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The H160, which Airbus Helicopters is developing to regain a significant share on the medium twin market, is halfway into its flight test campaign but will not enter service until late 2019, due to the redesign of some dynamic components.
The H160’s Safran Arrano turboshaft engine is scheduled to be certified late in 2018, without any major delay. But the situation is different for the airframe. Now planned for the end of 2019, the aircraft’s entry into service had originally been envisaged for 2018.
“We had several technical issues ; redesigning a part can take several months and some complex parts have long production cycles,” head of program Bernard Fujarski explained. For instance, the loads measured on some components of the main gearbox in flight test were higher than expected.
Slightly more than 550 flight hours have been accumulated, mostly by the first two prototypes. The third and final prototype entered service in October and has since flown about 20 hours. Testing has begun on an inlet barrier filter that is expected to be useful in harsh environments, such as desert and polluted cities, Fujarski said.
Certification testing of the aircraft is in progress and will account for most of flight testing activity next year. Although some evaluations in snowy conditions have already been performed, Airbus is keeping one of the prototypes ready for further flying in similar weather. The goal is to find a heavy snowfall with “very wet” snow, as required for certification.
As for hot weather, enough data has been gathered for certification, Fujarski said. But Airbus wants to “go beyond” that initial set of data and is considering a dedicated test campaign next year, probably in the U.S.
Flight-test crews are still assessing various settings on the biplane stabilizer, which has been designed for improved main rotor efficiency.