French engine manufacturer Turbomeca remains keen to eventually see its Ardiden 3 engine offered on the Airbus Helicopters H175 super medium.
At present the H175 is equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines and is the only aircraft in the Airbus Helicopters range that does not feature an engine from the Bordes-based manufacturer.
However, Turbomeca has been developing the Ardiden 3C for the Avicopter Z-15/AC352 – a Chinese-built variant of the H175.
Integration work and test flights using this engine have been progressing since late 2015 at Airbus Helicopters’ Marignane facility using an early H175 prototype now badged as “Z-15 PT1”.
And, speaking at a Heli-Expo media briefing, Turbomeca chief executive Bruno Even said that the H175 is a “natural target” for the 1,700-2,000shp (1,270-1,500kW) Ardiden 3.
“When we decided to launch Ardiden 3 our clear ambition was to be able to selected by all helicopter programmes in the range of 6-7t.”
Although he says he “respects the decision” of its customer to choose the P&WC powerplant “I am convinced that the Ardiden 3 could be a perfect target for this platform”, with the AgustaWestland AW139 another possibility.
Despite “first flight” of the 3C having already taken place, he says the “key milestone” for the programme will be the maiden sortie later this year of a Z-15 equipped with WZ16 variant it has jointly developed with AVIC.
However, Airbus Helicopters has repeatedly played down the prospects of utilising the Ardiden, with programme officials on a recent press event at Marignane stressing that there is no plan for its integration.
Meanwhile, the airframer is hopeful that in 2016 it can go someway to matching the H175’s 2015 sales performance of 36 orders.
Airbus Helicopters chief executive Guillaume Faury says bookings last year “were higher than we anticipated given the market environment”, and is aiming for 15-20 orders for the 7.5t helicopter in 2016.
It is also still attempting to reschedule deliveries for two early customers of the type who were due to receive their aircraft last year.
Russia’s UTair, which is battling the “double crisis” of the difficult oil and as market and a slumping domestic economy, has suspended deliveries of its 15-unit order, but Faury says the operator “wants to remain committed to the product”.
Airbus Helicopters is “supporting them in this difficult time, to be able to move forward at an appropriate time”, he says.
Meanwhile, French operator Héli-Union has yet to conclude talks with the manufacturer over taking its first example. “We have had some discussions with Airbus Helicopters but nothing is settled now. We have to continue our discussions,” says Patrick Molis, Héli-Union chief executive.