Switzerland has a new rotorcraft manufacturer – Kopter – after the former Marenco Swisshelicopter unveiled its new identity.

The company had been seeking a new name since its founder Martin Stucki left the business in December 2016; it had been referring to itself as MSH in the interim

In addition to becoming Kopter – which, says chief executive Andreas Löwenstein, is "is a name that is strong, modern and instantly recognisable" – the manufacturer has also inaugurated a purpose-built 4,200m² final assembly facility in Mollis.

Kopter has also ditched "SKYe" from the name of its developmental 2.5t single-engine helicopter, while retaining SH09 from the original branding.

Obtaining certification and ushering the SH09 into service will be crucial for Kopter, as it looks to gain a foothold in a competitive part of the market.

Although European Aviation Safety Agency approval had previously been promised for 2018, the slow pace of test flights so far means that date is likely to slip into next year.

"We intend to finish the [flight-test] programme before the end of the year," says Löwenstein. "We expect to have certification in hand at the latest by the first quarter of 2019."

However, service entry will take place on schedule in that year, he stresses.

Regulatory approval will be obtained with two helicopters: test article P3, which was rolled out last June, and pre-serial aircraft PS4, now in the early stages of production.

PS4 will fly at "the end of the summer", says Löwenstein, before it and its sister test aircraft transfer to Pozzallo, Sicily, where they will remain for around 12 months to complete their certification flights.

Previously, flight-test have been conducted from its site in Mollis, but "our problem here in Switzerland is that when we are ready to fly we have snow, high winds or a thunderstorm", says Löwenstein.

To date, the Honeywell HTS900-powered SH09 has accumulated 70 flight hours, plus "several hundred hours on the ground" as well as over 1,000h of tests on its dynamic components.

Kopter has also taken in 27 firm orders for the $3.3 million SH09; another 19 are conditional on obtaining certification and "more than 120" are the subject of letters of intent.

Production in 2019 will be a "single-digit figure", says Löwenstein, rising to "around 20" in 2020, "then we will gear up to what we can do given the market situation".

Source: FlightGlobal.com