Airbus Helicopters late last week received certification from the FAA for its H160 medium-class twin—exactly three years after it received EASA certification and eight years after the helicopter was first announced as a replacement for the company’s AS365 and H155. The approval clears the way for deliveries into the U.S.
Airbus first applied for FAA certification approval for the H160 in 2014 and applied for an extension in 2016. The helicopter received EASA certification on July 1, 2020; however, various novel design features outside the existing parameters of FAR Part 29 regulation slowed the U.S. approval process, which Airbus executives had hoped would conclude as early as 2021.
U.S. launch customer PHI Aviation will operate four Airbus H160s to service a support contract for Shell Exploration & Production Company in the Gulf of Mexico under a 10-year contract from its base in Houma, Louisiana.
Entry into service in the U.S. will be facilitated by the addition of North America’s first H160 level-D full flight simulator (FFS). The FFS is expected to be ready for use as early as the second half of 2025 at the Helisim Simulation Center inside the Airbus Helicopters facility in Grand Prairie, Texas. The FFS will have the capacity to accommodate 400 pilots and 4,000 training hours annually. It will join an existing H160 FFS in Marignane, France, that became operational in August 2020 and has logged 1,500 training hours since March 2023.
The H160 has a maximum takeoff weight of 13,436 pounds with seating for 12 passengers and two crew. It has a cruise speed of up to 150 knots, a service ceiling of 20,000 feet, and a range of 475 nm with standard tanks. It is powered by a pair of 1,300-shp Safran Arrano 1A engines and features noise-reducing Blue Edge rotor blades, a canted Fenestron tail rotor for greater useful load, and Airbus Helicopters’ Helionix avionics.
Airbus has received orders for more than 100 civil H160s, including more than 12 in the U.S. The helicopter already is in service in markets including Japan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Europe and the fleet has accumulated more than 1,700 flight hours. Airbus has H160s on order for offshore transportation, private and business aviation, search-and-rescue, and law-enforcement missions.
FAA certification follows the announcement of an order for 50 H160s from China’s GDAT in April and an order for 10 last year from Gendarmerie Nationale—the French National Police— as part of a contract for the procurement of 169 militarized versions designated H160Ms for the French Ministry of Armed Forces. The latter is part of a 2020 government stimulus plan to support France’s aeronautical industry. Courtesy of AIN.