Airbus Helicopters unveils new H160 medium-class rotorcraft

First all-composite civil helicopter features slate of new composite-based performance features.

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Airbus Helicopters (Marignane, France) unveiled its all-new H160 (previously X-4) twin-engine rotorcraft at the opening of the Heli-Expo (March 2-5, Orlando, FL, US). Joining the product range between the H145 (formerly EC145) and the H175 (formerly EC175), this innovative medium helicopter becomes the first product introduced with the Airbus Helicopters corporate identity and its new numbering designation.

It also features nose-to-tail breakthroughs in design and systems exemplifying the company’s transformation plan. The majority of these are achieved using composite materials. Airbus Helicopters claims the H160 is the first-ever, fully-composite civil helicopter, resulting in an airframe that is lighter in weight, more robust, resistant to corrosion and fatigue, while requiring less maintenance. Its proven Spheriflex bearingless main rotor hub is further enhanced with the application of innovative composite thermoplastic technology – which reduces weight and increases damage tolerance.

Other composite-based firsts for Airbus Helicopters include: the largest-ever Fenestron shrouded tail rotor, which is also double-canted at 12° angles, further enhancing anti-torque control efficiency; and the all-new Biplane Stabilizer, whose unique design involves a staggered placement of the dual-level, interconnected stabilizers. This feature facilitates pilot maneuvers and significantly reduces aerodynamic penalties in low-speed flight and hover.

Another breakthrough is Airbus Helicopters’ initial production use of its Blue Edge main rotor blades made with composites, which reduce exterior noise levels by 50 percent (3 dB) and also allow a payload increase of up to 100 kg compared to traditional rotor blades.

The H160 integrates 68 different Airbus Helicopters-patented technologies and also features the Helionix digital avionics suite, the new Turbomeca 1,100-shp Arrano engine and electric landing gear, all combining for more payload, less maintenance, reduced operating cost and improved environmental footprint. Its payload lift, range and efficiency make it well- suited for a wide variety of uses, including oil and gas operations; public services, air medical and coast guard duties; along with commercial transport, private and business aviation. With a cruise speed of 160 kts, the H160 can carry 12 passengers at distances of up to 450-NM.

“The H160 represents Airbus Helicopters’ strategy to provide the most efficient solutions for our customers, who serve, protect, save lives and safely carry passengers in the most demanding environments,” said President Guillaume Faury. “We are driven by this mission, because what is important to our customers is essential to us.’”

Development of the H160 began in 2013, with the definition of the final aircraft configuration confirmed this year. The helicopter’s first flight will also take place in 2015 and service entry is planned for 2018.