Marking its fifth anniversary, Airbus Corporate Helicopters (Booth Z43, Static AD5) arrives at EBACE 2022 lifted by a post-Covid bump in orders, ACH Edition cabin successes, and the expected FAA certification this year of the ACH160—the premium variant of the H160 medium twin and flagship of the executive rotorcraft fleet. Airbus launched Airbus Corporate Helicopters at EBACE 2017 to complement its Airbus Corporate Jets offering in the rotorcraft arena.
In the first half of last year, Airbus Corporate Helicopters saw a 50 percent year-over-year (YOY) increase in sales, 43 compared with a total of 62 for all of 2020 when first-half sales were laid low by Covid. Looking ahead, the company is bullish on the ACH160, which was approved by EASA in 2020 and since then by Brazil’s ANAC and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau.
In April, Airbus Corporate Helicopters sold its third ACH160 in Brazil through its Helibras affiliate. That aircraft will be the first ACH160 in Brazil outfitted with the modular Line Lounge interior.
One of three interior configurations offered on the ACH160, Line Lounge can be configured with bench seating for four to eight passengers or two forward-facing armchairs with a rear-facing bench and cabinet. Additional options include high-end interior features and finishes, color palettes, leather patterns, metallic inserts and plating, and custom carpeting.
The model offers 20 percent more cabin volume per passenger and 35 percent larger windows than legacy helicopters in its class, according to Airbus Corporate Helicopters. It also makes extensive use of carbon-fiber composites in the fuselage and main rotor blades. The material’s resistance to corrosion will be welcomed by owners whose intended use includes operating to and from superyacht helipads and in other maritime environments.
At the light end of its product line, Canadian entrepreneur and pilot Ashlynne Dale ordered a single-engine ACH125 for personal use in March. The helicopter, which is to be based in Ontario, will be customized at Airbus Helicopters’ Fort Erie, Ontario, facility with options such as a floor window, cable cutter, and custom paint scheme.
The five-seat ACH125 holds the helicopter record for highest altitude takeoff and landing—atop Mt. Everest at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet]).
Meanwhile, Airbus Corporate Helicopters demonstrated its adaptability in custom interiors—and initiatives in sustainability—in November at the Dubai Airshow, where it delivered an ACH145 light twin with a “fully vegan” interior to German construction entrepreneur Urs Brunner. His spouse—ethical fashion pioneer Daniela Brunner, is the founder of Giulia & Romeo, which uses no animal products and donates all its profits to promote animal welfare—insisted their new helicopter be consistent with those values.
In place of the leather elements that Airbus Corporate Helicopters terms “essential to its luxury feel,” the design team used Ultrafabrics' Ultraleather, a synthetic that “captures the visual and tactile leather experience with comparable durability,” the European consortium said. Items that had to be specially designed and fabricated in the replacement materials include the six passenger seats, a central storage cabinet, a rear partition, and cockpit control cuffs.
While durable and certified for aviation, the material the company used was nonetheless “a challenge to work with, particularly on the seats,” said Frederic Lemos, head of Airbus Corporate Helicopters. “We found a practical way to meet our customer’s desires, which also looks superb.”
The ACH145 normally seats between four and eight passengers in a compact size particularly suited to the yacht market; a new five-blade rotor provides enhanced comfort in the cabin and adds 150 kg (330 pounds) of useful load.
Another operational note: last summer, an ACH145 operated by German air ambulance service ADAC became the first helicopter to fly using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Airbus has since started an SAF user group to promote the use of biofuels in civil turbine helicopters.
Also in November at the European Rotors show in Cologne, Airbus Corporate Helicopters and Mercedes-Benz renewed their design collaboration for ACH145 interiors first signed in 2010, which introduced the concept of partnerships between the automotive and aerospace industries. The ACH Editions—a portfolio of ACH collaborations and partnerships with luxury brands and designers—now also includes Hermes, Aston Martin Lagonda, and designer Peder Eidsgaard.
Since that 2010 launch, 26 ACH145 Mercedes-Benz Style Editions have been sold, and the companies announced that a “facelift” of the helicopter, to reflect contemporary design values, is underway. Lemos said each of these editions of the ACH145 “provides the Mercedes-Benz G class off-road capabilities in Mercedes-Maybach-like comfort.”
Another sign of Airbus Corporate Helicopters’ automotive partnership successes includes delivery in October of the first ACH130 Aston Martin Edition for the North American market. That helicopter went to Canadian entrepreneur and pilot Charles Tremblay.
Introduced in 2020, the cabin of the Aston Martin Edition single-engine ACH130 is trimmed in pure-black ultra-suede with leather trims drawn from the Aston Martin car range. The rear of the front seats features the brogue detailing found in the DB11 car, and Aston Martin’s wings signature is embossed in some of the leather elements. Four external schemes are available.
Tremblay’s ACH130 was completed at Airbus’s facility in Oxford, UK, with additional avionics and mission equipment—including Canadian-manufactured cargo pods—installed at Airbus Helicopters Canada in Fort Erie, Ontario. The resulting Aston Martin Edition aircraft is “both luxurious and extremely practical,” said Airbus Helicopters Canada president Dwayne Charette.
Rounding out the Airbus Corporate Helicopters fleet, the twin-engine ACH135 carries up to six passengers and comes outfitted with a customized interior featuring precious veneer inserts and polished metal, nest leather upholstery with hand-sewn trim, and large windows providing expansive views. The flight deck features the latest Helionix avionics incorporating advanced intuitive software, synthetic vision system, and four-axis autopilot with complete envelope protection.
Airbus Corporate Helicopters also provides customers with comprehensive aftermarket support through HCare, available on a five-year or 1000 flight-hour contract, with service delivered at 30 customer centers and some 100 MRO facilities worldwide.