The first serial-production Airbus Helicopters H160 medium twin made its first flight on December 14. It will join the three prototypes, which have already accumulated more than 1,000 flight-test hours. It is one of 10 pre-serial-production aircraft that the company plans to assemble in the coming months as it refines its production process. The helicopter will be delivered to launch customer Babcock in 2020.
When the helicopter achieves full-rate production, Airbus expects to assemble an H160 in as little as 40 days on the helicopter’s new, dedicated production line in Marignane, France. Babcock plans to take delivery of a fleet of the aircraft “for worldwide operations” over a five-year period. Earlier this year Airbus said it expected EASA and FAA certification for the H160 by the end of this year with customer deliveries slated to begin next year.
The H160 features the Helionix avionics suite, an all-composite airframe, flat-floor cabin, oversize cabin windows, and a baggage compartment that can hold 661 pounds. Its cabin can be configured to seat four or eight passengers in executive/VIP layouts, or 12 in a utility configuration. The H160 also incorporates a variety of new technologies, among them Blue Edge active-tracking main rotor blades in a five-blade system with a double-sweep design that reduces noise and contributes to a smoother ride, and 10 to 15 percent better fuel consumption than the H155 family it replaces.