New Motorization for Light Helicopters

As part of the European Clean Sky project, Eurocopter is working on powering the EC120 with a new engine.

© Eurocopter / Daniel Bauchère
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As a Clean Sky partner, Eurocopter has agreed to produce a demonstrator—an EC120 as it happens—equipped with a new engine before the end of 2013.

Over the last 15 years, the automobile sector has made enormous progress with engines. As Christian Mercier, Head of the Integration Project at Eurocopter explains: “The automobile industry has developed a mature technology for us, and the power of some of the engines on 4X4s is similar to that of the engine used on the EC120. What’s more, certain types of engines can be run on kerosene, which is available at every airport in the world.” This study is a flagship project for Eurocopter. The target is to slash average fuel consumption by approximately 40% and to make a similar reduction in CO2 emissions. Significantly reducing particle emissions and noxious gases like nitrogen oxide is another of the scheme’s goals. “The appeal of this project was therefore obvious,” continues Christian Mercier. “But there is a snag: Although the weight/power ratio has been significantly improved, we must develop a lighter engine.”

Several Challenges Ahead
In early June, engine manufacturers will be invited to bid to develop a new engine system for the Clean Sky project. And, to ensure that such an engine is economically viable, and produced in sufficient quantities, it could also be targeted at light airplane manufacturers.
But weight is not the only challenge: Eurocopter engineers must also work on reducing engine vibration and improving power transmission. The controllability of a helicopter equipped with a new engine system must also be checked, thermal problems must be resolved, the purchase price must be acceptable, and the engine must be 100% reliable. “As a Clean Sky partner, we should produce a demonstrator—an EC120 as it happens—equipped with a new engine system before the end of 2013.” Furthermore, EADS will be presenting a 3D conceptual model of a helicopter powered by a new engine system on its stand at the Paris Air Show.
The innovation will have two obvious advantages for customers. Firstly, reducing fuel consumption has a direct impact on the helicopter’s operating cost. Secondly, reducing CO2 emissions is now a major concern for every operator.


ARTICLE: MONIQUE COLONGES

From integrating new motorization to the “green site” project, Eurocopter’s concern for the environment can be seen in every aspect of its business.