Airbus Helicopters is closing in on the maiden sortie of its new H160 medium-class rotorcraft with the roll-out of the initial flight-test prototype at its Marigane, France facility on 28 May.
The new H160 also performed ground runs, says the airframer, and first flight is scheduled for the “coming weeks”.
Dominique Maudet, executive vice-president, global business and services at Airbus Helicopters, says development of the majority-composite rotorcraft is on track. “It’s progressing well, absolutely according to the plan,” he says.
“Entry into service is scheduled for 2018 and first flight should happen in the coming weeks.”
The appearance of the initial flight-test article will fuel speculation that the H160 will take to the skies prior to the Paris air show which begins on 15 June.
However, Maudet plays down the suggestion that it is specifically targeting Le Bourget. “The most important thing is that we fly safely and according to our plan and the performance
Airbus Helicopters chief executive Guillaume Faury had previously indicated a willingness to advance the entry-into-service date if the H160 proves sufficiently mature. Maudet says his boss is still “pushing, and [is] willing to shorten the development time”, but with the aircraft yet to fly, it is “too early to say”.
“The target is that we go earlier but let’s see when we fly what it’s behaviour is, but this is our target,” he says.
Although the initial prototype is equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210 turboshafts, later examples will instead have Turbomeca Arrano powerplants following the airframer’s decision in February to opt for a single engine supplier.
Unveiled at the HAI show in March, the 5.5-6t H160 has been in the pipeline since 2013 under its previous X4 guise. The rapid pace of development has been enabled by the use of two ground-test cells in Marignane to ensure a high level of maturity of the rotorcraft’s dynamic components and systems prior to first flight.