2017 is shaping up to be a key year for Airbus Helicopters’ H160 medium civil helicopter programme. The first two prototypes of the 6t twin-engine H160 are currently in flight testing, while a third machine is in final assembly. The company, which already holds a number of Letters of Intent for the new helicopter, hopes to sign a contract with a first customer before the year end.
Based on flight test activities to date, the company says the programme is on track for an entry into service in 2019. Activities in 2016 included high-temperature testing in the south of France, in temperatures up to 40°C, and high and low temperature testing in a climate chamber in Vienna, Austria. In early 2017, tests were performed at Yellowknife, Canada at temperatures down to –45°C. Further testing at elevated temperatures is planned this summer to validate modifications introduced since the previous test campaign.
A third prototype is currently in final assembly at Marignane. PT3 will be the first machine to be built in Standard 1 configuration. The first two prototypes were Standard 0, while the first series production model will be Standard 2, currently under development.
Work on the future H160 assembly line is also moving forward. Construction of the first work station is under way, and the workshare between the different Airbus Group sites has been determined. The company is aiming for a maximum production rate of 50 machines per year.
Development of a military version of the H160 has yet to be launched. However, a certain number of features that would be required for such a machine have been integrated into the design from the outset. These include the landing gear, which has been designed to handle landings on the deck of a ship. Corrosion issues have also been taken into account for eventual naval operations.