Eurocopter EC120 Colibri

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EC120 Colibri
Eurocopter EC-120B Colibri, Eurocopter AN0435464.jpg
Role Light utility helicopter
Manufacturer Eurocopter/Airbus Helicopters
Harbin Aircraft Industry Group
First flight 9 June 1995
Introduction 1998
Produced 1995-present
Number built over 550
Unit cost
~US$2M, €1.5M (August 2013)[1]
Privately operated Russian EC120
Spanish National Police EC120

The Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC120 Colibri (English: hummingbird) is a 5-seat, single-engine, single main rotor, light helicopter. Jointly designed and developed by Eurocopter, China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), Harbin Aviation Industries (Group) Ltd (HAIG) and Singapore Technologies Aerospace Ltd (STAero) at Eurocopter France's Marignane facility, the EC120 B is assembled by Eurocopter in France and Australia.[2] In China, the aircraft is produced by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC) as the HC120.[3]

In 2004, HAMC began local manufacturing of the HC120 at their assembly line in Harbin, northern China city. In the Chinese market, both the People's Liberation Army and multiple local police forces have purchased HC120 helicopters.[4] Eurocopter has a 61% interest in the project, with CATIC owning 24% and STAero with 15% share.[5]

Design and development[edit]

The EC120 B is mostly built from composite materials and has a fenestron tail rotor, making it a particularly quiet helicopter (FAA Appendix J flyover noise signature = 78.7 dB SEL, 6.7 dB SEL below Stage 2 limits). Certified to FAR 27 standards, the EC120 B also features crash-resistant seats and a crash-resistant fuel system.

The design of the Colibri's wide cabin makes it suitable for wide variety of civilian and parapublic missions, such as utility transport, offshore transport, training, law enforcement, casualty evacuation and corporate transport. In the casualty evacuation role, the helicopter can carry one pilot and one stretcher patient as well as one or two medical attendants. For cargo carrying, the Colibri can carry one pilot plus 2.94 m3 (104 cu ft) of total useful load volume (cabin and hold). The EC120's 0.8 m3 (28 cu ft) hold is accessible from the side and rear.

In addition to its civilian roles, the Colibri is also used by the military for training, observation and light utility missions. In the latter role, it can carry a sling load cargo of up to 700 kg (1,540 lb).

The EC120 B is able to carry equipment such as FLIR cameras, spotlights and other useful tools. Some law enforcement agencies using the EC120 B include: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the German Federal Police, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, the Edmonton Police Service, Calgary Police Service, the York Regional Police, and the Albuquerque Police Department.

Orders for the EC120 were 12 in 2010, 13 in 2011, and 9 in 2012.[1]

Operational history[edit]

The first EC120 B was delivered in 1998. By 2008, Eurocopter had already delivered more than 550 Colibris to various customers.

In 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) selected the EC120 B to meet its Light Sign Cutter requirement, a program potentially involving 55 aircraft with a total value of US$75 million in then-year dollars.[6] In 2006, the CBP ordered 15 EC120 B helicopters, with a further five aircraft since ordered.[7]

In January 2008, the French Defense Ministry selected the EC120 as the French Army's new lead-in rotary-wing trainer, replacing the Aérospatiale Gazelle. 36 EC120 Bs equipped with Sagem avionics will be operated through a 22-year public-private partnership (PPP), with the first aircraft due to arrive in 2010.[8]

Since 2011, the EC120 B has been used by the traffic police in Kurdistan, Iraq.[9] In a first step, new pilots are trained on gyroplanes and then further trained on helicopters.[10]

In 2015, an EC120 B was used as a flying demonstrator for the European Clean Sky environmental research program. Built to trial aviation diesel technologies, the EC120 B demonstrator was equipped with a 4.6 liter turbocharged V8 Jet A piston engine (HIPE AE440 high-compression) and a multiplier gearbox in the place of the standard Arrius turboshaft powerplant; the new engine should noticeably reduce several emissions and direct operating costs while increasing range. The engine weighs about 200 kg without gearbox and cooling. Tests indicate about 30-50% less consumption.[11][12][13]


  • EC120 B Colibri: Standard designation (original designation during development was "P-120")
  • HC120: Chinese-built variant of the EC120


Civil operators[edit]

A Spanish Air Force Colibri demonstrates its agility with a barrel roll

The EC120 is used by both private individuals and companies, helicopter charter and training organizations as well as law enforcement and government use.

 United States

Military operators[edit]


Specifications (EC120 B)[edit]

Data from Eurocopter EC120 B 2008 Tech Data book

General characteristics


Vehicle and Engine Multifunction Display (VEMD) with First Limit Indicator (FLI) fitted as standard.

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ a b c Mark Huber and Thierry Dubois. "Bell Reveals more on ‘short light single’". AIN online, 3 August 2013. Accessed: 11 December 2013.
  2. ^ "EC120 Assembly Line". Australian Aerospace. Archived from the original on 22 August 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2007. 
  3. ^ "HC-120 (EC-120) Helicopter". Global Retrieved 16 April 2007. 
  4. ^ "HC-120 Helicopters built in Harbin China". [1]. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Eurocopter
  6. ^ Defense Industry Daily
  7. ^ American Eurocopter
  8. ^ French Ministry of Defense
  9. ^ "Kurdistan's traffic police to have helicopters." AKNews, 17 December 2011.
  10. ^ "Iraq Defence & Security Summit 2012." The Aussie Aviator, 4 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Airbus Helicopters starts flight tests with high-compression piston engine - Vertical Magazine - The Pulse of the Helicopter Industry". 
  12. ^ Gierczynski, Alexandre. "Light Helicopter Demonstrator with HCE" page 5. Airbus, 20 October 2015.
  13. ^ Warwick, Graham. "Clean Sky Prepares For Helo Diesel Flight Tests." Clean Sky Prepares For Helo Diesel Flight Tests, 20 March 2015.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Jeferson Espindola. "EC-120B Colibri - Mato Grosso do Sul". Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "HAWCS: Calgary's Eye in the Sky". Helicopters Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "Reshaping Canada’s Parapublic Service". Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  18. ^ Careless, James. "Bringing in Backup". Helicopter Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "Winnipeg Police Service Flight Operations Unit". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Bundespolizei-Flugdienst". Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  21. ^ "Valstybės sienos apsaugos tarnyba". 2013-04-30. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  22. ^ Dirección General de la Policía. "Servicio de Medios Aéreos-Helicópteros". Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  23. ^ "EC120 Reaches 10,000 Flight Hour Milestone". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "About The Aircraft". Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  25. ^ "Albuquerque Police Department Air Support Unit - Air 1 Eurocopter EC-120B". Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  26. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ a b c d e "World Air Forces 2014" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  28. ^ "Eurocopter delivers the last of 36 EC120s ordered by Hélidax". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 

External links[edit]