A new order for 25 EC145e helicopters from US-based Metro Aviation will help keep a threatened Airbus Helicopters final assembly line for the US Army open for several critical months.
In announcing the large order at Heli-Expo on 27 February, Airbus Helicopters confirmed that the EC145e rotorcraft ordered by Metro Aviation would be produced in Columbus, Mississippi.
Airbus Helicopters is scheduled to deliver the last of more than 400 UH-72A Lakotas to the army on 28 February, which has left some degree of uncertainty over the future of the facility.
More orders for UH-72As from the service are expected this year after a three-year legal battle between Leonardo Helicopters and Airbus Helicopters was resolved in the latter's favour in early January.
The army has funds set aside to buy 16 more UH-72As from Airbus Helicopters later this year. The service has declared an interest in buying up to 35 more, but the money for the entire follow-on batch has not been secured.
No funding for more UH-72As was included in the US Army’s fiscal 2019 budget request submitted to Congress on 12 February.
In the meantime, the Columbus facility will have a backlog of orders for the EC145e, a model that is nearly identical to the Army’s UH-72A.
While the vast majority of output for the medium-twin is now the latest H145 variant, introduced in 2014, the manufacturer has continued to offer the EC145e as a stripped-down and less expensive utility model, lacking improvements such as a fenestron shrouded tail rotor.
Instrument flight rules certification for the EC145e is expected later this year, Airbus says.
Metro has placed the EC145e, upgraded with an electronic flight instrument system, an autopilot and a stability augmentation system from Genesis Aerosystems, with broad range of customers, performing missions such as medical, law enforcement and utility transport.