Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 51 seconds.
Helicopters perform essential missions daily, and we at Airbus Helicopters are constantly innovating the technologies of tomorrow — to reduce the carbon footprint of our products, to make them safer and easier to maintain, and to expand our customers’ mission capabilities.
At this year’s Heli-Expo 2022 in Dallas, Texas, attendees saw first-hand our latest products and services and learned about how we are pioneering sustainable aerospace for a safe and united world. Showgoers were able to visit the H160, alongside the emergency medical services market leader H135, the versatile H125, and the best-selling ACH145.
A major milestone for the H160 was achieved in December 2021 when the world’s first H160 was delivered to Japanese operator All Nippon Helicopter. In addition, this next-generation multi-role helicopter recently saw its first law enforcement customer, the French Gendarmerie Nationale, with an order of 10 helicopters — the first of which will be delivered in 2024 prior to the Olympic Games in Paris.
The H160 will become a versatile workhorse for operators, and is also a flagship aircraft for Airbus Helicopters’ decarbonization roadmap, as its Safran Arrano engines provide a 15 percent reduction in fuel consumption.
Another important part of our decarbonization strategy is the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that is derived from waste material. The majority of Airbus helicopters are certified to fly with a 50 percent blend of SAF, which represents a 40 percent reduction of emissions.
We launched a flight campaign in November 2021 with 100 percent SAF powering one of the H225’s two engines, an important step toward certifying the use of SAF blends that exceed today’s 50 percent limit. In order to accelerate the use of biofuels, we launched a SAF user group for those in the rotary-wing industry who are interested in developing the use of SAF to join forces in accelerating its implementation in the industry.
On the innovation front, we also began in-flight tests on our Flightlab, the platform-agnostic flying laboratory aimed at testing and maturing techno-bricks, such as the engine back-up system (EBS), that will equip future fleets. The EBS can provide electrical power for 30 seconds in the event of engine failure and is a key first step toward a future hybrid propulsion system, as well as a safety enhancer by allowing a smoother autorotation maneuver to the ground.
Another safety feature that Flightlab is testing is health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS). HUMS can provide advanced detection of any technical issues on the helicopter, easing aircraft maintenance and enhancing flight safety.
Among the disruptive technologies tested on Flightlab, multiple solutions are designed to be applicable to eVTOLs. CityAirbus NextGen, Airbus’ fully electric prototype, is currently in a detailed design phase, in order to provide communities and citizens with an urban air transport service this decade. With a maiden flight planned in 2023, Airbus has started to partner with a selection of suppliers to develop the aircraft’s components, such as Thales and Diehl who will provide CityAirbus NextGen’s flight control computers.
On the support and services side, we continue to adapt and improve our offerings to better meet the unique demands of our customers and their missions, wherever they operate. The former HCare Easy, HCare Smart, and HCare Infinite have been replaced by a new structure.
This restructuring simplifies the customer’s choice of support and services with a new flexible, customer-centric approach. Each pillar is aligned with a stage of the customer journey, and packages together the optimal group of support and services for each stage, which could be upon aircraft acquisition, or several years after a fleet enters service.
The HCare First package will still be available for specific fleets of Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) aircraft, and HCare Classics for the serialized legacy fleet (H120, Dauphin, Puma, and Gazelle). Retrofits and upgrades continue to add value — not only can they extend the service life of legacy aircraft, but they can also give the current range a boost. A case in point: the H125 power upgrade increases the single-engine bestseller’s power by up to 10 percent, making full use of the engine’s available power.
In the private and business sectors, ACH continues to meet the needs and tastes of the most discerning customers. It’s where world-class aeronautical engineering expertise meets design values centered on comfort, aesthetics, and a concentration on satisfying individual customer requirements.
ACH proposes tailored and refined interiors and innovative solutions. The concept is crystallized particularly clearly with in-house designs, such as ACH Line and ACH Exclusive, and through partnerships with luxury automobile manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin. The eight-passenger ACH145 Mercedes-Benz style interior offers extraordinary comfort with an underlying energy. The partner companies have just signed a renewal of their relationship, and a facelift of the helicopter is already underway to further reflect contemporary design values.
The ACH130 Aston Martin edition — a product of a cooperation between ACH and Aston Martin Lagonda — is lean, elegant, and at the sportier end of the Airbus range. It has proven a remarkable success and encapsulates the sheer pleasure and freedom that helicopter flying can bring.
Look out this year for the entry into service of the ACH160, bringing to the corporate marketplace the comfort and enhanced safety features of the most technologically advanced helicopter in service today.