New Airbus H145 lands on top of Andes
The new version of the Airbus H145 set its skids down on the Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, culminating at 6,962 metres (22,840 feet) in Argentina. Airbus Helicopters states this is the first time that a twin-engine helicopter has landed at this altitude, as the company uses the test to confirm the performance and flight envelope of its new H145.
The new version of the H145 helicopter, featuring a bearingless main rotor design, was unveiled at Heli-Expo 2019 in Atlanta in March. This upgrade adds a five-bladed rotor to the multi-mission H145, increasing the useful load of the helicopter by 150 kg.
Airbus explains the conditions for the Aconcagua mission were extreme, due to the atmospheric conditions in the area and the winter season. The helicopter took off from Mendoza and flew 30 minutes to the foot of the Aconcagua where it began its ascension. After 15 minutes of climbing, the helicopter landed at 1:45 pm on the summit, at a temperature of -22ºC. The crew onboard the helicopter consisted of Alexander Neuhaus, experimental test pilot, and Antoine van Gent, experimental flight test engineer.
“We had to stay focused on the mission due to severe winds with gusts up to 30 knots and the low air density. The handling qualities of the new H145 are excellent and combined with Helionix and its 4 axis-autopilot, we reached the summit safely,” said Neuhaus. “The aircraft performed outstandingly. We flew over the summit of the Aconcagua and still had power reserves that would have allowed us take two people on-board.”
The flight test was supported by the Fuerza Aerea Argentina, which provided aerial support with its Lama helicopters; Patrulla de Rescate de Alta Montaña de Policia de Mendoza, which assisted with a contingency plan; Parque Provincial Aconcagua, facilitating operations and logistics, and Helicopters AR, a local operator with over 15 years of experience flying in the Aconcagua area with its Airbus H125 helicopter.
Prior to the high-altitude test campaign in South America, the new H145 performed several tests including in Spain at medium altitudes and Finland for cold weather. In total, more than 400 flight hours have already been clocked on the two five-bladed H145 prototypes as Airbus is targeting EASA certification by early 2020, followed by FAA certification and first deliveries later that year.
Back in May 2005, Airbus Helicopters flight test pilot Didier Delsalle landed a single-engine H125 on Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.