Helicopter : Saffron frees a little more of Airbus in motorisant Leonardo

Airbus, the indian HAL, the american Bell, and now the Italian Leonardo… If the subsidiary of the Safran Helicopter Engines (Safran ET) has already in the past motor-powered helicopters to the Italian Leonardo (AW109K and military EH101), she comes this time to succeed a very nice shot on the AW189K thanks to the Aneto, the future high power engine (2,500 to 3,100 horse) whose entry into service is expected in the fourth quarter of 2018. The customers of the twin-engine AW189 will now have the choice between the Aneto 1-K (2.500 hp), designed for helicopters of new generation, and the old CT7 General Electric (GE), until now in a monopoly situation.

With the remotorisation surprise of the AW189 (2.500 horses), Saffron, HE is pursuing his goal of being an engine of market reference. To achieve this, the motorist in the south-west, which is historically developed in the side of Airbus, must emancipate themselves a little more vis-à-vis Airbus Helicopters to develop its own resilience in the face of such as strong turbulence in the helicopter market. “Clearly the situation of Saffron, HE has now changed dramatically compared to years Makila engine family H215 and H225 Airbus, editor’s note), explains the program director of engines of strong power, Florent Chauvancy.

“There was a time when Airbus was developing a cell, Safran ET participated in the program,” explains Florent Chauvancy. Times have changed today, when it develops a cell, we are not necessarily selected but sometimes we are like with the program H160. Conversely and in the same manner when the Bell or Leonardo develop a cell, we have relations which are such that we have good hopes or in any case likely to be selected.”

A project in discussion for the past three years

The discussions on the remotorisation of the AW189, a competitor to the H175 to Airbus for the transport of people to the oil rigs, in particular, began three years ago at the time of the entry into service of the device in February 2014. Already. A year later approximately, Leonardo and Saffron HE speeded up. “We are working very actively with Leonardo since 2015”, confirms Florent Chauvancy. Once the redemption in September 2013 of the 50% stake of Rolls-Royce in the programme RTM322, Saffron, HE has launched very quickly marketing campaigns with hélicoptéristes while pursuing TECH 3000, a program of Research and Technology (R&T). The Programme, which has helped to develop the technological building blocks of the engine family Aneto (three versions planned at the moment), the name of the highest peak of the Pyrenees.

And it was Leonardo who was the fastest to react. “We couldn’t keep track of all the things at once. There has been this project that is gone pretty quickly with Leonardo. This project made us all the more pleasure that it is a cell and modern hélicoptériste renowned, with which we wanted to work for a long time”, underlines the director of the program. This is not the first time Saffron HE works with Leonardo but, for the first time, an engine that Safran will be offered to all customers of the Italian manufacturer. At the end of the 90’s, Saffron HE had already placed the Arrius on the AW109K LUH. But it has been proposed that on a few niche markets, including military customers. In addition, this program has not really been a commercial success (approximately 80 AW109K in service in the world). Saffron HE has also motorized 60 % of the fleet of the military helicopter EH101 Merlin.

Powered by the Aneto 1-K, the AW189K made its first flight in march 2017. Has mid-September, the unit had accumulated more than 25 hours of flight time (35 flights). The device is in the active phase of flight testing, which will continue this winter and next summer. “Our goal is to secure a first customer at the end of 2018”, recalls Florent Chauvancy. The certification of the airframe and engine by the european Agency for aviation safety (EASA) is scheduled on the second part of the year 2018.

A message to the market

Why Leonardo wanted to remotoriser as quickly its AW189? the hélicoptériste Italian was first found on the market the new engine much more efficient, Safran ET. The Aneto develops 25% more power compared to the current engines of the same size. It also offers a reduction in fuel consumption of 15 % compared with engines of same power in service today. Especially the CT7 does not satisfy completely the Leonardo. Although this engine works well – it is the one of the Black Hawk and Apache of the US Army ! – missions designed by Leonardo with the AW189 can not currently be performed.

“This new turbine will provide our customers with a high level of performance and will help expand the range of capabilities and versatility of this helicopter super-medium”, explained Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, quoted in the press release of Saffron-ET,

For Safran ET, this remotorisation is not any remotorisation. “In terms of the message to the market, this is not neutral, argues Florent Chauvancy. Leonardo clearly tries to broaden the scope of missions of the unit”. Airbus with its H175 but also the H225 going to have to respond…

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