Airbus Helicopters plans to increase the maximum take-off weight of its flagship EC175 rotorcraft to 7.8t, giving operators the choice between 300kg (660lb) of extra payload or a 40nm (75km) range boost.

Certification of the higher MTOW variant is planned “before the end of 2016” says the airframer, with a flight-test campaign due to be conducted next year.

Earlier this year, AgustaWestland announced that its AW189 – which competes head-to-head with the EC175 – was certificated as a 8.3t helicopter, also a 300kg increase over its previously stated maximum weight of 8t.

EC175 new

Airbus Helicopters

In addition, Airbus Helicopters plans to integrate its new Rig ’N Fly GPS-navigation-assisted software – designed to enhance the safety of operations to and from offshore installations - to the EC175.

The system will be incorporated into the type’s avionics suite following certification on the upgraded EC225e in late 2015, the manufacturer says.

Airbus Helicopters announced the upgrades shortly before the start of a North Sea demonstration tour commencing on 19 May, which will take the aircraft to Norwich, Aberdeen and Stavanger, Norway.

First deliveries of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-powered helicopter to three operators are due to take place later this year.