With the second of two prototypes having joined Eurocopter’s EC175 flight-test program in December, more than 100hr have been accumulated since the helicopter’s first flight a year earlier. European certification is planned for year-end, leading to first deliveries in late 2012.
The EC175 is based on a “common standard vehicle” being developed jointly with AVIC subsidiary Avicopter in China. Eurocopter is the “architect and integrator,” and Avicopter the sole source of the airframe, says Laurent Vautherin, head of the EC175 program. But each partner is developing its own version of the common design.
AVIC’s Harbin Aviation Industry Group (HAIG) delivered the first production airframe to Eurocopter in December. The cooperation is working well, says Richard Dubreuil, EC175 program manager. The partners share a common digital mockup and exchange data in batches each night, allowing work to continue round-the-clock. Eurocopter personnel are located at HAIG to manage the design interfaces and ensure quality.
The airframe and dynamics systems are based on proven technology, says Dubreuil, with the biggest step forward being the EC175’s cockpit. “We are developing a new human-machine interface, with a full glass cockpit and highly integrated avionics,” he says. Eurocopter is responsible for integration, and is not revealing who is providing the avionics hardware.
The 7-tonne EC175 sits between the EC155 and the larger EC225, and is being developed initially for the offshore oil and gas market, which accounts for all current order commitments including launch customer Bristow Group. The second prototype is equipped with the offshore mission package, but Eurocopter has started work on other configurations, including search-and-rescue, says Vautherin.
With the same Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67 engines as the AgustaWestland AW139, but more seats, lower cost of operation than the competition drove design of the 16-passenger EC175, says Vautherin. Final figures are not yet available, but “performance is in accordance with predictions so far,” he says.