Eurocopter has joined the growing list of companies studying or offering re-engining options for its AS350 Ecureuil after customer protests forced Turboméca to put a cap on overhaul costs for the helicopter's 1B Arriel turboshaft.

The European helicopter manufacturer says "it must react" to the growing demand for a new engine option and it is talking to Honeywell over re-opening the LTS101 turboshaft production line.

At the same time, Eurocopter is distancing itself from an LTS101 re-engining conversion offered by Spokane, Washington-based Eagle Helicopters. "We do not support it. It is not qualified by Eurocopter and we decline any responsibility for it. We don't want any of the liability associated with that," the company says.

Around five "Super-D" conversions have been undertaken using the LTS101-600 engine, while 10 more have been converted to Rolls-Royce 250 power.

Eurocopter says: "The message for us is very clear that our customers are not happy with Turboméca's support. We have had talks with [Honeywell], and we will try and do this retrofit in a more comfortable way." The engine manufacturer, meanwhile, is studying an improved -700 version of the original LTS101 turboshaft which, ironically, once had a bad reputation for poor reliability.

Turboméca is reacting byre-vamping its repair processes and by placing an immediate cost cap of $180,000 on an Arriel overhaul, which operators say can cost over $200,000 compared to around $70,000 for the LTS101.

"We had to react quickly because of the many criticisms of the costs involved," says Turboméca's senior vice-president customer support Albert Ducrocq.

The cap cost is "an immediate commitment," he says, adding: "Initially, we will swallow the extra cost, but I don't want to swallow it for ever".

One change being considered is the way some operators count engine cycles. "We have a cycle counter, and we are ready to help make sure customers don't over count. The cycle count exactly measures the actual accumulated cycles on the disc, not each and every take-off."

Soloy used Heli-Expo to formally relaunch the Allstar conversion of the AS350 to the R-R 250-C30M turboshaft, developed originally by Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Helicopters.

Soloy says the conversion kit, which now applies to the AS350B, BA and D, costs $90,000 excluding the engine, plus $16,000 for installation. Washington-based Soloy estimates around 800 AS350s are suitable for conversion.

Source: Flight International