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1996-2000

1996

February 15, 1996: The ceremony for the first official flight of the NH90 took place at the Airbus Helicopters (former Eurocopter) plant in Marignane, France in the presence of military and governmental representatives from France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands (the nations participating in the NH90 Programme)

15 February: The ceremony for the first official flight of the NH90 takes place at the Eurocopter plant in Marignane, France. The first NH90 prototype flies in the presence of military and governmental representatives from France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands (the nations participating in the NH90 Programme), military attachés of several western nations, European industry representatives and world press.

21 February: The maiden flight of the fifth Tiger prototype (PT5) takes place successfully in Ottobrunn, Germany.

13 May: The NH90 participates for the first time in the aerial display at the ILA Airshow in Berlin. The first prototype of the NH90 helicopter (PT1) arrives in Schönefeld airport transported by a Beluga aircraft and after a very short pre-flight inspection is ready to fly in the presence of the officials, press and public visiting the airshow.

First flight of AS365 N3 Dauphin in Marignane on October 30, 1996.

30 October: The AS365 N3, the high-performance version of the Dauphin, conducts its maiden flight.

1997

February: The EC120 is unveiled in Eurocopter’s Heli-Expo booth in Anaheim, California.

4 March: The AS350 B3 Ecureuil/AStar, successor to the Lama, conducts its maiden flight. Its powerful engine predestines it for aerial work. Eight years later, it breaks the world record for the highest takeoff altitude from the summit of Mount Everest.

March 19, 1997: The successful maiden flight of the second prototype of the NH90 (PT2), flown by experimental test pilot, Philippe Boutry, flight test engineer, Denis Trivier, and flight engineer, Jean-Claude Rabany

19 March: The maiden flight of the second prototype of the NH90 (PT2) successfully takes place. The NH90 PT2 is flown by experimental test pilot, Philippe Boutry, flight test engineer, Denis Trivier, and flight engineer, Jean-Claude Rabany.

The AH155 (former EC155) conducts its maiden flight. This upgraded version of the Dauphin (Spheriflex 5-blade main rotor and quiet Fenestron® tail rotor) provides 40% more cabin space

17 June: The EC155 conducts its maiden flight. This upgraded version of the Dauphin (Spheriflex 5-blade main rotor and quiet Fenestron® tail rotor) provides 40% more cabin space.

June 20, 1997: The Tiger industrialisation contract is signed during the Paris Airshow in Le Bourget

20 June: The Tiger industrialisation contract is signed during the Bourget Airshow. 

2 July: The NH90 completes its first fly-by-wire flight, and is the world’s first helicopter to be equipped with a fly-by-wire control system.

July: delivery of the 2,000th single engine Ecureuil/Fennec (an AS350 BA) to DHFS (Defence Helicopter Flying School) in charge of pilot training in the UK.

1998

20 May: A Franco-German Memorandum of Understanding for the production of the Tiger helicopter is signed in Berlin.

22 July: Aerospatiale announces its privatisation by way of a merger with the Lagardère subsidiary Matra Hautes Technologies.

1 August: Patrick Gavin is appointed President of the Eurocopter Management Board in place of Jean-François Bigay, who takes up his new position as Senior Executive Vice President, Aeronautical Sector, within the Aerospatiale Group.

26 August: The French Ministry of Interior announces the purchase of 32 BK117 C2 helicopters through a contract worth 170 million USD with Eurocopter. This new dedicated version of the twin-engine BK117 will be used to cover the entire spectrum of public safety and passenger transport requirements over flat country, water or mountainous terrain.

17 November: DaimlerChrysler makes its stock market debut. Its subsidiary Dasa, a Eurocopter shareholder, is renamed DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG.

27 November: The maiden flight of the third prototype of the NH90 (PT3) successfully takes place. The trial starts at 5:05 p.m. and for 30 minutes, the NH90 PT3 is flown by experimental test pilot, Philippe Boutry, flight test engineer, Denis Trivier and flight engineer, Jean-Claude Rabany.

First flight of the EC155 on March 11, 1998 in Marignane.

11 December: The twin-engine EC155 B receives its initial type certification simultaneously from the civil aviation authorities in France (DGAC) and in Germany (LBA).

1999

The first flight of the fourth prototype of the NH90 (PT4) took place at Eurocopter Deutschland's test facility in Ottobrunn near Munich

31 May: The maiden flight of the fourth prototype of the NH90 (PT4) successfully takes place at Eurocopter Deutschland's test facility in Ottobrunn near Munich. The NH90 Programme, which represents a landmark programme for Europe's aeronautics industry, takes another important step forward. The trial starts at 4:33 p.m. and lasts 1 hour and 5 minutes. The helicopter attains 140 kts maximum speed and 5,000 ft altitude. The NH90 PT4 is flown by experimental test pilots, Herbert Graser and Andrew Warner. The flight test engineer is Denis Hamel. The PT4 is representative of the tactical transport version (TTH) of the NH90 and features, apart from the standard NH90 full glass cockpit, fly-by-wire controls with automatic flight control, the dual bus core avionic system and the dedicated mission system. This includes forward-looking infrared, helmet mounted sight and display, digital map generator, weather radar, electronic warfare system, tactical control and tactical communication system.

11 June: The Aerospatiale Matra group is founded.

First flight of the EC145 in 1999.

12 June: The EC145, successor to the BK117, conducts its maiden flight. The EC145 offers an increased maximum takeoff weight and payload capacity as well as a modern cockpit identical to that of the EC135.

17 June: Eurocopter delivers the 500th helicopter in the Super Puma/Cougar family to Bristow Helicopters. This helicopter, with serial No. 2500, is an AS332 L2 Super Puma; it will be operated by Norsk, a subsidiary of Bristow, for offshore missions from Sola Airport in Norway. The helicopter is fitted with an option that is fast becoming part of the standard equipment, EUROARMS or Eurocopter Aircraft Recording & Monitoring 

18 June: In the presence of Jean-Yves Helmer, Head of the French Armament Agency, DGA, and Dr. Hans-Heinrich Weise, National German Deputy Armament Director, the President of the BWB (Federal German Agency for Military Technology and Procurement), Detlev Petry, signs the production contract for the Franco-German combat and support helicopter, the Tiger. The contract signals clearance for Tiger production. An initial batch of 160 helicopters, 80 for Germany and 80 for France, will be procured. The German Army's total requirement of 212 and the French Army's requirement of a total of 215 Tiger helicopters remains unchanged. Production and final assembly of the machines will be at the Eurocopter plants in Donauwörth (Germany) and Marignane (France). Cost and work shares are divided between the two partner countries on a 50:50 basis.

24 June: The EC130 conducts its maiden flight. This new member of the Ecureuil/AStar family offers more cabin space, extensive visibility and a reduced sound level that meets the Grand Canyon standards required by the American National Parks services.

18 August: MIL, Kazan Helicopters and Eurocopter, the three companies that make up EUROMIL, a company incorporated under Russian law, sign a contract in Moscow for the construction of a feasibility demonstrator for the MI 38 heavy twin in the 15 tonne class. Pratt & Whitney Canada will supply the PWC 127 engines. MIL will handle the general design, drawings, component testing and flight testing. Kazan Helicopters will be responsible for the manufacture of the fuselage and blades and for final assembly. Eurocopter will be in charge of the design of the cockpit, avionics, equipment and fittings of the different versions.

9 September:  The French Air Force receives its first "RESCO" Cougar MK2 from Eurocopter. The Air Force has already been able to conduct an intensive evaluation of this helicopter in July and August 1999, when more than 100 flight hours were logged. Moreover, the Air Force product team has closely participated in the definition of the RESCO Cougar. This helicopter is the first of the 4 Cougars in the current procurement programme (1997-2002); the 3 other deliveries will be spaced out through 2003. Total requirements are for an estimated 14 helicopters.

2 December: The German aviation authority, LBA (Luftfahrtbundesamt) has granted single-pilot and dual-pilot IFR (instrument flight rules) certification featuring AFCS (automatic flight control system) and the “Avionique Nouvelle" cockpit configuration for the EC135. The certification applies to EC135s with either the Turbomeca Arrius 2B or Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B engines.

14 December: The 100th AS350 B3 Ecureuil single engine helicopter manufactured by Eurocopter and intended for a Japanese operator has been handed over to their distributor, Kawasho. The AS350 B3 includes a number of improvements: engine control with a twist grip on the pilot collective lever, main gear box upgrade to 500 kW, and twin engine Ecureuil tail rotor. Amongst the latest innovations recently certified and soon available are: transfer of auxiliary rotor brake and fuel shut-off controls to the overhead panel to free up floor space, and central instrument panel with built-in lighting and 3" instruments.

2000

8 June: During an official ceremony at ILA, an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) covering a global intention of acquiring 595 helicopters and a global commitment for the industrialisation and the production of 366 NH90 helicopters is signed by Jean-Yves Helmer, Délégué Général pour l'Armement (France), State Secretary Dr. Walther Stützle (Germany), Onorevole Dott, Domenico Minniti, Sottosegretario alla Difesa (Italy) and Dr. Jan Fledderus, Directeur Generaal Materieel (The Netherlands).

8 September: Eurocopter changes its legal form from a Joint Stock Company (SA) to a Simplified Stock Company (SAS). Jean-François Bigay is named Chairman of Eurocopter SAS.
This operation is made possible by the creation of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Compagny (EADS) which resulted from the merger of the two shareholders, Aerospatiale Matra (France) and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Germany), and the Spanish company CASA on 10 July 2000.

Refueling of a C130 LOCKHEED in flight by an AS532 A2 on October 24, 2000 in Istres (France).

October: In-flight refuelling tests are successfully completed with a combat search and rescue Cougar. The refuelling procedure starts with the helicopter flying in formation in the wake of the tanker airplane. After hook-up by means of a refuelling boom connected to the refuelling pod located on the airplane wing, the helicopter takes up a position slightly to the side and higher, and the fuel transfer operation starts.

The first tests involve partial refuelling with 500 and 1,000 pounds of fuel, then a full refuelling operation is completed during which 5,500 pounds of fuel are transferred in less than 15 minutes.
The tests are conducted from the left wing and then from the right wing of the tanker airplane, changing the configurations of the helicopter until the maximum operational configuration has been tested (maximum all up weight carrying all the external stores).

30 November:  The new MK2+ version of the medium-lift (11-tonne category) twin engine EC725 Cougar / Super Puma helicopter completes its maiden flight from the Eurocopter plant in Marignane. The Cougar / Super Puma MK2+ will continue to use the Spheriflex main and tail rotor heads, whose technology and performance have been demonstrated and which also offer lower maintenance costs. The five main rotor blades of the Cougar / Super Puma MK2+ benefit from a state-of-the-art airfoil design. They have a composite spar with parabolic blade tips with an anhedral profile. This five-blade configuration ensures a particularly low vibration level for the helicopter. The main rotor system has a diameter of 16.2 metres. 

Helicopters history

The full Helicopters history (1920s to today)

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