Airbus Helicopters (Booth 3432) CEO Bruno Even announced Tuesday at Heli-Expo 2020 that the company’s installed fleet has achieved 100 million flight hours, a record 2019 for new bookings thanks largely to strong military orders, and certification "within the next few weeks” of the new intermediate twin H160. Shell Aircraft would be one of the first operators of the H160 and fly it to support its offshore energy operations, he added.
Even also provided details on product enhancements related to Airbus’s ubiquitous turbine single, the H125, that provide up to an additional 419 pounds of payload and better hover ceiling performance thanks to additional power from the helicopter’s Safran Arriel 2D engine. The extra power will be a no-cost enhancement on all new-build H125s and is expected to be available in the third quarter. A retrofit solution will be available for all AS350B3e series that requires a simple software upgrade to that helicopter’s vehicle and engine multifunction display (VEMD).
New H125s will also be equipped with the BLR Fast Fin tailrotor kit, which will improve the OGE hover ceiling up to 13,400 feet, a gain of 2,300 feet. Avionics enhancements for the H125 include a simplified instrument panel with the Garmin G500H TXI touchscreen, remote display of the VEMD engine parameters via Bluetooth connection on smartphones and tablets, useful when monitoring external loads, and two additional upper windows to improve forward visibility.
North American customer H125s are assembled at Airbus’s manufacturing plant in Columbus, Mississippi. Worldwide, more than 4,000 H125s are in service with 1,500 customers.
Throughout Heli-Expo's opening day, Airbus announced a steady stream of new orders for H125s and other models.
Among them was an order from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) division for 16 H125s as part of a fleet-modernization program. Over the past 30 years, Airbus has delivered more than 120 helicopters to CBP.
Deliveries of the H125s to CBP will begin later this year. These helicopters will be equipped with infrared detection, thermal imaging, night vision goggles, hoist provisions, and loudspeakers. The H125 accounts for half of all law enforcement deliveries in North America, Airbus said.
In addition, Germany-based air ambulance provider DRF Luftrettung inked an order for three H135 light twins and 15 medium-twin H145s, as well as signed an agreement to convert its current fleet of 20 H145s to the five-bladed, H145D3 variant announced last year at Heli-Expo. The deal will bring DRF’s H145 fleet to 35 and make the service the world’s largest operator of the H145D3.
It also renews DRF’s “HCare” parts-by-the-hour contract with Airbus for the next eight years. In total, DRF operates more than 50 Airbus helicopters from 35 bases in Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. In 2019, it flew 40,738 missions.
Airbus said NASA also ordered three H135s to provide helicopter EMS and passenger transport at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two will be delivered in the third quarter and a third in 2021.
Finally, Las Vegas-based helitour operator Maverick Helicopters has agreed to retrofit its entire fleet of 34 EC130B4s with the Airbus Helicopters Crash Resistant Fuel System (CRFS). Maverick operates a mixed fleet of 50 H130 and EC130B4 singles and flies more than 250,000 passengers annually from its locations in Las Vegas and Hawaii.
The CRFS has been standard on H130s since its entry into service in 2012. “We are glad that Airbus has been able to provide us with its own retrofit kit for our fleet of EC130B4s, as it’s important for us to bring our entire fleet up to the same high standards,” said Maverick CEO Greg Rochna. Airbus’s CRFS is also available as a retrofit for its AS350B3 singles. The kits are being offered for AS350B3s and EC130B4s at a “below cost” price of $44,000.