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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eurocopter

Steps Up R&D and Expands in Growth Markets in 2010

Eurocopter’s activities in 2010 continued the company’s focus on innovation, safety, eco-efficiency and key market presence—with significant progress achieved in all four areas.

In line with Eurocopter’s commitment to fly a new helicopter and/or upgrade every year, testing began in September with the X³ high-speed hybrid helicopter demonstrator, which is designed for sustained cruise speeds in excess of 220 knots. Based on a Dauphin helicopter airframe, the X³ testbed is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system, along with two propellers on short-span fixed wings. During initial flight evaluations performed at a reduced level of engine power, the X³ attained a true airspeed of 180 knots in level flight.

As part of its long-term commitment to innovation, Eurocopter doubled the R&D budget during the past two years, and the company took the opportunity in 2010 to unveil several advanced technologies. They include its bluecopter® program to address the increasingly important environmental challenges for helicopter operations, which has evolved two concepts to reduce helicopter noise: the Blue Edge™ double-swept main rotor blade shape; and Blue Pulse™ active blade control system.

With customer proximity as a key asset, Eurocopter further expanded its international network and cooperative ventures during the year. Construction was initiated for a new facility at the Itajuba, Brazil, location of its Helibras subsidiary to assemble EC725 helicopters ordered for the Brazilian Armed Forces. In Chile, Eurocopter received certification for its new training center—the only one to date in Latin America.

Eurocopter signed a capability expansion agreement in China with COHC and the Civil Aviation University of China for the ab-initio training of pilots, while an agreement with Tongji University of China will bring this institution into Eurocopter’s international network of partner universities. Two key milestones in India were Eurocopter’s inauguration of a new subsidiary to further develop the country’s helicopter presence, and the establishment of a joint-venture MRO and training activity with Pawan Hans. An agreement was signed to install an AS365 N3 full-flight simulator in Singapore, while Eurocopter’s cooperation with Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan on the EC145 family was extended by 15 years.

Eurocopter also consolidated its commercial reach in 2010. Asia proved to be the fastest-growing market with a strong increase in sales, while promising prospects in the former Soviet Union were underscored by the contract from Russia’s UTair for 20 AS350/AS355 helicopters and Eurocopter’s strategic agreement with Kazakhstan for the local assembly of 45 EC145s. In sub-Saharan Africa, Eurocopter’s regional subsidiary increased its turnover by 35 percent, largely in the law enforcement market; while Eurocopter Canada marked the 600th helicopter delivery to its home market in December 2010.

In key military program milestones, the first of 40 German Army CH53-GA helicopters being upgraded by Eurocopter flew during February, incorporating a major systems and avionics modernization package that will extend the fleet’s service life through 2030. The initial prototype of the Surion utility helicopter, co-developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Eurocopter for Korea’s military airlift requirements, made its maiden flight in March. Deliveries of the NH90 NFH naval helicopter variant began during the year—with the Netherlands and France receiving the first of these large multi-role rotary-wing aircraft. Military operational highlights of 2010 included the continued success of Eurocopter’s Tiger combat helicopter in service with the French Army in Afghanistan.

American Eurocopter also maintained its U.S. leadership position, achieving several accomplishments and milestones during the year. The company’s Light Utility Helicopter program for the U.S. Army reached the 100th UH-72A helicopter delivery in March, which increased to some 150 aircraft by year-end—all of which were provided on time and on budget. The new AS350 Level B FFS Flight and Mission Simulator began operation at American Eurocopter’s Grand Prairie, Texas headquarters in 2010, with this full-motion AS350 training device providing a unique environment for both pilots and crews in mission-scenario training.

In other activity, American Eurocopter developed and flew Technical Demonstration Aircraft for the AAS-72X, which is proposed by parent company EADS North America for the U.S. Army’s Armed Aerial Scout mission requirement. ■

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