The new Airbus five-bladed H145 unveiled in March has arrived in Chile where it will begin high-altitude flight testing in the Andes Mountains.
EASA certification of the new five-blade configuration is expected in early 2020, with deliveries following later next year, according to Airbus.
Airbus has put the aircraft through altitude testing in the French Alps last summer up to 20,000 feet. The objective of the Chile campaign is to further expand the flight envelope of the new helicopter and demonstrate its capabilities at high altitudes, the company says.
“Due to its multi-mission capacity and excellent performance in hot and high conditions, present in many countries in Latin America, the H145 family is one of the region's favorite light twin engine helicopters,” Airbus said in a statement. “The flight campaign will provide some operators with the opportunity to fly the new version and experience first-hand the improvements brought by the new five-bladed rotor – an increased useful load of 150 kg and new levels of comfort.”
Development of the five-blade rotor system has been in the works for years, but the company is nearing the end of flight test and is preparing to offer it both as a retrofit to Fenestron-equipped H145D2 aircraft and as a feature of new-build H145s beginning in 2020, according to Axel Humpert, senior vice president and head of H145 programs.
It produces about the same noise as the current H145 and the same fuel efficiency. Maximum takeoff weight goes from 3.7 tons to 3.8 tons with no loss in performance and a slight reduction in weight.
The dimensions of the aircraft are basically unchanged, except the rotor is 10 cm higher than the H145D2, but the aircraft is 10 cm shorter overall, from the tip of the blade to the rear of the Fenestron shroud. The new rotor has a diameter of 10.8m, down from 11m for the previous blade.
By carefully engineering the new blade and rotor cuff, the five blades produce more thrust than four without any increase in aerodynamic drag, Humpert said. The cuff is attached with two bolts to the main rotor shaft. The flex beam inside the cuff takes all the momentum forces to change pitch.
Airbus has delivered 1,513 H145s to 270 operators, so the existing market for retrofits of the five-blade system is ready and substantial, Humpert said. Eventually, the five-blade rotor system will completely supplant the four-blade configuration, but for now customers can decide which they want. An order of 43 H145s Airbus currently holds could go either way.
The new H145 also introduces new levels of on-board connectivity to customers and operators through the integration of the wireless Airborne Communication System (wACS), allowing seamless and secure transmission of data generated by the helicopter in real-time, including in-flight.