TOP FLIGHT AWARDS NOMINEES: Rotorcraft

 - November 20, 2020, 8:15 AM

Airbus Helicopters H160

Innovation: The new Airbus H160 medium twin incorporates a variety of new technologies, including “Blue Edge” active tracking main rotor blades in a five-blade system with a double-sweep design that reduces noise and improves ride smoothness; new Safran Arrano engines that offer 10 to 15 percent better fuel consumption; and the Helionix avionics system with four large touchscreens, the architecture of which already is flying on other Airbus twins.

The H160 also represents the catalyst through which the European company is trying to transform the way it makes and supports helicopters. The final assembly line in Merignane in the south of France integrates five major component assemblies that are completed and tested before they reach the line. The flow is automated and moves down two production lines, each with several workstations capable of assembling the various H160 configurations. Airbus intends to ramp up to 50 helicopters per year.

Cabin: The H160 combines futuristic styling with a flat-floor cabin, oversized windows, and a generous baggage compartment that can swallow 661 pounds. The cabin can be configured to seat four or eight passengers—with all the bells and whistles you’d find in the latest large corporate jets—or it can offer utility seating for 12.  

Airbus H160
Airbus H160

Performance & Efficiency: The Arrano engines (1,300 shp each) feature a two-stage centrifugal compressor and variable inlet guide vanes, which cut fuel consumption in all phases of flight and particularly at cruise power. They help propel the H160 to its maximum cruise speed of 150 knots, a service ceiling of 20,000 feet, and a maximum range of 475 nm. Airbus Helicopters also maintains that the Arranos will have lower maintenance costs than other engines in their class. 

The Blue Edge blades feature tips with a bend that resemble the business end of a hockey stick. As rotor blades spin, the tips emit vortices. Bending the tips disrupts the “blade vortex interaction” from one blade to the next, reducing the helicopter’s noise signature by as much as 5 dB. The canted Fenestron and the biplane horizontal stabilizer on the tailboom combine to improve lift. Electrically activated landing gear and brakes in place of the traditional hydraulic systems trim weight and improve reliability. A health usage and monitoring system tracks key maintenance parameters and can transmit them to technicians on the ground while the helicopter is in flight, using the wireless airborne communications system (wACS). To control costs, Airbus decided to skip a pricey fly-by-wire flight control system and to make rotor-blade deicing an option.

Safety: Helionix avionics are designed to reduce workload by providing pilots with the information they need when they need it. The ­avionics couple to a four-axis autopilot and a first-limit indicator that shows all engine instrument data. Other advanced features include traffic and weather advisories, terrain-avoidance, and synthetic vision. The H160 is equipped with the world’s first ground helipad-assisted takeoff procedure and vortex pre-alerting that warns pilots when they fly into conditions that could lead to vortex ring state. The H160 also includes a tail fin camera, Sea State 6 emergency floatation system, and windows that exceed EASA Type IV emergency egress size requirements.

Design Significance: The H160 combines a composite airframe, futuristic, styling, and modern technologies to produce a helicopter that is safer and more economical to operate and maintain.


Airbus H145D3

Innovation: Airbus Helicopters adds a new foldable, five-bladed main rotor system and Fadec engine controls to its popular H145 twin.

Cabin: The H145D3 comes standard with a wireless airborne communications system (wACS) that provides Wi-Fi. In executive configuration, the cabin can seat 4-9.

Airbus H145D3
Airbus H145D3

Performance and Efficiency: The D3 features the new bearingless main rotor design that provides a smoother ride, requires less maintenance, and increases useful load by 330 pounds. Compared to the four-bladed H145D2, it has a slightly smaller main rotor disk, from 36 feet to 35.4 feet. The new bearingless design has no rotor head, requires no oil, no grease, and very little maintenance. The foldable main rotors take only 10 minutes to stow/deploy, making it ideal for hangar or shipboard storage scenarios. All blades fold backward within the wingspan of the horizontal stabilizer by simply removing one bolt from each blade. The avionics will provide a guide as to where to position the cyclic and collective before blade folding begins. The D3’s twin Safran Arriel 2E engines now incorporate Fadec.

Existing H145D2s can be upgraded to the D3 via a kit that includes the new composite five-bladed main rotor blades, a transmission kit consisting of rotor mast, swashplate, scissors, control rods with associated assembly, oil cooler, and rotor brake, an additional electrical hydraulic pump whose sole function is to test the hydraulic controls during preflight checks, the Helionix software, a new forward cross-tube, and modification/tuning of the horizontal stabilizer. The kit deletes the 3-Hz landing gear dampers and the light active vibration control system found on the D2. H145D2 owners will be credited for the trade-in of their replaced H145D2 components based on condition. The upgrade, which takes approximately 220 manhours to complete, is not available for BK117 or EC145 variants.

Safety: The digital Helionix avionics suite incorporates a four-axis autopilot and wACS that provides Wi-Fi to the cockpit, imports navigation and mission databases from tablets, establishes automatic connections via Wi-Fi or cell, automatically exports data from previous flights, generates flight reports, launches automatic downloads, and exports a previous flight’s data. 

Design Significance: The H145D3’s new main rotor system, engine controls, and avionics bring added performance and safety to one of Airbus Helicopters’sbest-selling models.