Launch Party

New helicopters capture spotlight at Heli Expo 2011
Matt Nicholls
March 08, 2011
March 8, 2011 – One of the most exciting aspects of any aviation show is the introduction of new aircraft – and Heli Expo 2011 in Orlando, Fla. didn’t disappoint. Four new helicopters from two iconic manufacturers and one new comer, highlighted the first day of the show March 6.
Heli Expo
Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling navigates the new Eurocopter EC-145 T2 during its introduction. Photo by Matt Nicholls.

Bell Helicopter launched two new rotary models to much fanfare, the 407GX and the 407AH. The 407GX is a new version of the Bell 407 helicopter, equipped with an innovative Garmin G1000H Integrated Flight Deck. The new glass flight deck provides pilots with critical flight information at a glance for greater situational awareness, improved operational capability and increased safety.

The new cockpit features, as standard, two 10.4-inch high-resolution LCD displays with an intuitive, easy to scan layout and an integrated avionics system that presents flight instrumentation, position, navigation, communication, and identification information.

The 407GX represents a $125,000 upgrade over the $2.6 million base 407 model.

“The Bell 407 was already an industry leading helicopter offering superior performance, exceptional passenger comfort and enhanced safety characteristics,” Larry Roberts, senior vice president, commercial business for Bell Helicopter told the crowd of about 1,000 attendees and aviation media. “The 407GX’s next-generation cockpit combined with the aircraft’s rugged airframe will make it the first choice for those who place their highest value requirements on safety and performance.”
Heli Expo
Gary Kelly, vice president of marketing for Garmin International, explains the new glass flight deck on the Bell 407GX. Photo by Matt Nicholls.

Gary Kelly, vice president of marketing for Garmin International, said the new machine borrows many traits from its fixed wing companions. ”While many of these features can be found on fixed wing aircraft, the highly scalable G1000H takes cockpit operations and safety technology to the next level,” he said.

Bell also introduced its first armed commercial aircraft, the 407AH. It is the first Bell-qualified armed commercial aircraft cross the market and is designed to support a wide range of law enforcement and paramilitary missions worldwide

The 407AH comes equipped with a baseline law enforcement package that can be customized with multiple weapon configurations. Before customization, is mission-capable a in a highly optioned configuration to perform a variety of functions such as search and rescue, enforcement and pursuit.

“The 407AH is a high-performance platform with exceptional maneuverability, speed, payload and range,” said Roberts. “It will meet the needs of a variety of parapublic agencies at a cost that is far less than that of a similarly equipped military aircraft – but with increased lethality.”
Heli Expo
The new 407AH will meet the needs of a variety of parapublic agencies at a good price point, says Bell Helicopter senior VP Larry Roberts. Photo by Matt Nicholls.

The 407AH’s initial weapon system includes the Dillon 7.62mm M134T Minigun as well as the M260 2.75-inch seven shot Rocket Launching System. In addition, extensive customization is available through Bell Helicopter’s Piney Flats facility. Options include: Chaff/Flare controller for counter measures, sliding doors in the rear that allows for personnel or cargo transportation, cargo hook for search and rescue capability, crew seat armor, among others.

After Heli-Expo, the 407AH will embark on an international demonstration tour that will last several months. Destinations include Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Europe, in addition to the United States.

Eurocopter’s Moment
Bell Helicopter wasn’t the only company grabbing the spotlight on the show’s first day. Eurocopter created significant buzz of its own with the introduction of the EC-145 T2 twin-engine helicopter.

Unveiled in dramatic style at the Eurocopter booth in front of hundreds of attendees, the new craft was “piloted” through a mysterious cloud of dry ice by none other than Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling inside the cockpit.

The EC-145 T2 is an evolved version of the EC-145 and features the company’s Fenestron, new Arriel 2E engines, upgraded main and tail rotor fear boxes and a new avionics suite. Deliveries for the new aircraft will begin in 2012.

The aircraft has already attracted three U.S. operators as its launch customers: Metro Aviation, Lewis Energy Group and Leading Edge.

Not to be outdone…
Bell and Eurocopter weren’t the only major players adding new helicopters to their fleets. AgustaWestland is using Heli Expo as the “full commercial launch” of its AW 169, an eight-to-10 passenger medium/light twin. The project was first announced at the Farnborough Airshow last year.

In a media briefing on Friday evening, AugustaWestland CEO Giuseppi Orsi called the aircraft a vision of the future. He noted the first flight is expected in 2012 with service to begin in 2014.

Sky Search
The Swiss are famous for hot chocolate and well, cheese. Perhaps in the very near future you can add helicopters to that list as well. A Swiss engineering firm, Marenco Swisshelicopter, unveiled its first aircraft, a carbon-fibre single-engine helicopter. The 5,200-pound prototype SKYe SH09 will fly next year and begin customer deliveries in 2015.

The $2.6 million is powered by a single Fadec-controlled Honeywell HTS900 engine. It has a quiet five-blade rotor system and is designed for seating six to eight passengers. Main uses for the new craft include para-public, SAR operations and air ambulances.

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