Airbus Helicopters flew the first production model of its new H160 medium twin in December. It is joining the three prototypes already in flight test, which have accumulated more than 1,000 flying 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 H160 achieves full-rate production, Airbus expects to assemble one 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. Airbus said it expects EASA and FAA certification for the H160 by the end of this year. This winter, an H160 was dispatched to Finland for additional cold weather testing.
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. The aircraft is powered by a pair of Safran Arrano engines (1,300 shaft horsepower each) that feature a two-stage centrifugal compressor and variable inlet guided vanes, which cut fuel consumption in all phases of flight, particularly at cruise power. They help propel the H160 to its estimated maximum cruise speed of 155 knots and service ceiling of 20,000 feet and give it an anticipated range of 450 nautical miles. Airbus Helicopters also maintains that the Arranos will have lower maintenance costs than other engines in their class.
Ralph Setz, Airbus Helicopters’ marketing director for helicopter EMS (HEMS), thinks the H160 is particularly well-suited for long-distance HEMS missions because of its 155-knot cruise speed, low cabin vibration, robust cabin air conditioning, flat approach angle, easy loading and unloading, ample artificial and natural cabin lighting, and generous cabin volume that facilitates 360-degree patient access. The helicopter's dual Safran Arrano engines are also designed for a two-minute quick start and quick restarts, features that will expedite dispatches, while the H160’s standard maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds will enable it to use a majority of hospital helipads. Setz thinks the eventual market for HEMS-configured H160s could be as many as 20 per year into the next decade. The quick-change cabin is of particular appeal to oil-and-gas customers such as H160 launch customer Babcock, which plans to use its helicopters in both passenger/utility and EMS roles, he said, adding that the H160 is a strong IFR machine and will have a range in full EMS livery of at least 400 nm with reserves, 25 to 30 percent more than an H145.
The H160 is also finding favor in the executive market. Earlier this year, Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) announced the sale of an ACH160 to a European customer. The helicopter will be operated by Switzerland’s LionsAir and feature a bespoke VIP interior designed by the Huslig Collective. ACH managing director Frederic Lemos said, “It is particularly pleasing to see the new ACH160 continuing to win orders.” Across all Airbus Helicopters models, ACH reported 68 sales in 2018. Launched in 2017, ACH provides an end-to-end ownership experience backed by HCare First, a premium support services program aimed at the special needs of low-hour operators looking for on-demand availability.