Airbus Helicopters intends to deliver 10 examples of its H175 super medium in 2016 as it works to broaden the operator base beyond launch customer Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen.

Thanks to a troubled offshore oil and gas market and economic difficulties elsewhere, the airframer has so far handed over only six of the 7.5t twins to a single customer, NHV. Initial plans had called for deliveries to two other clients in 2015 – Héli-Union of France and Russia’s UTair, but these have been deferred.

Although NHV will take another four of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered aircraft this year, new customers in 2016 will include Mexican operator Pegaso, lessors Milestone Aviation and Lease Corp International, as well as the first two undisclosed VIP operators.

Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters continues to add additional capabilities to the baseline aircraft. It last year completed flight tests to enable a 300kg increase in maximum take-off weight to 7.8t and certification of the upgrade is due by year-end, says programme manager Patrick Bessiere.

No decision has been taken on whether to implement the higher gross weight as the production standard or to only offer it as an option. This will depend partly on “what we decide on service life extension on components and maintenance”, he says.

It also at the end of February gained European Aviation Safety Agency approval for the addition of an automatic dependant surveillance broadcast – out system aboard the helicopter.

H175 yellow

Dominic Perry/Flightglobal

This forms part of a future avionics upgrade enabling automated approaches to offshore platforms using the manufacturer’s Rig ‘N’ Fly system. Flight evaluations are due to start in the next month, says Bessiere.

Additionally, trials of search and rescue (SAR) modifications for oil and gas operators have been completed, with flight testing of a limited ice protection system also due to finish shortly. A full ice protection system, which will add 200kg to the helicopter’s empty weight, is further away, however, and will not be available until around 2019-20, says Bessiere.

The first SAR variant is also on the production line at Marignane, ahead of a 2017 delivery to the launch customer – Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service.

Airbus Helicopters is also attempting to modify the production system of the H175. Presently configured as a static assembly line, the manufacturer will shortly begin trials of takt flow line to boost production capacity.

Output is planned to double in 2017 to 20-24 H175s, with that figure rising again to 30-36 the year after.