Airbus Planning IFR Capability For H125 Light Helicopter

Airbus helicopter H125
Credit: Thomas Dutour / Alamy Stock Photo

ATLANTA—Airbus plans to develop a single-engine instrument flight rules (IFR) capability for its H125 light helicopter, following in the footsteps of competitors such as Bell and Leonardo.

The IFR capability will be developed in conjunction with avionics firm Genesys Aerosystems. Airbus also is hoping to make it available following certification from the third quarter (Q3) 2024 from Airbus Helicopters’ U.S. final assembly line for H125s in Columbus, Mississippi, the OEM announced March 7 on the first day of the Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo here.

The H125 is known in Europe as the Ecureuil, or Squirrel, and in the U.S. market as the ASTAR. It is Airbus Helicopter’s most popular aircraft, with 4,200 of various makes in operation worldwide.

Integration of the IFR system requires the cockpit to be upgraded and the installation of a new, four-axis autopilot along with redundant hydraulic and electrical systems.

Airbus’ decision to introduce IFR capability emerges more than four years after Leonardo developed an IFR capability for its AW119 single-engine rotorcraft. The capability was demanded for the U.S. Navy’s TH-XX training helicopter requirement that Leonardo subsequently won. Bell also developed an IFR capability for its Model 407GXi for the same contest.

Since IFR capability was delivered on the AW119 and 407GXi, both aircraft have so far secured only small numbers of orders, largely from U.S. emergency medical service operators. 

“This is about providing an answer to our customers’ needs ... it could be that it’s not a need for all the market, but we want to be [in] position on every part of the market,” Bruno Even,  CEO of Airbus Helicopters, told journalists.

“These new IFR feature will expand the helicopter’s mission capabilities in all weather conditions, especially for critical missions such as public services, including law enforcement, emergency medical services and enhanced training—all missions that are in high demand worldwide and in North America,” said Jérome Ronssin, head of the Light Helicopters Program at Airbus Helicopters.

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Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.