Airbus’s H160 medium twin helicopter edged closer to FAA certification approval this month. On May 8, the FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for special condition approval of the helicopter’s main gearbox redundant lubrication system, designed to enable the helicopter to operate for more than 30 minutes after the primary system has failed. FAR Part 29 requires a helicopter to have the ability to fly for 30 minutes following gearbox lubrication failure validated via bench testing. The deadline for public comment is June 26.
The proposed special conditions cover validation bench testing of the Airbus system for up to 60 minutes “in some cases, depending on reduction factors.” This includes testing of any associated system such as oil coolers. Testing must end with a 45-second out-of-ground-effect hover to simulate a landing phase. Each rotor-drive gearbox system required for autorotation of safe landing must be tested for at least 16 minutes and 15 seconds following the most “severe” failure of the primary lubrication system.
Airbus first applied for FAA certification approval for the H160 in 2014 and applied for an extension in 2016. The helicopter received EASA certification on July 1, 2020; however, various novel design features outside the existing parameters of FAR Part 29 regulation have slowed the FAA approval process, which Airbus executives had hoped would be received as early as 2021.
The H160 has a maximum takeoff weight of 13,436 pounds with maximum seating for 12 passengers and 2 crew. It has a maximum cruise speed of 150 knots, a service ceiling of 20,000 feet, and a maximum range of 475 nm with standard tanks. It is powered by a pair of Safran Arrano 1A engines, each with 1,300 shp. Airbus previously announced that offshore service provider PHI would be the U.S. launch customer for the aircraft.