Airbus Helicopters has no immediate plans to launch a new light single-engined rotorcraft as a replacement for the venerable H125, even as the programme closes on 50 years in service.

Launched in the early 1970s as the AS350 – it was rebranded as the H125 in 2014 – the 2.8t-class helicopter performed a maiden sortie in 1974 and entered service the following year, with the global fleet recently surpassing 40 million flight hours.

H125-c-Airbus Helicopters

Source: Airbus Helicopters

Global H125 fleet has now surpassed 40 million flight hours

Despite its age, the H125 continues to sell strongly. Although orders slipped in 2023 to 108, plus 39 of the related H130, the pair took a combined market share of over 80% last year, a “confirmation” that they are “really the leaders on the market”, said Airbus Helicopters chief executive Bruno Even at the Heli-Expo show on 27 February.

As part of its support for the country’s aerospace industry during the Covid-19 pandemic, the French government allocated funding in June 2020 to Airbus Helicopters to work on an ultra-fuel-efficient H125 successor to enter service later this decade.

But Even says there is nothing on the immediate horizon: “There is no need. As long as there is demand from the market we will continue to be committed to our product and we will continue to invest in our product.

“At the end, what could drive the decision to prepare the next generation is the market demand – but today’s market demand is huge,” he says.

In the meantime, the company continues to mature “techno-bricks” that could be incorporated into any future helicopter through a series of flying demonstrators.

“If the market confirms the need for such a programme we need to be ready to push the button,” says Even.

In particular, the clean-sheet DisruptiveLab – which performed a maiden sortie in early 2023 – is aimed squarely at the light-single space. It features a highly aerodynamic design and a new hybrid powertrain plus other enhancements to cut fuel burn by a combined 50%.

Flight testing of the platform continues, says Even, and is “progressing well”. More than 50 flight hours have so far been logged and the “feedback is really positive”.

In the meantime, Airbus Helicopters continues to invest in enhancements for the H125, launching a programme with Genesys Aerosystems to develop an instrument flight rules capability for the H125.

Initial approval, via supplemental type certification expected later this year, is being sought in the USA. Other countries will then follow, with Brazil the next target.

“We continue to bring value and capability to our customers making the helicopter able to fly in all weather conditions,” adds Even.