Airbus Corporate Helicopters is anticipating continued strong growth for helicopters ahead of the first North American delivery of its ACH 160, 8-passenger helicopter early next year.
Speaking at the NBAA-BACE event in Las Vegas, Nevada, Treg Manning, vice president marketing and sales Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) North America said, “We have seen an active personal and business aviation [PBA] market that has almost doubled in two years. 50 aircraft were delivered in 2022 for all OEMs in the USA, versus 27 in 2020.
“There are 1,900 PBA helicopters flying in North America. Around 400 are ACH helicopters. It was the most resilient market sector during and coming out of the Covid crisis. Customers are coming to helicopters and seeing them as a time saving machine for them.”
The ACH 160 is a luxury twin-engined helicopter with a soundproofed cocoon cabin for flights without headsets, double-glazed windows and a range of 530 miles (850km).
FAA Certification was achieved on the ACH 160 earlier this year, some three years after it was certified in Europe. According to Manning Five ACH 160s are on the ground ready to be delivered, with the first in the US expected to go to a customer before April next year.
Frederic Lemos, head of airbus corporate helicopters said, “We believe it will be the next reference aircraft in North America. The cabin is very roomy and it is the perfect aircraft to replace current mediums in the market.”
The Airbus Corporate Helicopters brand was launched in 2017.
Meanwhile, Airbus Corporate Helicopters has added a third aircraft to its test fleet that will help develop technology to reduce emissions and autonomous flight.
The modified H145 helicopter, called PioneerLab will be used to test technologies for twin-engine helicopters that will reduce emissions, increase autonomy and integrate recyclable natural materials.
PioneerLab aims to demonstrate a fuel reduction of up to 30% compared to a conventional H145 using a hybrid-electric propulsion system and aerodynamic improvements. The demonstrator will also be used to flight-test structural components made from bio-based and recycled materials, which aim to reduce the environmental footprint across the entire aircraft life cycle.
Other research will include the integration of the latest digital technologies into the aircraft’s flight control system and associated sensors to increase autonomy.
PioneerLab’s first campaign has already started at the Airbus site in Donauwörth, Germany with the testing of a rotor strike alerting system. The next phase will see an automated take-off and landing systems flight tested.
Lemos, said, “We are committed to developing sustainable aviation. At ACH we have short, medium and long term initiatives. Short term is SAF, and all our aircraft can fly using up to 50% SAF now. Longer term we are working on aerodynamic improvements, reducing the overall mass and improving the turbine and we are working to change to a fully electrical propulsion and hydrogen.”
“We are developing new features for the 145 platform and others. Bio-based and recycled materials to reduce fuel burn and the whole carbon footprint of making helicopters, as well as autonomous flight,” he added.
The PionnerLab helicopter joins two other Airbus Helicopters’ testbeds, named the Flightlab and DisruptiveLab. Flightlab is currently testing a fully electric fly-by-wire joystick control system that could be used on current aircraft and the company’s CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft.