Airbus Unveils Its Billion Dollar Composite Helicopter

The twin-engine H160 is the first aircraft to be manufactured under Airbus Helicopters and has been designed to compete with the Agustawestland AW139. After its rebranding from Eurocopter back in 2014, the company has invested over $1 billion to design and develop the chopper with a lot of focus going into the composite body which has dropped the empty weight one tonne below the AW139, reducing both fuel and operating costs.

The 5–6 ton chopper promises a 185 mph cruising speed and can carry up to 12 passengers up to 120 nautical miles, deliver and return. The company say it will provide a smooth ride at top cruising speed and is capable of hovering out of ground effect at altitudes up to 5,000 feet.

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The H160 is the first-ever, fully composite civil helicopter, resulting in an airframe that is stronger, lighter and resistant to corrosion while requiring less maintenance. The choppers bearing-less main rotor hub is further enhanced with the application of composite thermoplastic technology, which further reduces weight and increases damage tolerance.

The aircraft will feature the company’s blue tipped blades which feature an innovative hockey stick style leading edge, designed to reduce blade noise by up to five dB. The shrouded tail rotor on the H160 is angled at 12 degrees to provide additional lift and improved centre of gravity which allows for more flexible loading and passenger comfort.

Additional features of the H160 include electrically operated landing gear, eliminating complicated and heavy hydraulics systems, while the airframe design includes a biplane stabilizer on the tail that adds additional lift and creates more stability in hover, as well as a more level flight path.

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.