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X4 H160 Light Rotorcraft - Program

Initial concept studies in 2012 envisaged the rotorcraft – then known as the X4 – as a direct replacement for the 4.5t AS365 and 4.9t EC155 Dauphin family. However, the airframer has changed course. It has upped the maximum take-off weight to 5.5-6t, promising to be able to carry 12 passengers a distance of 120nm (222km) with a cruise speed of 160kt (296km/h) at ISA +20°. In other words, matching the performance of the AW139, while weighing 1t less.

On 03 March 2015, in one of the industry’s most anticipated events, Airbus Helicopters presented its all-new H160, raising the standards for performance, cost effectiveness, passenger comfort and environmental impact to create the medium-class rotorcraft benchmark. As the first product introduced with the Airbus Helicopters corporate identity and its new numbering designation, this 5.5-6-ton-class rotorcraft’s nose-to-tail breakthroughs in design and systems exemplify the company’s transformation plan that puts customer satisfaction and operational safety first.

The use of the PTC Windchill PLM backbone enabled Airbus Helicopters to drive improvements in digital continuity and collaboration between the design office, production and support teams of the H160 program. The PTC Windchill solution also supported the Airbus Helicopter goal for highest maturity of the H160 at entry into service planned for 2018, and preparations for the serial production ramp-up and support for its in-service helicopters.

The aircraft first flew 18 June 2015 for about 40 minutes in ground effect that allowed the flight test team to check the overall behavior of the aircraft and to verify the measurements. "The first flight was very promising in terms of stability, vibrations, and sound levels,” said Olivier Gensse, the flight test pilot, upon landing the aircraft.

Carrying out twenty percent more flight hours per month than previous developments at the same stage thanks to the System Helicopter 0 & Dynamic Helicopter 0 ground test facilities, by March 2016 the first prototype (PT1) had logged around 100 hours. The second prototype (PT2), that took off on 27 January 2016, started performance flight tests with Turbomeca’s Arrano engine. The third prototype (PT3) will join its fellow aircraft in 2017 and will essentially be employed to develop the different mission configurations, testing cabin interiors and optionals that will be available to customers.

Airbus Helicopters presented an exclusive first glimpse of the H160 VIP version at this year’s EBACE meeting in Geneva, held from May 24-26, 2016. Customers will have the opportunity to experience some of its features like its exclusive cabin interior, electrical footstep and hinged doors thanks to a virtual reality immersion tool.

“After the unveiling at Heli-Expo in 2015, the H160 has generated a lot of interest from operators on this strategic segment due to its unrivalled combination of innovation, design and performance,” said Bernard Fujarski, Senior Vice President and head of the H160 Program at Airbus Helicopters. “Since the recent launch of the commercialisation at Heli-Expo this year, we have already signed some letters of intent for the H160. With EBACE marking the unveiling of the H160 in its VIP version, we expect to sign additional LOI with private and corporate customers” he added.

Airbus Helicopters launched a design contest in October 2015 with 5 designers competing to create the H160 VIP cabin interior. “After evaluation from a large panel of customers and specialists in luxury goods, Pegasus Design style intention has been selected,” said Frederic Lemos, head of Private and Business Aviation. “Our in-house design team will now work closely with Pegasus Design to establish a new standard of VIP cabin interiors on the private and business aviation market, ensuring that the H160 will propose the same level of excellence, innovation, and emotion inside and out” he added.

The H160 development continued to progress as the two prototypes in flight testing had logged around 140 hours with the second prototype (PT2) having performed the 100th flight mid-May. PT2 has been flying with Turbomeca’s Arrano engines since January 2016 and PT1, whose retrofit is being finalized, will be flying with the Arrano engines in the next couple of days.

The flight envelope was continuously expanded and PT2 reached a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet and performed turns at 2.2G confirming expected behavior of the rotor and dampers. The milestones in the flight test campaign are the climatic campaigns, continued performance testing of the Arrano engines and finalization of aeromechanical configuration of H160.

Airbus Helicopters announced 28 July 2016 the validation of the H160’s aeromechanical configuration – a crucial milestone allowing the programme teams to confirm some key aspects of the next-generation, twin-engine helicopter’s design and performance. “Thanks to more than 200 hours accumulated in flight-testing, and with the achievement of this formal programme milestone, we have been able to confirm several key design assumptions and even exceed some of them against a real-life environment”, said Bernard Fujarski, Senior Vice President in charge of the H160 program. “With the helicopter’s flight envelope now fully opened, we are confident that our next-generation helicopter will set new standards of flight experience for passengers and crews”, he added.

During its flight-test campaign, carried out with two prototypes in the company’s main site in Marignane, France, the H160 demonstrated exceptionally low vibration levels along with remarkable aircraft stability levels, setting new benchmarks in the field. “Vibration levels have been a key objective since the launch of programme, and observed results give us confidence that the H160 will set new comfort standards for all missions segments, from EMS to passenger transport or private and business aviation. We can’t wait for our customers to experience this exceptional level of comfort themselves”, Fujarski added.

Next steps of the flight campaign focused on hot weather trials, to take place over the summer, followed by continued performance testing of the Arrano engines – now equipping both prototypes – as well as cold weather tests later in the year. A third prototype would join the flight-test program in 2017 to support the certification process ahead of the H160’s entry into service.

The H160 pioneered a brand new industrial model, improving competitiveness and customer satisfaction with the final assembly being performed in 18 weeks instead of 36 for the previous generation. Having partnered with Latécoère Services for a state of the art integrated final assembly line for which the first station implemented at the end of 2016, the H160 is gearing up to its serial production. This automated moving flow line will be comprised of two production lines, each equipped with several workstations capable of assembling the different H160 configurations.

Airbus Helicopters associated key operators to the EASA-led MSG-3 process so that all inspection or maintenance requirements have been questioned, all intervals have been challenged, and the resulting maintenance schedule will significantly reduce the maintenance burden and improves aircraft availability. The H160 will be as simple to maintain as a light twin helicopter.

The H160 support and services strategy relies on the digital continuity development process implemented from the beginning of the program. Digital servicing enables a seamless management of operators’ evolving business whether it is airworthiness, maintenance, material management, or training. The H160 will implement a paperless multi-support philosophy, enabling a quick and accurate information exchange and allowing our customers to make decisions faster. With the recent signature of the full-flight simulator partnership with Thales and Helisim, Airbus Helicopters also wants to ensure best in class safety from entry into service for its future customers.






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Page last modified: 29-05-2019 18:52:36 ZULU