Four weeks and almost 140 flight hours after starting its demonstration tour of Latin America, the H215 is headed back to its base in the United States, having earned kudos among participating customers. In the middle of its tour, an unexpected call to aid a humanitarian mission showed that the heavy helicopter was more than just a pretty face.
The H215 basks in a successful Latin American demo tour
In a region where Airbus Helicopters has been providing rotorcraft solutions for forty years, the arrival of a new workhorse helicopter, the H215, on its Latin American demo tour left a renewed flood of good first impressions in its wake. Five countries played host to the newest member of the Super Puma family – Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia – in a region where airborne needs range from oil and gas to public services to military—with increasing need for emergency support in the event of natural disasters.
More than 250 passengers, among them pilots, press, members of the armed forces, and commercial operators, were invited to participate in demonstration flights across the region. The tour started in Dallas, TX in a ferry flight bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina in April. There, seven demo flights took passengers like the minister of security (Ministerio de Seguridad) and Argentinian navy (Marina Argentina) on tours designed to show off the H215’s cutting-edge technology, which includes a glass cockpit and the 4-axis autopilot it shares with the H225, a key to the H215’s superior flight envelope protection.
Some 23 pilots flew the helicopter in Buenos Aires, and dozens of others took the controls over the course of the month, where praise focused on the H215’s unrivalled precision and stability in a variety of conditions. On taking the H215 on demo flights, pilots lauded it as easy to use and very steady, while commenting on the “good” power to weight ratio.
On 26 and 27 April, the helicopter paid a visit to Santiago, Chile for six flights with the country’s major operators, who included Ecocopter, ENAER, Calquin, the national police (Carabineros), and the Chilean Navy. Pilots’ post-flight impressions highlighted the H215’s excellent useful payload.
From there, the H215 spent five days in Cusco and Lima, Peru where customers from energy and the oil and gas sector discovered the helicopter’s versatility and performance in high and hot environments. The National Police also had the opportunity to test the aircraft in extreme conditions, which proved to be a help in relation to their future anti-drug programs. Pilots and operators from the Ministry of Defense flew the helicopter in Cuzco and Lima, and consider the H215 to be a real alternative to the transport aircraft they are presently operating. With a 95 percent availability rate and long-range capabilities, the H215 has become an aircraft of choice for this particular sector.
At every stop, the tour provided customers with details about the H215’s HCare support and services offer, which improves on performance guarantees, competitive pricing and larger coverage for the region’s support and service needs.
The H215 was unexpectedly pulled off duty in Ecuador from 10 to 12 May, to assist with on-going humanitarian relief efforts in the wake of an earthquake that hit the Manabi and Esmeraldaes region on 16 April. More than 20,500 people were left homeless by the disaster, many without food and water. The Latam Demo Tour helicopter was pressed into service transporting food, water, and medical equipment to otherwise inaccessible areas.
After a short rest for the crew, the aircraft resumed duty in Bogotá, Colombia from 16 to 18 May. A full schedule of 14 flights carrying some 120 passengers demonstrated the H215’s suitability to multiple missions. Because it represents a new business model, the aircraft benefits from optimized lead times and flexible configurations, as evident in its suite of optional equipment, allowing it to perform a variety of missions for a very competitive overall price. This was nowhere more evident than in remarks from Colombian passengers, who viewed the H215 as a multipurpose platform capable of meeting the country’s challenges in the armed forces and law enforcement, particularly for disaster management and peacekeeping. The helicopter was also seen as a modern, efficient, and safe answer to impending fleet-replacement needs in the oil and gas sector.
At all stops and during every flight, the general consensus was that the H215 represented a proven platform able to operate safely in Latin America’s challenging terrain, whether at altitude, in the jungle or over the desert.