EC175, a star is born

With the Critical Design Review (CDR) finished right on time, the industrialisation and marketing of the EC175 is proceeding exactly as planned.


 Eurocopter / G.Deulin
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The fifth of December holds a special meaning for the EC175 programme: on this date in 2005, the development contract was signed by Eurocopter and its Chinese partners; on 5 December 2006, the Preliminary Design Review was concluded; and, on 5 December 2007, the Critical Design Review was also completed.
“Over the last two years, we have adhered perfectly to the original schedule,” explains Richard Dubreuil, the assistant to the EC175 programme director. “Finishing the CDR means that the design of all the sub-systems is now frozen and the major equipment has been selected. The manufacture of the first two prototypes is underway.”
Intended to round off the Eurocopter range between the Dauphin/EC155 and Super Puma families, the EC175 has thus made a good start to its working life. The aircraft will launch its commercial career at Heli-Expo 2008, which will take place in Houston, Texas. The maiden flight is expected in 2009, with certification to follow two years later in 2011. The audacious gamble of cooperating with an industrial partner based 10,000 km away is therefore set to pay off. This industrial and commercial alliance between Eurocopter and Beijing was fuelled by the same need for an aircraft in the six-metric-ton class, and the same willingness to take equal shares in the total estimated development costs of €600 million.
The EC175 was designed to meet the needs of the oil and gas industry and, throughout its early stages, its design was driven by the requirements and requests of the leading operators on this market. In terms of safety, aircraft accessibility, stowage space and comfort, the EC175 is already shaping up to outstrip competitive products. In particular, the aircraft will have optional auxiliary fuel tanks under the cabin floor, which will increase its autonomy without reducing the available space for passengers and their baggage.
To reach this stage, the European and Chinese teams have pooled their knowledge and distributed the workload evenly, allocating each sub-system to one of the two partners. Richard Dubreuil describes the significant investment involved: “The cooperation with the Chinese has required slightly more resources from us than we had originally estimated. We made trip after trip to China, while keeping a permanent team of about 10 people on site. Over short periods, we even had 40 engineers working in China. We also organised multi-skilled work units there so that Western suppliers could come and work on the integration of their equipment on site.”
The objective is to sell approximately 800 to 1,000 EC175s over 20 years. And, as in the industrial domain, the task sharing on the commercial front is equally clear: the Chinese will sell the aircraft on their own domestic market and to some neighbouring countries, while Eurocopter will take care of the rest of the world.


_AUTHOR: ALEXANDRE MARCHAND