FINAL ASSEMBLY OF THE first Eurocopter EC.120 light single-turbine helicopter will begin soon at Marignagne, France. The first flight is scheduled for the second half of 1995 and initial deliveries for 1997.

The 1.5t gross-weight EC.120 is being developed jointly by Eurocopter France, Singapore Aerospace and CATIC of China.

Three flight-test aircraft are planned, the first powered by a 375kW (280hp) Turbomeca Arrius 1B1 engine. Following the pattern set with the new EC.135 light twin, the EC.120 is also likely to be offered with the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200, says Eurocopter president Jean-Francois Bigay.

The EC.135 was launched formally on to the North American market at Heli-Expo, with display of the Arrius 2B-powered third pre-production aircraft. A US sales-demonstration tour was planned following the show. Bigay says that the 2.5t gross-weight helicopter will be certificated by the end of the year and that deliveries will begin in the first quarter of 1996.

Eurocopter Germany plans to build 30 EC.135s a year initially, but hopes to increase production to 60 a year eventually. Price for the seven-seat helicopter has been set at DM3 million ($1.98 million), 30% less than McDonnell Douglas' competing Explorer, according to Bigay, who admits that the EC.135 might also compete with Eurocopter's BK.117 medium twin, which costs DM5 million.

Bigay says that studies continue into options to replace the BK.117 and AS.365 Dauphin in the 4-5t gross-weight class, under the designations EC.145 and EC.165. Neither helicopter would be launched before 1997, he says. Eurocopter's plans for the 8-10t gross-weight class centre on a commercial derivative of the NH90 military helicopter. The first NH90 prototype is scheduled to be flown before the end of this year.

Source: Flight International