The third prototype of Kopter's SH09 light-single helicopter has arrived in Sicily, where the company hopes favourable weather conditions will enable accelerated flight testing leading to type certification in 2020.
Known as aircraft "P3", the prototype will resume test flights next week, including trials at altitudes of up to 5,000ft and at speeds in excess of 120kt (222km/h) – higher and faster than previous sorties, says Kopter chief executive Andreas Lowenstein.
"We are progressing," said Lowenstein, speaking in Atlanta on 4 March at the HAI Heli-Expo event. Kopter has an SH09 mock-up at the show.
The company hopes to achieve SH09 certification in the first half of 2020 and to deliver the first aircraft before year-end, he says.
Kopter has accumulated more than 100 flight hours with the Honeywell HTS900-powered SH09 fleet, Lowenstein says.
The manufacturer moved P3 to Sicily to escape poor weather – wind, thunderstorms, rain, snow – at its primary flight-test centre in Mollis, Switzerland, Lowenstein says.
The company expects two more test assets – "pre-series" or "PS" aircraft – will join the fleet this year, which will be closer to the eventual production configuration.
PS4 will come on line by late summer and operate in Europe, while PS5 will join the fleet by year-end and be dispatched to the USA for cold- and hot-weather trials, Lowenstein says.
PS5 will fly in Alaska at temperatures down to -45°C (-49°F), before moving south to fly at temperatures as hot as 45°C, he says.
Lowenstein says Kopter has recovered from quality escapes with the SH09's main gearbox housing, which delayed testing last year, and has brought on a new supplier.
Meanwhile, Kopter continues seeking Swfr250 million ($250 million) in new funding, with Lowenstein saying he is "quite confident" an investment deal will close.
"We are talking to several institutions," he says. "We hope that in the coming months – before summer – we will be able to close."
So far, Kopter has been funded by Russian financier Alexander Mamut, who has committed around Swfr350 million to the project.
Kopter now employs about 310 people and plans to hire another 100 staff members in 2019, it says.