EC145, a youngster with 30 years' experience -PHOTO/VIDEO

EC145, a youngster with 30 years' experience -PHOTO/VIDEO

Developed as BK 117 in joint venture with Kawasaki, the helicopter takes its current name in 1992: it's story from the presentation in the US to the most recentorders from France and Germany

From HEMS to Search and Rescue through military troop transport: the EC145 helicopter, recently updated at the T2 version by Airbus Helicopters, is a light helicopter suitable for a wide range of operations and has spanned over three decades of career in the most various parts of the world.

Not everyone, however, know the history of this rotorcraft that goes back to a successful partnership between the glorious German MBB and the Japanese industry giant Kawasaki.

BK 117: THE EC145 ANCESTOR

The BK 117, the predecessor of the EC145, was the result of a trade agreement signed between the MBB and Kawasaki for the joint development of a project aimed at the construction of a civilian helicopter. Sanctioned between the two companies in february 1977, the joint venture was established to replace the projects that the two design bureaus were developing independently, the Bo 107 for the German company and the KH-7 for Kawasaki.

The agreement provided a fair division of the costs of planning and development. The main rotor and tail, the tail boom, flight controls and hydraulic system was responsibility of MBB, while the airframe and the transmission system was entrusted to Kawasaki. The maiden flight is dated 1979, marketing will follow soon.

FROM BK 117 TO EUROCOPTER EC145

In 1992, MBB flows into newborn Eurocopter. The company expected an evolution of the BK 117, at the time still in version C1. For the C2 model, that will later be known as the EC145, the the european and japanese engineers designed a helicopter with the same design features as its predecessor, but with avionics installed on the younger EC135, at that time still a few years from its debut on the market. The engines are a pair of Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turboshafts, which enable the aircraft to reach a top speed of 145 kn (268 km/h).

The first EC145 compelted the first flight on June 12, 1999, at Donauwörth factory, inGermany. The stage chosen for the official presentation was the HAI Heli Expo in Las Vegas in February 2000. For the certifications, both the JAA and FAA, the EC145 will have to wait until 2002, when the helicopter officially entered into service. Early operators are the Guardia Civil and the French police, together with the German police, who received the first units of EC145 in April 2002.

MILITARY VERSION: The UH-72 LAKOTA

In 2006, following a tender won by the then Eurocopter, the UH-72 Lakota (the military version of the EC145, also known in Europe as EC645) entered service for the US Army. The solidity of the project also convinced the United States: the US Army currently operate more than 300 Lakotas, mainly used for reconnaissance and troop transport missions.

THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS: THE EC145 T2

As for the EC135, today at version T3/P3, Eurocopter (later rebranded in Airbus Helicopters), has recently been updated the version T2, certified by EASA to April 2014. The most important differences from the past versions are the pair of turboshafts Turbomeca Arriel 2E and, of course, the adoption of the Fenestron, a real trademark of the Franco-German manufacturer.

In the video: EC145 T2, a perfect helicopter for HEMS

From the technological point of view, the new helicopter is the only one (with his bigger brother EC175) to be equipped with Helionix avionics suite, the system made in Airbus. According to the European manufacturer the latest tools allow, thanks to the new multi-function display and a 4-axis autopilot system AFCS duplex, to bring extremely high levels of flight safety.

 

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