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Best Flight Award nominees: Rotorcraft

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Airbus H160 Helicopters

innovation: The new mid-size Airbus H160 incorporates a variety of new technologies, including the main blades of the Blue Edge active tracking rotor in a five-blade system with a dual-clearance design that reduces noise and improves travel smoothness; new Safran Arrano engines that offer 10 to 15 percent better fuel consumption; and the Helionix aeronautical system with four large touch screens, the architecture of which is already flying in the other Airbus twins.

The H160 also represents the catalyst through which the European company is trying to transform the way it makes and supports helicopters. The assembly line at Merignane in southern France integrates the five main component assemblies that have been completed and tested before they reach the line. The flow is automated and moves down two production lines, each with several workstations capable of assembling different H160 configurations. Airbus aims to hijack up to 50 helicopters a year.

cabin: The H160 combines futuristic styling with a flat-floor cabin, large windows and a generous luggage compartment that can swallow 1,661. The cabin can be configured to accommodate four or eight passengers – with all bells and whistles that you will find on the latest large corporate aircraft – or can provide useful seating for 12.

Airbus H160

Airbus H160

Performance and efficiency: Arrano engines (1,300 rpm each) feature a two-phase centrifugal compressor and variable input shovels, which reduce fuel consumption in all flight phases and especially in navigation power. They help the H160 lead to a maximum cruising speed of 150 knots, a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and a maximum range of 475 nm. Airbus Helicopters also claims that Arranos will have lower maintenance costs than other engines in their class.

Blades Blue Edge features tips with a twist that resembles the end of a hockey stick business. As the rotor blades rotate, the tips release vortices. Bending tips disrupt the “vortex blade interaction” from one blade to another, reducing helicopter noise signature by as much as 5 dB. The cantilever fenestron and the horizontal biplane stabilizer on the rear tail are combined to improve elevation. Landing gear and electrically activated brakes instead of traditional hydraulic systems reduce weight and improve reliability. A health use and monitoring system follows key maintenance parameters and can transmit them to ground technicians while the helicopter is in flight, using the wireless air communication system (wACS). To control costs, Airbus decided to overcome a costly fly-by-wire flight control system and make an option to evaluate the rotor blade.

security: Helionix aircraft are designed to reduce workload by providing pilots with the information they need when they need it. Aircraft pair on a four-axle autopilot and a front-end indicator showing all engine instrument data. Other advanced features include traffic and weather advice, terrain avoidance, and synthetic vision. The H160 is equipped with the world’s first ground helicopter take-off procedure and whirlwind warning that warns pilots when flying in conditions that could lead to the state of the whirlpool ring. The H160 also includes a rear-view camera, Sea State 6 emergency rating system and windows that exceed the EASA Type IV emergency exit size requirements.

Importance of Design: The H160 combines a composite, futuristic, styling and modern airframe technology to produce a helicopter that is safer and more economical to operate and maintain.


Airbus H145D3

innovation: Airbus Helicopters adds a twin to its well-known H145 a new folding rotary system, with five blades and Fadec engines.

cabin: The H145D3 comes standard with a wireless air communication system (wACS) that provides Wi-Fi. In the executive configuration, the cabin can be placed 4-9.

Airbus H145D3

Airbus H145D3

Performance and efficiency: The D3 features the new main model of the non-holding rotor which provides a smoother ride, requires less maintenance and increases the payload by 330 pounds. Compared to the four-edged H145D2, it has a slightly smaller main rotating disc, from 36 feet to 35.4 meters. The new design without bearings has no rotor head, requires no oil, no fat and very little maintenance. The main folding rotors take only 10 minutes to set up, making it ideal for hangar or ship storage scenarios. All sheets are folded back inside the horizontal stabilizer arm space by simply removing one bolt from each blade. Avionics will provide a guide on where to place the cycle and the collective before the blade folding begins. The D3 Safran Arriel 2E twin engines now include the Fadec.

Existing H145D2s can be upgraded to D3 via a kit that includes the new five-spoke rotor main blades, a transmission case consisting of a rotor mast, swash plates, scissors, accompanying mounting control rods, oil cooler and rotor brake, an additional electric hydraulic pump whose sole function is to test hydraulic controls during pre-aviation inspections, Helionix software, a new forward cross tube and modification / tuning of the horizontal stabilizer. The package deletes the 3-Hz lower gear dampers and the active light vibration control system found in the D2. Owners of the H145D2 will be credited for trading their substituted H145D2 components on a conditional basis. The update, which takes approximately 220 hours to complete, is not available for BK117 or EC145 variants.

security: Helionix avionics digital package includes a four-axle autopilot and wACS that provides Wi-Fi in the cockpit, imports navigation and mission databases from tablets, creates automatic connections via Wi-Fi or cell, automatically exports data from previous flights, generates flight reports, launches automatic downloads, and exports data from a previous flight.

Importance of Design: The new main rotor system, engine controls and aircraft of the H145D3 bring added performance and safety to one of the best-selling models of Airbus Helicopters.

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