A long-awaited route-proving trial of the Airbus Helicopters H160 in the USA by operator PHI will not take place before 2024, the airframer says.
PHI and Airbus Helicopters in 2021 announced that as part of a four-unit commitment for the new medium-twin, the airframer would provide a single H160 for a year-long route-proving programme on behalf of oil and gas major Shell.
However, the slow pace of certification in the USA has delayed that effort; Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for the H160 was only obtained in July this year.
Airbus Helicopters says its first set of US pilots for the H160 have been trained and are expected to receive their type ratings from the FAA “shortly”, as the agency continues its Flight Standardization Board (FSB) process.
The FSB review is “ongoing”, says the manufacturer. The process typically lasts around nine weeks and is a necessary step during the introduction of a new aircraft type for the FAA to validate the training requirement.
Airbus Helicopters Inc – the airframer’s US arm – will begin ground school training for customers at its site in Grand Prairie, Texas in November; simulator training will, however, be carried out in Marignane, France.
“Once customer pilots receive the type rating, the aircraft will be placed into operation. We expect this will happen at the beginning of 2024,” says the airframer.
PHI on 12 September disclosed it had signed a “framework agreement” with Airbus Helicopters covering the acquisition of 20 H175 super-medium-twins and eight H160s.
The deal covers both firm orders and purchase options, although neither party has disclosed the split between the two. In addition, it is unclear if the new commitments for the H160 are separate to the four-unit order revealed in 2021.
No delivery timeline has been revealed either, although FlightGlobal understands PHI is scheduled to take its first H175 in 2024. PHI declines to comment.