Eurocopter has thrown down the gauntlet to the rotorcraft industry: join us in reducing the noise and emissions of your helicopters. CEO Lutz Bertling issued the challenge at Heli-Expo, saying Eurocopter will rate all its own helicopters on those qualities from "A" to "E", and other OEMs are welcome to join them.
The catch? Eurocopter wants the other manufacturers to use its grading system, which is "air and transparent", it believes. "We are not waiting for international standards," said Lutz. Instead Eurocopter is going ahead immediately to show the impact - of lack of it - that helicopters have on the environment.
"This is a way to communicate to the public that we take this topic seriously," says Eurocopter chief technology officer Jean-Michel Billig. "Our idea is to raise awareness within the helicopter community of our common interest [in tackling environmental issues] so that we can have a sustainable industry."Blue Edge blade cuts noise (Eurocopter)
Eurocopter is proposing the industry adopt two "key performance indicators", for noise and emissions, rating each from a low of "E" to a high of "A+". The acoustic metric would be based on existing ICAO noise measurement standards for helicopters, but nothing comparable exists for emissions, says Billing.
Emissions metrics for fixed-wing aircraft are based on distance flown, but Eurocopter doesn't think this works for helicopters, which spend some of their time in the hover and some in the cruise. So it has come up with a formula tailored to the types of missions helicopters fly - fuel consumption divided by hours flown divided by useful load.
Fuel consumption is calculated based on the aircraft spending 10% of its time in the hover, at high power; 30% at best endurance speed; and 60% cruising at 120kt. Useful load is defined as maximum take-off weight minus empty weight minus the weight of the pilot(s).
Billig says the proposed KPIs are "fair, transparent and undisputable" because they are based on publicly available data contained in the aircraft flight manuals. "We have rated our own helicopters: some are A, some are D," he says.
The company's EC155 medium twin, for example, is a B on noise and a C on emissions. That's the starting point for Eurocopter's planned Dauphin replacement, codenamed X4, Billing says: "The X4 program director will set the targets, probably around A."
Eurocopter does not have any helicopters rated A+, "and we will not get there in the coming two years," he says, suggesting it could take the industry five years to reach the top ranking.