March 11, 2013
Eurocopter is pushing for a higher level of avionics maturity as it certifies its new EC175 medium twin helicopter.
Laurent Vautherin, EC175 program director, told Aviation Week that the company had set out to boost the maturity of the Helionix avionics system and plans to certify it to a level only previously completed on the Airbus A380.
“The Helionix system is of a much higher complexity,” says Vautherin. “No customer wants the high risk of flying a new helicopter with a new avionics system, so we want to make it really easy and ensure it is mature before it enters service.”
With three of the EC175s now flying, flight testing is proceeding apace and Vautherin is confident of achieving certification this summer. Nine EC175s are now in production and an undisclosed number of aircraft will be delivered to customers this year, with a ramp-up in 2014. A move to new production facilities at the company’s main plant at Marignane near Marseille, France, is also due to take place in 2014. EC175 production is currently taking place alongside the AS365/EC155 Dauphin line.
Some 46 EC175s are now on order. Significant orders were announced at last week’s Heli-Expo here from oil and gas operator Bristow, which signed an agreement for up to 12 aircraft, while Milestone ordered five. Heli-Union of France, NHV of Belgium and Russia’s UTair have also formalized orders, and NHV says it will receive its first aircraft later this year.
Eurocopter also continued its run of product improvements, announcing yet another new version of its EC135 light-twin. The EC135 P3/T3 – the designations indicating the aircraft’s available engine options – is powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PWC 206B3, while the T3 feature’s Turbomeca’s Arrius 2B2 Plus.
Changes in the EC135 T3/P3 include a 10-cm increased length for the main rotor blades, new software in the Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC), and new enhanced air intakes compatible with inlet barrier filters.
Improvements in performance include better hot/high performance, improved maximum takeoff weight – a 30 kg (66 lb.) increase to 2,980 kg, and an improved flight operation envelope, with the aircraft now able to operate at temperatures down to minus 45C (minus 49F).
The new variant has been ordered by Air Methods, which will acquire six EC135 P3s for air ambulance operations. Norwegian operator Norsk Luftambulanse also signed for six EC135 P3s for the same role, while Italian company Aiut Alpin Dolomites booked one EC135 T3 for its mountain rescue operations.