Airbus Helicopters told HeliHub.com recently that the H160 program is on schedule and they seem very pleased with progress. They are unable to release a prototype from the testing phase for Heli-Expo, but they have a Virtual Reality simulation on their booth in Dallas in place of an actual airframe.
We have separated our update into the work which has already been completed, the work in progress and future tasks.
- Airbus Helicopters completed hot weather testing in 2016 as the last two summers in southern France have provided consistent days over 40C which allowed for that work to be completed earlier than originally planned, and without travelling anywhere.
- Pegasus Design has been announced as the VIP interior supplier for the H160 back at EBACE in May 2016
- The first prototype PT1 flew with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210 engines from June to December 2015. At this point it was retrofitted to Safran Arrano engines and first flew with the new engines at the end of May 2016
- PT2 first flew in January 2016 with Safran Arrano fitted from the start.
- Prototypes PT1 and PT2 have now completed over 360 flight hours of testing. This pair is built to the “Standard Zero” specification, as originally set out before any metal was cut. Learning points from these two aircraft are being rolled out in PT3 – more of which below.
- PT1 continues development flights from Marignane, including flying in falling snow – in the two days HeliHub.com was in Marignane, PT1 departed on the first day to spend 24 hours in the Alps, returning the next day.
- PT2 is on cold weather operations, flying from a temporary base in Yellowknife, Canada since January 2017
- PT3 is in the last stages of completion and will be rolled out imminently and fly shortly thereafter. This aircraft is built to “Standard One”, with a most of the learning points from PT1 and PT2 incorporated into the third airframe.
- Work has started on electronic technical publications in 3D – including use of Augmented Reality software
- Production is being set up at least different locations. The H160 boom will be built at the Albacete facility in Spain, with the fuselage and much of the control system built at Donauworth in Germany. Like all Airbus Helicopters, the blades will be built at the dedicated plant – itself currently moving from La Corneuve to Paris Le Bourget Airport. Everything will get married up together in Marignane, France in a very similar way to that employed by its airliner producing sister company does. There will be a large number of connectors bringing wiring and other controls together between the sub assemblies.
- PT3 will be involved in lightning strike tests once it takes to the air
- Oct 2017 – first production airframe will roll off the line and commence an intensive testing phase.
- Late 2017 – customers who have signed LOIs will be invited to translate those into firm fixed orders with initial deposits being paid as part of the process.
- 2018 – Production will commence, building up the work exchange between the various Airbus production facilities, and final assembly being planned for Marignane in France.
- 2019 – planned entry into service. A production rate of 50 airframes per year is the target
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