Eurocopter has launched its EC155 in the US market, eight months after the twin engined medium helicopter was unveiled in Europe.

The aircraft, which will be marketed by American Eurocopter (AEC), is a modified and stretched variant of the AS365 Dauphin medium twin, boasting a 40% increase in cabin size.

The EC155 was unveiled at the Paris air show in June last year in mock-up form, as the AS365N4, and made its first flight the same month. Since then, the aircraft has clocked up more than 100 flying hours. European Joint Aviation Requirement Part 29 certification is planned for October, by which time the Franco-German consortium anticipates that five production aircraft will have been completed.

"Launch customers are expecting the aircraft in early 1999, so we have to stick closely to our schedule," says Eurocopter chairman Siegfried Sobotta. The first EC155 will be delivered to Norwegian offshore operator Helikopter Service, which has ordered six aircraft. A further 13 have been ordered by the German border guard.

The aircraft is powered by two 595kW (800shp) Turboméca Arriel 2C turboshafts, and has a maximum cruise speed of 140kt (265km/h) and a range of 795km (430nm) at 135kt.

AEC believes that the EC155 will be well received by the US market because of its low noise level. The aircraft has a fenestron shrouded tailrotor, with 10 blades asymmetrically spaced about the hub, which, says Eurocopter, will reduce aircraft noise by 10dB compared with earlier models "and 4dB below the latest ICAO [International Civil Aviation Oganisation] level", says Eurocopter. The EC155 will have an automated variable rotor RPM system designed to reduce noise further.

Eurocopter offers the EC155 in three configurations - North Sea offshore; tropical offshore; and corporate - which will accommodate 12 passengers and two crew. The EC155 is priced at around $5.5 million, about $1 million more than the cost of its AS365N3 predecessor. Eurocopter has hinted that it may launch its proposed EC145 - an upgraded BK117 - by early 1999, but declines to be drawn on a specific date.

Meanwhile, AEC has finalised the sale of one EC135, two AS350Bs, and six AS355B3s to US emergency medical services operator Rocky Mountain Helicopters.

Source: Flight International