is hoping to put the troubled past of the EC225 behind it with the launch of an improved version of the aircraft.
The EC225e – e for enhanced – will make its first flight in 2015 and features a new updated avionics suite, increased maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) by 550 kg. (1,210 lb.) and an extended range fuel tank fitted into the rear baggage compartment under the tail boom, which gives the aircraft the ability to fly out to 300 nm.
The new variant, announced at Heli-Expo 2014 in Anaheim, Calif., was launched eight months after the end of a nine-month long grounding of the type, caused by issues relating to the bevel gear vertical shaft in the main gearbox of the twin-engine heavy helicopter.
One of the most significant additions to the avionics suite of the EC225e will be the addition of a Eurocopter-developed, rig-approach system, designed to reduce pilot workload while on approach to oil and gas platforms at sea. However, this system will only be available on the EC225e and cannot be retrofitted onto earlier EC225 aircraft.
The aircraft is also being fitted with the Euronav7 moving map system, automatic identification system (AIS), TCAS2 collision avoidance system, and flight management system. Tests on the avionics systems have already begun using flight test aircraft.
The aircraft also features the newMakila 2B turboshaft, which according to the manufacturer incorporates a new combustion chamber and blades in the high-pressure turbine, giving the aircraft the power to take off at its maximum all-up weight in certain category flight conditions. Turbomeca says that the first test bench runs of the Makila 2B are ongoing and certification is planned for late 2015.
says the Makila 2B can be retrofitted to earlier models of the EC225.
The company is pushing the aircraft to meet the needs of operators that support deepwater platforms beyond 250 nm. The aircraft’s 300-nm range is possible with 10 passengers onboard.
Airbus says the new design shaft should be available for retrofit onto customer aircraft in the third quarter of this year.