Civil Helicopters News

Airbus Delivers First ACH160 To Brazilian Customer as LABACE Kicks Off

by Martin Rivers

Airbus Delivers First ACH160 To Brazilian Customer as LABACE Kicks Off

The first Airbus ACH160 has been delivered to a customer in Brazil on the eve of the Annual Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (LABACE) in São Paulo.

Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) handed over the premium version of the H160 helicopter via its wholly owned Brazilian subsidiary Helibras.

“We are very proud that the world’s first ACH160 has been delivered here in Brazil, and look forward to seeing its distinctive and elegant silhouette flying through the skies of São Paulo,” said Jean-Luc Alfonsi, Managing Director of Helibras. “We are confident the ACH160 will set new standards for customers and operators wanting to make a distinctive choice.”

The twin-engine H160 was introduced to the public seven years ago, with Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury describing it as an “AW139 killer” – a reference to AgustaWestland’s competing model.

It received type certification from the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC) in September 2021, having been approved for operations by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in July 2020 and Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) in May 2021. Tokyo-based All Nippon Helicopter (ANH) became the launch customer in December 20121.

America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is yet to certify the type, though program head Gilles Armstrong said in February that he was hopeful of receiving the necessary approvals this summer.

That would pave the way for offshore oil and gas route-proving flights by US operator Petroleum Helicopters International (PHI) and energy conglomerate Shell.

After initially sluggish sales Airbus booked 52 firm orders for the H160 last year, about half of which were for the premium ACH version. Two separate Brazilian customers have so far made commitments for three ACHs, including one unit configured with the Line Lounge interior.

“The growing general aviation market in Brazil is crucial for increasing economic and social productivity, as well [as] for maintaining the country’s air connectivity,” Alfonsi said, noting that the Latin American country has more than 2,500 airports and 1,300 heliports currently providing corporate aviation services.

The type’s executive cabin configuration has seating for either four or eight VIPs, while 12 passengers can be accommodated in a more economical utility configuration.

Airbus claims that the all-composite H160 has a 20% greater volume per passenger over previous generation medium twin-engine helicopters, plus 35% larger windows and 15% lower fuel burn than its nearest competitors. The aircraft features the Helionix avionics suite, sound-reducing Blue Edge rotor blades and a luggage compartment with a maximum load of 661 pounds.

Last year, the French Ministry for the Armed Forces disclosed fleet plans for 169 units of the H160M Guépard – the type’s military variant – with an initial batch of 30 helicopters due to start arriving in 2027.

The French Navy is meanwhile leasing an interim fleet of H160s for search and rescue operations under an agreement with Babcock International. And France’s National Gendarmerie has also signed for ten H160s to be deployed in a law enforcement capacity.

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