Airbus: H175 FAA process will follow H160 approval


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Nov 06, 2023

Airbus: H175 FAA process will follow H160 approval

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 52 seconds. Airbus Helicopters will pursue

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 52 seconds.

Airbus Helicopters will pursue type certification for the H175 from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as soon as the H160 has completed the same process, as it seeks to combine growth from a recovering offshore market with a more diverse mission set for the super medium aircraft.

The H175 entered service in 2014 — shortly before the oil-and-gas market nosedived, curtailing demand for new airframes in the market. Production of the type ramped down to just four or five aircraft per year in 2017.

"And the question was, ‘What do we do with this machine?’ " Jerome Fagot, head of the H175 program told media during a recent briefing at Airbus Helicopters’ headquarters in Marignane, France.

The response was to invest on the maturity of the type — to reduce unscheduled maintenance activity as much as possible for whenever the offshore market recovered — and to diversify the H175's market.

"We were focusing in the beginning on the oil-and-gas market," said Fagot. "Then we started to open the door for [search-and-rescue] SAR missions, VIP missions, and quite recently, the military version."

Airbus received eight orders for the H175 in 2022. There are now 52 H175s in service with 15 operators in 13 countries. The global fleet recorded 40,000 flight hours last year — up from 26,000 in 2019. Most H175s in offshore transport are flying more than 1,000 hours per year, said Fagot.

"Since [the] beginning of 2022, we see a recovery market on the oil-and-gas [market] driven for sure, by the Ukraine crises — but it happened a little bit before the Ukraine crisis," said Fagot. "On top of that, we have a huge fleet renewal in the oil-and-gas market, especially on the S-92 platform. So we have in front of us structurally an oil-and-gas market which is a recovering and we have a lot of demand for that specific mission."

This has led to a "fight for slots" for new aircraft as the H175 production line ramps up — in an environment of a constricted supply chain.

"It's really painful to manage the ramp up in such situation," said Fagot. "The target is to go from five aircraft a year to 20 aircraft a year in a couple of years."

Today, more than 70 percent of the H175 fleet is flying in offshore transportation, with the remainder split between public services and private/business aviation.

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"That's clearly where we need now to enlarge a bit our market share, if we want to have something much more balanced in our portfolio," said Fagot.

With this in mind, Airbus recently launched the H175M — the military version of the type.

"The military version is an opportunity and we have launched the military version to diversify the different mission of H175 and to enlarge the capability of that platform in order to address a bigger market and secure a minimum volume for this program," said Fagot.

The U.K.'s New Medium Helicopter program — aimed at replacing the Royal Air Force's fleet of Airbus Puma HC2s by 2025 — is the first big campaign for the militarized version.

In terms of the H175's geographical footprint, it has established a solid footprint in the North Sea (most notably through launch customer NHV), the Gulf of Mexico, and Southeast Asia.

The U.S. is in the program's sights, but Fagot said the FAA has to complete the H160's authorization before it can begin work on the H175.

"We have initiated the certification [with the] FAA, it's clearly a priority. But today, as you can imagine, the authorities have just the bandwidth to manage one aircraft per OEM," he said. "In the meantime, we take all the feedback on the H160 in order to anticipate the modifications of the H175."

These modifications could include the completion of specific tests not required for the type's initial certification in Europe, he said.

"In the past we were having a lot [of approvals] by calculation, and now they ask for more physical tests."

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On the maintenance side, he said unscheduled events have been "reduced drastically" since the type's entry into service, while the amount of time required to perform scheduled maintenance tasks at 50, 100 and 200 flight hours has been halved.

The next target is to reduce the maintenance required at 800 flight hours, "which is a bit still heavy and we need to really address it," said Fagot.

Airbus is currently working on a full icing protection system for the H175, with the aim of bringing it to market in 2025.

"It's really important for the oil-and-gas [operations] on the north part of Europe, but [also] for the military applications and for SAR missions, depending on some customers," said Fagot.