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PHI and Shell have released more details of the innovative “route proving” program they will begin with Airbus later this year to launch the H160 in the U.S.
The aircraft will begin operations with PHI once it has been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration — a long-awaited step that Airbus hopes to finally complete this summer. With certification in hand, the aircraft will start the route-proving program with PHI over the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive use of the aircraft, pretty much simulating everything we’re going to be doing when we move to commercial operations,” Keith Mullett, managing director of PHI Aviation, told journalists during a pre-show briefing about the program.
“We’ll also be looking at how we operate the aircraft. It’s a very, very advanced aircraft, with a lot of technology on board, and I think getting that right — getting our operating procedures correct and getting the most from the aircraft, especially the safety features — is going to be really important.”
The program will last about eight months, with data flowing between Shell (the customer), PHI, and Airbus.
“We’ve never done anything like this before that I’m aware of,” said Mullett. “We generally buy a brand new helicopter and put it into service a few weeks after it’s delivered. So thankfully, with Shell’s support and with Airbus’s support, we’re able to do something like this, [which is] really paving the way for a more successful introduction.”
PHI has an initial order for four H160s, all destined for operation in the Gulf of Mexico. The aircraft is a 12-seater in oil-and-gas configuration — occupying a “popular part of the market,” said Mullett, filling a role that is currently provided by the Sikorsky S-76 and Leonardo AW139.