Airbus Helicopters is developing an instrument flight rules (IFR) capability for the H125 AStar, with a plan to certify the system in 2024.
The capability is being developed in partnership with Genesys Aerosystems, and will include an upgraded cockpit with dual IDU-680 EFIS displays, Genesys VHF NAV/COM aircraft digital radio, Genesys IFR helicopter autopilot, dual redundant ADAHRS, dual GPS/FMS, and other equipment.
The system will be certified first with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the second half of 2024, and offered with new deliveries in North America. The company aims to then seek further approvals with other regulators, with Brazil the next target.
While Leonardo expressed doubts about the size of the civil market for a single-engine IFR aircraft in a press conference the day before the announcement, Airbus believes the size of the H125’s global fleet would mean there is sufficient demand for the development.
“The market of the 125 is broad enough to have enough customers on this specific platform to make the development worth it,” Matthieu Louvot, executive vice president of programs at Airbus Helicopters, told media during a briefing.
“It comes [as part of] a set of developments to enhance the all-weather all-time capability of our helicopters,” he said. “On many helicopters, we want to reduce the percentage of days where you just can’t fly because of the weather.”
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According to Airbus, there are close to 4,200 H125 family aircraft flying around the world. Last year, it received 161 orders for the type.
“Our goal is to make our products better step-by-step, and clearly the strategy on the H125, the next step is to make the H125 IFR capable,” said Romain Trapp, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Inc. — the manufacturer’s U.S. subsidiary. “We have seen some demand from customers. Where it’s going to go at the end, I think we don’t know, but we want to be ready to answer the demand.”
Trapp added that the demand the manufacturer has seen to date has been “mainly on the EMS [emergency medical services] side” of the industry, but Airbus also believes law enforcement/public services operators will be keen to have the capability.
“Our responsibility is to listen to the market, to listen to our customers, and to ensure that we provide the answer to their need,” said Bruno Even, president and CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “Yes, perhaps, it could be that it’s not the need for all the markets, but we want in position for every part of the market.”
The manufacturer and partner Genesys revealed the news during the first day of HAI Heli-Expo 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Genesys is excited to partner with Airbus to offer an avionics solution to the H125 that allows an affordable option for IFR operations,” said Jamie Luster, Genesys Aerosystems director of sales and marketing, in a press release. “We expect the IFR option to be a popular choice in civil and special mission applications.”