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Airbus readies for second H145 five-blade prototype

16th July 2019 - 12:00 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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The test campaign for the recently launched Airbus H145 five-blade helicopter is soon to see a second prototype added.

A first flight for the new aircraft is expected to take place from Donauwörth in the coming weeks as the OEM targets EASA certification in early 2020 for the light twin.

Based on market interest for greater payload, the H145 upgrade was initially launched at Heli-Expo this year, with an original prototype currently undergoing a high-altitude campaign in Chile to demonstrate capabilities up to 20,000ft. 

Those activities are set to last until September, an Airbus spokesperson told Shephard, adding that ‘strong demand’ in the helicopter has been registered from new customers and those looking to upgrade their four-blade types.  

Such an assessment was backed up by Airbus securing orders for ten units of the aircraft only days after announcing the upgrade.

Improving upon the standard four-blade aircraft, distinguishing features of the five-blade version include an extra 150kg of useful load and a MTOW of 3,800kg, 100kg more than the former type.

Additionally, a new bearing-less main rotor design is also intended to support maintenance operations and reliability, according to Airbus.

Central to the redesign of the aircraft is the ability of the manufacturer to produce a composite blade that is proven to increase aerodynamic drag, while at a technical level the blades are 10cm shorter than the four-blade model.

The H145 has consistently been a leading product across the Airbus Helicopters portfolio, second only to the H125, by orders, in FY 2018. 

Looking to reach a target of 250 flight hours before service entry is met, Airbus had initially hoped to begin flight of a second prototype in June, but no indication of why that had taken longer than anticipated was mentioned by the spokesperson. 

In March 2019, Airbus confirmed that certification of a five-blade H145M would take an extra year because of a variation in navigation system between the civil and military versions of the helicopter. 

Having previously demonstrated MUM-T capabilities between the H145 and the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 last year, the OEM is intent on developing a new partnership with a separate unmanned system to further explore manned and unmanned collaborations.

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