Prototype helicopter tested at Four Corners Regional Airport

Airbus hopes to have chopper on market in 2019

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • The H160 can fly 170 mph and has a range of about 530 miles.
  • The prototype also has been tested in Lake Havasu, Arizona, and will go to Leadville, Colorado, next.
  • Airbus also has stressed safety, performance and economic competitiveness with the aircraft.
An Airbus Helicopter crew member talks with Airbus Helicopters experimental test pilot Olivier Gensse Tuesday before the helicopter's test flight over the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — France-based Airbus Helicopters is taking advantage of mid-altitude conditions and warm weather at the Four Corners Regional Airport to test a prototype H160 helicopter this week.

Experimental flight test engineer Nicolas Certain said one test the company is performing here involves mimicking engine failure. He said the test is necessary for the H160 to receive certification from both the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Airbus hopes to get the helicopter certified so that it can be on the market in 2019.

The H160 is described as a medium-size helicopter that seats one or two pilots and up to 12 passengers. It can cruise at speeds of approximately 170 mph and has a range of nearly 530 miles.

Experimental test pilot Olivier Gensse said the craft could have various uses, including military, commercial and emergency medical services.

Prior to visiting Farmington, the crew tested the H160 in the hot temperatures of Lake Havasu, Arizona. Its next stop will be Leadville, Colorado, where the crew will test its ability to fly at high altitude.

Carla Lebena, a flight test instrumentation engineer for Airbus Helicopters, works on the H160 helicopter with Airbus Helicopters experimental test pilot Olivier Gensse  Tuesday before the helicopter's test flight over the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington.

Gensse said the United States has testing locations that are more suitable for those tests than Europe.

“We have some conditions, but not such as we can find in the United States,” he said.

Gensee said the helicopter is designed to have the ability of lighter aircraft with the systems of heavier aircraft. He said the design also takes into account comfort, including reducing vibration and decreasing the glare from sunlight. The helicopter also sports large windows for passengers.

An Airbus H160 helicopter flies down the runway Tuesday at the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington.

Airbus also has stressed safety, performance and economic competitiveness with the aircraft. The French company boasts that the H160 is both quieter and cleaner than similar aircraft. According to Airbus Helicopter's H160 infographic, the helicopter uses 15 percent less fuel than previous helicopter engines.

Gensse said it is designed to be simple to fly because most crashes are caused by human error.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

Airbus Helicopters crew members hold down equipment as the Airbus H160 helicopter flies by Tuesday during testing at the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington.