Flight International - 26 June 2018

(Jacob Rumans) #1


8 | Flight International | 26 June-2 July 2018 flightglobal.com

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elivery ceremonies in the
aviation industry are not all
created equal. An airline spend-
ing billions of dollars on a new
fleet demands razzmatazz and a
lavish lunch, while in the rotary-
wing world, where list prices are
many orders of magnitude lower,
you might expect a few speeches
and some light refreshments.
But the 18 June delivery of the
first search and rescue-configured
H175s to Hong Kong’s Govern-
ment Flying Service felt unusual,
given that it is a seven-unit order
worth a mere $165 million.
Fleets of shiny black limou-
sines, police outriders and ranks
of burly security officials were
the most obvious clues, but as
well as speeches from the heads
of the manufacturer and operator,
the ceremony also featured con-
tributions from a French govern-
ment minister and Carrie Lam,
the chief executive of Hong Kong.
It is also worth noting that it
was not even the first delivery of
an H175, that milestone having
taken place back in late 2014.
Nonetheless, Bruno Even, the
newly-appointed chief executive
of Airbus Helicopters, is upbeat: it
was, he says, deeply satisfying to
hand over the first three of the
variant to its launch customer.
GFS’s aircraft have been in de-
velopment for more than two


H175 trio come to Hong Kong’s rescue

Super-medium programme lifted as Government Flying Service takes first three public service-configured 7.8t helicopters

Operator feline delighted as Guépard finds a place on the tail

Possibly the most striking feature
on the new helicopters is the
stylised representation of a
Cheetah on the tail boom.
Government Flying Service
controller Michael Chan says the
Hong Kong public know the cur-
rent fleet by their marketing
names of Dauphin and Puma;
something similar was needed
for the H175s but Airbus
Helicopters’ recent preference
for numeric designations only
offered little help.

“I proposed to the Airbus chief
executive that we call the H175s
the Cheetah,” says Chan. “He
went away and thought about it
and decided that the reference to
speed was good, but the name
was too similar to the Chetaks
used by India.
“So, to avoid any confusion he
suggested the French version of
the word: Guépard.” That is not
the only Gallic influence at play,
as Chan explains: “The painting?
This is a bit of a French idea.” ■

PT6-powered twins feature dual Goodrich hoist and EO/IR camera

years, having been ordered in
September 2015. That relatively
long gestation period, and the
per-aircraft cost of around $
million, is mostly explained by
their relative complexity.
With a mission set that in-
cludes SAR, law enforcement,
observation, patient transport
and aerial firefighting, the opera-
tor’s specification requires a more
complex layout than for pure
search and rescue. In fact, up to
16 different cabin arrangements
are possible on its H175s. “We are
the only civilian helicopter oper-
ator that performs this whole
range of flying services,” says
GFS controller Michael Chan.
From an engineering stand-
point, a baseline H175 has around
4,500 configuration items; GFS’s
helicopters have a further 2,500.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-
powered twins can carry up to 18
people, feature dual Goodrich
hoists, a FLIR Systems 350HD
electro-optical/infrared camera
and are fully night-vision goggle
certificated. Seats are attached to
floor rails and are quickly re-
moved: Airbus Helicopters says
the whole cabin can be reconfig-
ured in 30-40min.
Missions are co-ordinated via
an Avalex-supplied rear console,

which can display data from four
different sources, including
radar, EO/IR images and three
airframe-mounted cameras.
The winch operator is also able
to manoeuvre the helicopter in a
hover thanks to a set of trim
switches linked to the autopilot:
these allow 20kt (37km/h) of lat-
eral or rearwards movement, and
50kt forward, or 10kt in any di-
rection via a joystick.
It is not a new system, having
been derived from similar func-
tionality on the H225. However,
as the latest iteration, it offers
more precise features, such as
tighter radius turns when flying
in the automated SAR pattern.

Chan says four different
helicopters from three manufac-
turers were evaluated as part of
its acquisition process before se-
lecting the H175.
The deliveries come at an im-
portant time for the H175 pro-
gramme, which seems to be
finally recovering from a long-
term malaise. Thanks to a two-
year development delay, the first
examples were handed over just
as the market for civil helicopters
began to plunge.
As a result, shipments have
been much slower than forecast:
in the three-plus years since the
initial deliveries, just 21 more
units have followed, mostly to oil
and gas sector operators.
The current backlog is about
100 aircraft, says Airbus Helicop-
ters, helped in no small part by
the 19 commitments it took in
last year. However, 15 of the total
orders – plus 15 options – are
held by Russia’s Utair, which is
attempting to extricate itself from
its contract.
This year, the manufacturer
will hand over 15 of the 7.8t
H175s, including six or seven for
GFS. The Hong Kong operator
will “slowly and gradually” intro-
duce its new type to service later
this year, says Chan, as crews con-
vert from a current fleet of H155s
and AS332 L2s. ■

Eric Raz/Airbus Helicopters

Cheetah is depicted on fuselage

Dominic Perry/FlightGlobal
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