Helicopter passengers expect the same comforts during flight that they have in their automobiles and fixed-wing aircraft: attenuating seats, environmental controls, finer materials, armor protection, inflight entertainment — and even a shower. The OEMs are responding.
In response to increasing demand for a more unique traveling experience, American partnered with Hermès and Mercedes Benz in 2007 to create the EC135 Hermès (known as L'Hélicoptère par Hermès), featuring a four-place main cabin, a sliding glass partition, a corporate baggage hold, redesigned skid landing gear and other external changes.
Mecaer Aviation Group (MAG), an aircraft interior specialist in Borgomanero, Italy, has developed a new VIP interior for theAW169 helicopter. MAG was previously selected by Eurocopter as the VIP interior system supplier for its EC145, Mercedes-Benz Style. The aircraft is a new high-end VIP version of the popular twin-engine turbine helicopter. Originally announced at EBACE 2010, the first helicopter equipped with the new VIP interior, conceived by Mercedes-Benz and completed by MAG, was unveiled in 2011 at EBACE in Geneva.
In Europe, MAG operates several interior installation facilities that are adjacent to, or co-located with, an OEM's factory. Under the MAG business model, its facilities have complete responsibility for the entire interior process from design and manufacture to final installation and certification on the OEM's assembly line. Current locations include Vergiate, Italy; Yeovil, U.K.; and Moscow.
In the U.S., MAG operates under a similar concept at its Philadelphia location and has recently opened a new facility in Hagerstown, Md., to service the interiors and MRO needs of East Coast rotary- and fixed-wing operators.
Additionally, American Eurocopter has installed and delivered the first Eurocopter EC145 with Flight Display Systems' Select Cabin Management System. With it, passengers can now control XM Radio, Blu-ray video, cabin lighting, air-conditioning and a moving map from the comfort of their seats. Components include 4.3–in. touchscreen control panels, a Blu-ray and DVD player, Flight Display Moving Map, 10.2–in. widescreen LCD with ceiling mount and a six-genre music player.
American Eurocopter's twin-engine EC145 combines a large cabin and extensive avionics offerings to make it the light utility helicopter of choice for the U.S. Army. Known as the, its missions include carrying VIPs and high-ranking personnel. The EC145 can be configured either as a VIP helicopter with a sumptuous four-place interior, or alternatively used as a “sports utility helicopter” for an outdoor sports trip over the weekend.
In addition, Eurocopter has introduced the Stylence family of helicopters — “a combination of style and silence” — for which aesthetics, ergonomics and advanced technology have been merged. Stylence incorporates extra-thick interior insulation and special flooring to further lower noise and vibration levels, inflight office and telecommunications equipment, and an interior featuring high-quality leather upholstery. The Stylence package currently is offered on five Eurocopter models: the EC120, EC130, AS350 B2/B3, AS355 NP and EC145.
The EC225 long-range, rotary-wing aircraft is available with a range of VIP interiors that can accommodate eight to 12 passengers, plus an attendant. A range of galleys and washrooms also are offered, along with an extensive range of IFEC systems.
So it is apparent that operators no longer need to settle for spartan cabins after growing accustomed to comfort and productivity in their homes, offices and automobiles.