En route to Babcock International Group PLC in 2020, the first serial Airbus H160 to come off the company's new assembly line in Marignane, France completed first flight on Dec. 14, the company said on Dec. 18.
Babcock has heralded the H160 for its large cabin, low vibration levels, and state-of-the-art technology. The company, which announced a five-year frame agreement with Airbus for the H160s earlier this year, said that it will first use the H160s in Europe for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and other missions.
Airbus may find a place for the H160 in the EMS sector in the United States as well.
While Airbus Helicopters felt the effects four years ago of a stagnating market for EMS helicopters in the United States due to the 40 percent of non-reimbursed healthcare costs for helicopter EMS, Chris Emerson, CEO of Airbus Helicopters North America, said recently that the sector is a growing one for the company.
Beyond sales of Airbus H125 and H130 models for EMS, Emerson said that he "absolutely" sees a role for H160s in EMS.
While the split between single-engine and twin-engine EMS helicopter sales in the U.S. is 70-to-30, Emerson said that he sees increasing EMS sales of twin-engine models, particularly for the urban market. Airbus makes twin-engine EMS models, such as the H160, the H135, the H145, the H155 and the AS365.
Airbus said it has produced two-thirds of the EMS helicopters sold in the U.S. in the past 10 years and has provided 1,230 helicopters to 90 EMS operators in the U.S.
Target assembly time for the H160 is 40 days once in full production — half of the time it takes to build its predecessor, the AS365 Dauphin — on a new assembly line that incorporates robotics and automation.
Airbus said that the H160 has 68 patents and features sound-reducing Blue Edge blades and Helionix. Airbus said the aircraft is its first with a true digital, connected focus.
The H160's Helionix avionics system gives the pilot the ability to push an emergency button to allow the aircraft to enter a safe flight condition automatically with no pilot intervention.
Other customers for the H160 thus far include an unnamed Latin American customer and an unnamed U.S. customer.