UK Royal Air Force (RAF) crews have begun training on the Eurocopter Puma Mk 2, although the two squadrons will not be cleared for service until 2015. Under a contract signed in 2009, Eurocopter is upgrading 24 of the 40-year-old helicopters with new engines, glass cockpits, digital autopilot and other improvements. Seven have been redelivered to date.
Eurocopter has signed the first customer for the AS332C1e Super Puma, the “low cost” version of the medium twin. Starlite Aviation, an operator based in Ireland and South Africa, will be the first to fly the new, shorter-fuselage variant. Starlite provides passenger and cargo flights and heavy sling-load operations for, among others, United Nations agencies.
Eurocopter announced today that Starlite Aviation is the launch customer for the new AS332C1e Super Puma medium-twin helicopter, a shorter-fuselage version that observers see as the manufacturer’s response to low-cost alternatives from Russia. The contract calls for two of the new helicopters to be delivered by the end of next year, following FAA and EASA certification. Starlite also has options for another two helicopters.
VIH Aviation Group (Booth No. 3728) ordered a pair of Eurocopter EC225s to support its oil and gas offshore activities in Australia. The helicopters will be flown by HNZ Cougar Helicopters, a new joint venture. VIH is the only Canadian-controlled helicopter company to operate the EC225, according to VIH CEO Ken Norie. The EC225 is powered by two Fadec-controlled Turbomeca Makila 2A1 engines.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is proceeding with a controversial upgrade of 30 SA330 Puma helicopters that have already been operated by the Royal Air Force for nearly 40 years. Eurocopter will soon receive a contract worth about £220 million ($360 million) for a Life Extension Program (LEP) that will keep the Pumas in service for another 10 years, starting in 2012.
Eurocopter now targets late next year as the new certification date for the EC 225. A derivative of the Super Puma, the new medium twin helicopter was originally set to be certified late this year. Major cockpit and autopilot design changes after the program started have lengthened the program by six months.
Bristow Helicopters has ordered two Eurocopter EC 225s, with a scheduled service entry of spring next year. The order for this latest addition to the Super Puma family is valued at approximately E32 million ($40.3 million), and Bristow has options on an additional two aircraft.
Design engineers from Eurocopter and the Harbin Aircraft subsidiary of China’s Avic II group gathered on January 9 at Marignane in the south of France to open the common design office for the EC 175 helicopter program. The joint program, evenly shared between the Europeans and Chinese, calls for certification and entry into service in 2011. However, so far details about the twin-turbine, seven-ton-class rotorcraft are scarce.