A Swiss engineering firm-cum-aircraft builder has launched a new 2.5kg (5,500lb)-class single engine turbine-powered helicopter hoping to cash in on what officials say is neglect of the niche by established airframers.

Funded by an unnamed private equity firm in Switzerland, Marenco Swiss Helicopter plans to begin delivering the eight-seat, all-composite $2.6 million singles in 2015, building as many as 15 of the indigenous aircraft the first year and ramping up to as many as 30 in 2016.

The first prototype Marenco SKYe SH09 is to make its initial flight from the company's facility near Zurich in early 2012, says Mathias Senes, commercial director for the company. Senes, who previously held a variety of sales position for Eurocopter, says established airframers continue to evolve 1970s-era designs for single-engine helicopters in the 2.5t (5,500lb) class rather than launching clean sheet replacements.

 ©John Croft for Flightglobal
 Pre-production prototype of Marenco SKYe SH09 at Heli-Expo

Marenco was showing what it called a pre-production prototype, not a mockup, of the helicopter at the Heli-Expo trade show and exhibition in Orlando, Florida this week.

Senes says the 30 engineers in the company, five of whom are located in a Marenco facility in South Africa working on the rotor hub and shrouded tail, are "taking energy" and design from the automotive industry for elements of the carbon fibre fuselage.

 ©John Croft for Flightglobal
 Automotive industry touches include a low profile sliding cabin door

Initial engine choice is the Honeywell HTS900, though Senes hopes to offer customers a choice in engines. Avionics are to be provided by Sagem.

The sector into which Marenco is launching may be stale in terms of clean sheet products, but it is certainly not inactive. Flight's HeliCAS data service shows that 297 new single-engine helicopters in the 2.5t weight class were delivered by three manufacturers (Eurocopter, Bell and MD Helicopters) to dealers or buyers in 2010, representing 32% of all new helicopters that year. Over the same year, 438 helicopters made by the three companies were bought on the second-hand market.

Source: Flight International