|Stanford’s EC145 life flight on approach.|
|Role||Medium utility helicopter|
|Manufacturer||Eurocopter Group, now Airbus Helicopters|
|First flight||12 June 1999|
|Developed from||MBB/Kawasaki BK 117|
|Variants||Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota|
The Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) EC145 is a twin-engine light utility helicopter manufactured by Airbus Helicopters. Originally referred to as the BK 117 C2, the EC145 is based upon the MBB/Kawasaki BK 117 C1, which became a part of the Eurocopter line-up in 1992 when the company was formed through the merger of the Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm helicopter division of Daimler-Benz and the helicopter division of Aérospatiale-Matra.
The EC145 is a twin-engine aircraft and can carry up to nine passengers along with two crew, depending on customer configuration. The helicopter is marketed for passenger transport, corporate transport, emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue, parapublic and utility roles. Military variants of the helicopter under various designations, such as EC645 T2 or UH-72, have also been produced for training, logistics, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, and light troop-transport operations.
The EC145 was a joint development between Eurocopter and Kawasaki Heavy Industries on the basis of their successful prior jointly produced BK 117 C1. Rather than developing an entirely clean sheet design, the forward cockpit and modern avionics of Eurocopter's EC 135 were adopted in combination with the proven BK 117's rear section; Flight International described the new helicopter, originally designed as BK 117 C2, as being "90% a combination of these two aircraft [The EC135 and BK 117 C1]". However, there were significant areas of redesign, advantages held by the EC145 over its predecessor include possessing a greater range and payload capacity, a considerably increased and uninterrupted cabin area, reduced vibration and noise emissions, and measures to simplify maintenance and minimize operational costs.
The new model was type-certificated as the BK 117 C2; in December 1997, it was selected by the French Defense and Civil Guard for air rescue mission, 31 EC145s were ordered to replace their fleet of aging Aérospatiale Alouette III in a deal costing $170 million. The first EC145 completed its maiden flight at Donauwörth, Germany on 12 June 1999; Eurocopter conducted a major publicity event for the emerging type at the US Helicopter Association International Show in February 2000. Safety certification of the EC145 was awarded by the German Luftfahrt-Bundesamt and Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau in December 2000; and by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in early 2002.
Eurocopter and Kawasaki have an agreement under which both firms independently manufacture and market the aircraft, while working collaboratively on updates and further development projects. In practice, Kawasaki uses the designation BK 117 C2 for the type and sells/produces the aircraft in the Asian market; Eurocopter sells the type globally under the EC145 designation. In November 2004, with the termination of production of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' MH2000, the BK 117 C2 became the only civil helicopter in production in Japan.
In 2011, Eurocopter officially launched an upgraded model of the EC145, designated EC145 T2, unveiling the new type at Heli Expo 2011. The EC145 T2 is designed to significantly increase the aircraft's performance, featuring new Arriel 2E turboshaft engines, dual-digital Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC), Eurocopter's Fenestron shrouded tail rotor design, and upgraded tail and main rotor gear boxes. Considerable differences and improvements were introduced to the cockpit and aircraft subsystems, including the adoption of increasingly digital avionics and a fully modular approach to these systems, amongst the biggest changes is a sophisticated 4-axis autopilot. In April 2014, certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency for the EC145 T2 was received, FAA certification followed in October 2014.
In 2014, Airbus Helicopters announced that 50 EC145 T2s would be manufactured in 2015, the production is expected to eventually rise to 70 helicopters per year.
Since 2011, Eurocopter has been developing an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) variant of the EC145. Test flights of the EC145 OPV, including unmanned flights, began in 2013. The system, designed to plug into the EC145's existing avionics, has the capability to operate autonomously, or alternatively be controlled by human operators either via the cockpit or from a ground control station. The technology, which is reported to be compatible of a number of Eurocopter's range of helicopters, is intended for both civil and military applications. In an emergency situation, such as systems failure, the EC145 OPV is programmed to enter into an automated hover-to-land procedure to safely land the aircraft.
The EC145 features a larger cabin space than the older BK 117 C1 helicopter with internal space increased by 46 cm (18 in) in length and 13 cm (5 in) in width, increasing cabin volume by 1.0 m³ (35 ft³) to 6.0 m³ (211 ft³). Other improvements over the BK 117 include an increased maximum take-off weight and greater range, achieved partially by the adoption of composite rotor blades, which were derived from the smaller EC135. The EC145 has a hingeless rotor system with a monolithic titanium hub; the helicopter was originally powered by a pair of Turboméca Arriel 1E2 turboshaft engines, later aircraft are powered by the upgraded Turboméca Arriel 2E engine. A key feature of the aircraft is the variable rotorspeed and torque matching system (VARTOMS), derived from the BK 117, which Eurocopter has attributed as making the EC145 "the quietest helicopter in its class".
The EC145 is fitted with an all-glass cockpit, consists of a Thales Avionics MEGHAS Flight Control Display System with active matrix liquid crystal displays (LCDs); it can be piloted by either one or two pilots. A number of systems are independently redundant, including the autopilot system, hydraulic boost, transmission lubrication, and some of the onboard sensors. The EC145 T2 features additional and newer avionics systems, such as a full 4-axis autopilot and dual-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC); three large LCD primary displays were also introduced to control these systems. The type is fully capable of Category A operations; in November 2008, an EC145 performed the first medical transport flights under instrument flight rules (IFR) in Europe; the type is able to fly entirely under GPS navigation from takeoff to final approach when required. The EC145 is also the first civil helicopter to be fitted with night vision-compatible cockpit instrumentation and lighting straight off the production line.
Typical cabin arrangements allows for eight passengers in a club seating configuration, or nine passengers in a high density seating configuration, passenger seating is designed for quick rearrangement based upon current demands. The cabin can be accessed either through sliding doors in either side of the aircraft or via large clamshell doors at the rear of the cabin; in combination with the high mounted tail boom, the clamshell doors are designed to provide safe clearance for loading and unloading activities even while the rotors are turning. In an EMS/casualty evacuation arrangement, the EC145 can carry up to two stretchered patients with three accompanying medical staff. The helicopter can be fitted with emergency floats, rescue hoist, search light, load hook and specialist equipment for other operational requirements.
A specialised VIP variant developed in association with Mercedes-Benz, known as the EC145 Mercedes-Benz Style, launched as an executive helicopter in 2010. Capable of transporting up to six passengers via switchable rail-mounted seating arrangements; the Mercedes-Benz variant features a luxury interior complete with leather seats, wooden paneling, advanced ambient lighting and in-flight entertainment systems, and modular storage cabinets; various aesthetic external changes, such as a reshaped forward section, also feature on this variant. Eurocopter also offers an 'EC145 Stylence' package to corporate and private helicopter operators, which has various aesthetic and technology changes from the baseline model to provide a higher level of passenger comfort.
The French Sécurité Civile (Civil Guard), French Gendarmerie and the Landespolizei (State Police) of Hesse, Germany became the first operators of the EC145 when they received initial deliveries of the helicopter in April 2002. Two of the Sécurité Civile helicopters have crashed since delivery, with one being lost during a mountain rescue operation on Mount Arbizon in the French Pyrenees on 20 July 2003 and the other crashing during a police rescue exercise near Garvarnie in the Pyrenees on 5 June 2006 with the loss of three lives. In 2008, the Gendarmerie reportedly stated that the EC145 has a per aircraft availability rate of roughly 90 percent.
In 2006, the UH-145, a military variant of the EC145, was selected for the United States Army's Light Utility Helicopter Program, beating three other helicopters. The deal, valued at $3 billion, involved the supply and servicing of 345 helicopters, with options for additional aircraft. The variant was designated UH-72 Lakota by the U.S. Department of Defense; the first UH-72A was delivered to the U.S. Army in December 2006. In June 2013, the German Federal Ministry of Defence announced plans to acquire 15 EC145s in a military configuration for special forces operations; designated EC645 T2, these aircraft are reportedly to be armed and equipped with an electro-optical reconnaissance system and troop deployment fittings; deliveries are to take place from 2015 to 2017. On 27 November 2014, the maiden flight of the EC645 T2 was performed at Donauwörth, Germany.
In April 2012, Eurocopter announced that the 500th EC145 had been delivered. On 31 July 2014, the first EC145 T2, an updated variant, was delivered to its launch customer, DLR Luftrettung, who have ordered a total of 20 such helicopters for emergency medical service operations.
- Basic model introduced, derived from preceding BK 117 C-1; this variant is powered by Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshaft engines and has a conventional high boom tail rotor.
- EC145 Mercedes-Benz Style
- EC145 intended for VIP and corporate purposes, outfitted with a luxury interior designed by Mercedes-Benz; seating four to eight passengers depending upon configuration.
- EC145 T2
- Updated version with more powerful (775 kilowatts (1,039 shp) Arriel 2E engines, new fenestron shrouded tail rotor, and new avionics.
- EC645 T2
- Military version of the EC145 T2
- UH-72A Lakota
- A militarised Light Utility Helicopter, operated by the US Army.
As of September 2012, the EC145 is in service with a total of 100 customers in 34 countries.
Civilian and government
- Metropolitan Police Service
- Police Service of Northern Ireland
- Devon and Cornwall Police
- Crew: 1 or 2 (pilots)
- Capacity: 9 passengers
- Length: 13.03 m (42 ft 9 in)
- Rotor diameter: 11.0 m (36 ft)
- Height: 3.45 m (11 ft 4 in)
- Disc area: 95 m² (1,018 ft²)
- Empty weight: 1,792 kg (3,951 lb)
- Loaded weight: 3,585 kg (7,903 lb)
- Useful load: 1,793 kg (3,953 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 3,585 kg (7,903 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshafts, 550 kW (take-off power) (738 shp) each
- Never exceed speed: 268 km/h (145 kt, 167 mph)
- Cruise speed: 246 km/h (133 kn, 153 mph)
- Range: 680 km (370 nmi, 426 mi)
- Ferry range: 855 km (461 nmi, 530 mi)
- Service ceiling: 5,240 m (17,200 ft)
- Rate of climb: 8.1 m/s (1,600 ft/min)
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- Gray 2002, p. 30
- Gray 2002, p. 30-31.
- "1979: BK 117." Eurocopter, Retrieved: 31 March 2013.
- Gray 2002, p. 31.
- "Eurocopter/Kawasaki fly EC145." Flight International, July 1999, p. 22.
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- First flight of new Airbus Helicopters EC645 T2
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