Airbus Helicopters has unveiled a batch of upgrades for its H125 it bids to keep the long-running light-single competitive in the crucial aerial work market.

According to the manufacturer’s calculations, operators in the segment account for around 50% of the H125’s annual sales and the same proportion of the in-service fleet.

H125 pair-c-A.Pecchi_Airbus Helicopters

Source: Airbus Helicopters

“It is the number one segment for the H125,” says Axel Aloccio, vice-president, head of light helicopter programmes at the airframer. “And the H125 is by far the market leader in this segment.”

At the heart of the upgrade is a power increase for the rotorcraft’s Safran Helicopter Engines Arriel 2D turboshaft. Maximum output rises to 952shp (710kW), up from 847shp currently.

This in turn boosts the maximum external load to 1,140kg (2,150lb), a 140kg increase on the current limit; the hover ceiling also rises by 1,500ft to 12,640ft, from 11,150ft now.

However, if BLR Aerospace’s FastFin modification is also fitted, the increases grow to 190kg and 2,300ft, respectively. “This is going to make a huge difference: almost 200kg is a 20% improvement in what our customers can carry,” says Aloccio.

He says the upgrade is in response to customer demand: “They could see there was a huge reserve of power in the engine.”

At present the Arriel 2D on the H125 is limited “as when we introduced [the engine variant] we were unsure that the H125’s airframe would be able to absorb the power”.

However, testing revealed that fears over the additional stress placed on components and a reduction in tail rotor authority were unfounded, says Aloccio.

H125 bucket -c-A.Pecchi_Airbus Helicopters

Source: Airbus Helicopters

No physical changes to the airframe or engine are required, he says, simply a change to the vehicle engine management display (VMD) software.

Certification for the enhancement is expected in mid-2020 and after that point it will become the standard build for the H125.

For in-service fleet, the modification can only be applied to the latest variant of the helicopter, which was previously known as the AS350 B3e. It will be achieved by sending the VMD to supplier Thales and will cost in the region of €2,000 ($2,200), although the price is still to be finalised, says Aloccio.

Additional upgrades proposed for the H125 include a crash resistant fuel system (CRFS) for both the B3 and B3e models, including where a cargo swing is fitted. The CRFS will become a standard-fit item for the H125 and H130 and will also be also available for retrofit. Certification for the change was obtained on 24 January.

A slimmed down instrument panel – 40% smaller than the standard version – will also be offered, plus a new system to allow the pilot to display information from the VMD on a personal electronic device such as an iPad or phone.

In future, Airbus Helicopters may also consider developing a modification to permit instrument flight-rules certification on the H125 and related H130, which would provide an enhancement for operators in certain geographies, notably the USA.