EASA certification for the H160 is expected at the end of this year, and Airbus (Booth Z55, SD 101) has already submitted half of the certification documents to EASA. The first delivery of an ACH160 is slated for the fourth quarter of 2020.

The second H160, which is already in production, is an ACH160 in Line configuration. This is the renaming of the previous Stylence interior branding and adds a luxury interior and other refinements to a standard machine. The unidentified launch customer is also acquiring three aircraft in the ACH160 Exclusive configuration, which also accounts for six more orders from the initial 10 sales. The head of Airbus Corporate Helicopters, Frédéric Lemos, told AIN that most production slots for the H160 have been sold through 2022.

Due for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2021, the Exclusive has considerable airframe changes to facilitate greater comfort. The cabin is fitted with hinged doors instead of sliding units, offering better sound insulation, and new double-glazed windows of a revised shape are fitted. Externally the main difference is the addition of streamlined sponsons along the lower cabin sides that incorporate electrically actuated footsteps, as well as accommodating a liferaft.

Airbus’s own design studio has worked with Pegasus Design to create a cocoon-like interior and a club seating arrangement comprising modules of either two luxury armchair-style seats or a three-seat sofa style. The flight deck is based on the Helionix avionics suite.

Extensive Model Line

Building on 2017’s figure of 54, Airbus Corporate Helicopters sold 68 helicopters (from a total for all Airbus Helicopters of 413) during 2018, representing more than 50 percent of the market in corporate machines. The company’s ACH125 and ACH130 continue to dominate the intermediate single market, while the ACH135 and ACH145 have increased their share of the light-twin sector. Lemos noted that the €7.8 million ACH145, in particular, is gaining sales at the expense of the Leonardo AW109.

The latest H145D3 new-generation version revitalizes the design through the adoption of a five-blade bearingless main rotor that can be folded, making it ideal for use from luxury yachts and other vessels. The new rotor and other enhancements have created a helicopter with increased useful load, simplified maintenance, increased connectivity, and a smoother ride.

EASA certification for the D3 version is expected in early 2020, and the first ACH145D3 customer will be Advanced Flight in New Zealand, which expects to get its first aircraft in the middle of next year. The D3 version is also available by retrofit of earlier machines, with Swiss Air-Rescue Rega the first customer for this option, albeit as a standard H145 in an EMS configuration.

For ACH145 versions, Airbus has been teamed since 2010 with Mercedes-Benz to offer a luxury interior edition, and a renewal of that partnership has recently been concluded. An eight-seat Mercedes Benz-inspired cabin is on display at EBACE.