Eurocopter has launched a VIP-roled variant of its developmental EC175 super-medium helicopter at EBACE.
Due for certification in the second half of 2013 in an offshore transport configuration, the Marseille, France-headquartered airframer will look to bring the executive version to market by the end of 2015.
It has already signed a memorandum of understanding with an unidentified potential customer for the 7.5t helicopter which it hopes to firm up in the near future. If concluded, it will lead to a seven-seat VIP version of the aircraft based in Monaco.
To develop the interior, Eurocopter has partnered with Peder Eidsgaard, of Pegasus Design, who has worked on business jets and super yachts.
The helicopter will be offered in two guises, the nine to 12-seat Executive model - shown in a full-scale mock-up on its stand - and the more luxurious VIP version with six to eight seats. The aircraft benefits from its substantial cabin, says Eurocopter, boasting 434ft³ (12.3m³) of available space.
Three interior styles are proposed for the VIP variant, all featuring two seating areas. Options include dimmable electrochromatic windows - as seen on the Boeing 787 airliner. Although the Dreamliner has experienced problems with the windows not blocking 100% of light, Eurocopter believes the dimmable window technology will have matured by the time the VIP helicopter enters service.
Eurocopter anticipates being able to sell about five of the VIP-roled type each year, it says.
Olivier Lambert, Eurocopter senior vice-president for sales and customer relations, says: "The refinement and quality level incorporated by Pegasus Design results from the company's understanding of high-end customers' expectations, and makes these helicopters a perfect extension of the finesse and sophistication typically found aboard business jets and super yachts."
Eidsgaard, who has not previously worked on rotorcraft interiors, adds: "The helicopter market has not really addressed the VVIP market before and we see this as an opportunity to bring another level of luxury to the market."
A completions centre has yet to be identified for the EC175, but Eurocopter may perform the work at its Marignane facility.
The new helicopter will sit at the upper end of Eurocopter's VIP range and completes its offering for the segment, the company says. It has sold 500 rotorcraft in the VIP and executive segments during the past five years, it adds.
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