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Kopter recovering from supplier-driven delay

Switzerland-based Kopter will fly the third prototype of its SH09 light-single by the end of October, as the manufacturer looks to recover from a supplier-driven programme delay.

Kopter – which rebranded from Marenco Swisshelicopter in March – had previously planned to fly aircraft P3 in March 2018.

However, ultrasonic and x-ray inspections of cast gearbox housings produced by a now-axed supplier revealed the components had not been manufactured to a safe standard, delaying final assembly of the flight-test article, executive vice-president technology Michele Riccobono said at the Helitech show in Amsterdam on 16 October.

Although the company immediately switched to another supplier, waiting for a new part to be produced would have involved a "lead time of years, not months", says chief executive Andreas Löwenstein.

Instead, Kopter reworked the component and carried out structural testing, advising the European Aviation Safety Agency of the move. Feedback from the agency was received in earlier this month, clearing the aircraft for flight "by the end of October".

"They were extremely pleased with what we have done from a safety standpoint," says Löwenstein.

The affected component will eventually be swapped for a part sourced from the new supplier.

Once aircraft P3 has completed 20-50h of flights from Kopter's manufacturing site in Mollis, Switzerland, it will be transferred to Pozzallo, in Sicily. By the end of the second quarter of 2019 it will be joined by the first pre-serial SH09, also known as aircraft PS4.

Certification is scheduled for the end of next year, with service entry likely to follow in early 2020.

"We will start [serial] production in the first semester of [2019] so that we will be able to deliver the first aircraft just after certification," says Löwenstein.

Output will be set at around 10-15 aircraft in the first year, says Löwenstein. Although the first three years of production are largely sold out, there are still a number of early positions reserved for potential marquee customers, he adds.

So far, performance of the Honeywell HTS900-powered SH09 is more than achieving target, says Riccobono. Maximum take-off weight is currently set at 2.6t, and while this could theoretically be increased, it would only be done to "protect or increase payload", he says.

Kopter announced at a Helitech an order for a single SH09 from Malaysian operator Systematic Aviation Services.

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