Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 18 seconds.
Airbus Helicopters has begun following an electronic delivery process for those customers who cannot or do not want to physically accept a rotorcraft, due to health protection measures and travel restrictions in the pandemic.
Trondheim, Norway-based Helitrans has thus become the first customer to use the e-delivery method, accepting two H125s. More H125s and a H130 have been delivered to other customers in the same way, said Christophe Canguilhem, head of Airbus Helicopters’ delivery center in Marignane, France. A customer may choose between physical and electronic delivery.
In the latter, the first step is the transmission of the aircraft’s documents, Canguilhem explained. The logbook, which includes an equipment list, is sent in advance. The customer can thus capture the data into its system.
The second step is the acceptance flight. It is usually performed by a mixed crew, the captain being an Airbus employee. In the e-delivery process, no customer pilot takes part. Instead, a video conference is arranged for the customer to debrief the Airbus crew who performed the latest flight.
Finally, the usual ground inspection is replaced with a live video visit, said Canguilhem. It is highly technical and the tool Airbus uses enables the viewer to request a focus on a given part to check its condition or part number. The inspection includes loose objects such as blade covers and hoist operator harness.
The e-delivery procedure includes the formal transfer of title, thanks to an electronic signature. In Helitrans’ case, the helicopters were transported by road to Norway. Airbus Helicopters retained responsibility until they entered service, Canguilhem emphasizes.
The new method is seen as more suited to light helicopters. The conventional delivery process for a H125 lasts one day, including a 45-minute flight. Meanwhile, the delivery of a Super Puma can take 3-4 days, including a two-hour flight. “Despite the complexity, we could consider e-delivery for a heavy twin,” said Canguilhem.
Thus far, Airbus’ Donauwörth, Germany factory, which manufactures the H135 and H145 types, has yet to start using e-delivery.
“E-delivery is not intended to be used after the crisis,” said Canguilhem. On the contrary, Airbus commercial aircraft in Toulouse plans to keep it as an optional service to the customer.
There is a cultural difference between the two industries, as a helicopter is much more complex.
“Before the acceptance flight, an A320 performs only one flight. For a helicopter, it can be three to five, depending on the type, in addition to engine run-ups, vibration-related settings and system checks,” said Canguilhem.
Customer response, however, may lead Airbus Helicopters to keep e-delivery as an option.