H160 (previously known as X4), the much-anticipated new rotorcraft from Airbus Helicopters, was unveiled in a stunning preview given at the HAI Heli Expo 2015 in Orlando, Florida (USA) on 3 March 2015. This new product launched by the Franco-German company is a complete innovation in the helicopter sector.
Due to fly for the first time in 2015, the H160 will be positioned in the segment of medium-weight twin-engine helicopters (5.5-6 tons), replacing the famous Dauphin which has been in service since the 1975 (Avio Aero already produced the power transmission for the Dauphin, also known as the AS365). Lighter, stronger and more resistant to corrosion and fatigue, the H160 requires less maintenance than its Dauphin predecessors. It has the largest Fenestron tail rotor ever built and is designed for a wide variety of uses, from oil and gas operations, to public services, air medical and coast guard duties along with commercial transport, private and business aviation. It is expected to come into service in 2018.
Late last July, Avio Aero signed an agreement with Airbus Helicopters to supply transmissions for future advanced helicopters and will manufacture and test gearboxes for installation on the new-generation Airbus twin-engine helicopters, including the H160. This 25-year contract is worth over US $250 million.
For the H160 we will produce the three accessory gearboxes (the front and two lateral accessory gearboxes). Engineering work on these accessory gearboxes is being conducted by a 9-person project team and at present involves only the Rivalta facility.
The activities of this ambitious program were launched in early November 2014 at the Kick Off Meeting held in Marignane (a few kilometers from Marseilles where the Marseille Provence airport is located and Airbus Helicopters has its headquarters). The first units manufactured by Avio Aero are due to be delivered in November 2015. Our company has been collaborating with the Franco-German helicopter manufacturer for around 40 years, during which time we have worked together on the construction of such prestigious helicopters as the Super Frelon (a triple engine heavy transport helicopter), the Puma (a medium-weight twin-engine transport helicopter) and the Dauphin.
The H160 will be powered by a pair of 1100 HP Turbomeca Arrano engines. It will have a maximum speed of 160 knots (more than 290 km per hour) and will be able to transport 12 passengers 12 passengers at distances of up to 120 nautical miles (about 225 km) for oil and gas missions, and a 450 nautical miles (about 830 km) range with 20-minute reserve in public service or search and rescue tasks.
There is great excitement at Avio Aero about participation in the program for a new-generation aircraft: “Forty years on since the signing of the last contract, we are resuming our partnership with Airbus Helicopters on a new platform that the customer is presenting to us as a testbed, a test that we want to overcome together with the customer,” said Giacomo Vessia, head of the Transmission Center. The same excitement rises from Airbus side throughout the comment of Alban Corpron, H160 drive system Engineering Manager: “H160 is a major development for Airbus Helicopters. Avio Aero has a significant role to play by honoring its commitments and thus confirming to be a reliable partner.”