GKN-Westland, May 12, 2000 - Yeovil, UK - A civil utility variant of the Anglo-Italian EH101 helicopter has completed a 945 nautical mile (1750 km) simulated search and rescue (SAR) mission lasting more than eight hours.
The flight was part of the proving trials for the EH101 to demonstrate the aircraft's unrefuelled range capability in a typical operational scenario. Flown by GKN Westland senior test pilot Mike Adam-Swales and Captain Tim Noble of Bristow Helicopters, the EH101 took off at 15600 kg AUW with 5500 kg of fuel in the internal and auxiliary long-range tanks.
Climbing to 2000 feet, one of the EH101's three engines was shut down and the aircraft settled into a 120 knot cruise on the remaining two engines. A key feature of the EH101 in SAR service is its ability to undertake long range cruise on two engines whilst reverting to three engines for the rescue operation. The three-engine configuration is especially significant in search and rescue operations since, unlike current SAR helicopters, the EH101would be able to continue with its mission even if one of its engines failed in the hover.
At a distance from base of some 400 nautical miles (750 km), the aircraft performed a 30 minute hover out of ground effect, as if conducting a rescue mission, before commencing the two-engine, 120 knot return cruise. On arriving back at base some seven hours fifteen minutes later, the aircraft still had considerable fuel reserves and continued flying for a further hour before landing back at GKN Westland's Yeovil airfield.
Throughout the mission, the EH101 performed faultlessly. " It all went exactly as planned," said Mike Adam-Swales. "The low workload and low noise and vibration levels in the aircraft resulted in much lower levels of crew fatigue than would be experienced by crews flying current SAR helicopters on much shorter missions than this. We were very pleased with the way the aircraft performed."
This practical demonstration of the EH101s ability to undertake missions with a 450 nautical mile (834 km) radius of action plus 30 minute hover and 30 minute fuel reserve, or self- ferry over ranges of more than 1,000 nautical miles (1,853 km) – the equivalent of a non-stop flight from London to Helsinki – proves the maturity of the EH101. That it has achieved this level of maturity so early in its service life is a result of 10,000 hours of development and intensive operational flying undertaken by the pre-production EH101 fleet.
In Europe, the EH101 is under active consideration by the UK Ministry of Defence for the Support Amphibious Battlefield Rotorcraft (SABR) programme; by Portugal, for up to 12 SAR and 2 fishery protection variants; and by the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) which between them need some 50-100 helicopters over the next ten years. It is also a leading contender in Canada which is looking for some 30 shipborne aircraft to replace its existing Sea King fleet. Other expressions of interest have come from elsewhere in Europe and North America and from the Far East and Asia Pacific.
The EH101 is a long range, medium lift helicopter ideal for military, civil, humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Developed by Agusta of Italy, a Finmeccanica Company, and GKN Westland Helicopters of the UK, EH101 brings together military utility, naval and civil variants in a single integrated programme.
The three-engine EH101 is designed to operate in adverse conditions including extremes of temperature, high humidity, icing and dusty environments. Its three engines substantially improve margins of safety, particularly at take-off and landing where it can tolerate the loss of an engine without loss of pilot authority. It can achieve in excess of 1000km mission range on standard fuel tanks and can carry more than 30 fully equipped troops or 4000+kg of internal or external stores. Strategic deployment can also be achieved by in-flight refuelling.
Two EH101 aircraft are currently involved in a 6000 flying hour intensive flight operations programme. The have been operating from Aberdeen since September 1998. The primary aim of the programme is to demonstrate the reliability and maintainability of EH101 and to prove the time between overhauls of major components. The first phase in Brindisi, Southern Italy, lasted two years and to date well over 1,000 sorties have been flown and a total of some 4,000 flying hours completed.
EH101 is in full production in both Italy and the UK and has now entered service with the British Royal Navy and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. It will be delivered to the Armed Forces of Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom over the next two years in search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, airborne early warning, commando and tactical troop transport configurations.