The H160’s standard-setting maintenance and support concept is among the aircraft’s many innovations. It has undergone fine-tuning in an Operator Zero campaign with Airbus as the “first operator.” It elevates commonplace needs like component accessibility to the fore. Its training and technical documentation are practical and visual. And it sought to integrate digital solutions from the design phase to maintenance, ensuring these solutions communicate with each other. Let’s take a closer look.
Support 101: from design to end user
“We anticipated the H160’s entry into service by defining a clear support specification at the beginning of the programme,” says Laurence Di Costanzo, head of H160 support. The programme did this by having the Support department work with the Design team so development choices were guided in an integrated manner.
Feedback from operators with different needs and requirements (search and rescue, law enforcement, oil industry, etc.) was taken into account when defining the H160’s maintenance plan, for which Airbus applied the MSG-3 inspection methodology required by the EASA and FAA. The in-depth study of maintenance intervals and accessibility helped safely eliminate minor tasks, leading to a significant reduction in workload. With this combination of flexibility and scope, the plan covers customers’ maintenance needs according to operational requirements.
Having in-house support teams do the work of operators – testing tasks, equipment and tools during Operator Zero campaigns – has corroborated the maintenance plan for short intervals. (For example, maintenance was tested in a harsh desert environment during the H160’s flight test campaign in Morocco.) This validation will continue after entry into service for longer intervals, resulting in an H160 with competitive operating costs and flexible maintenance.
Within reach: maintenance in the field
The H160 will be stationed in the field on certain types of missions. The programme used this as inspiration to develop a maintenance concept that facilitates its upkeep far from base. This involved simplifying visual checks, without the need for heavy tools.
Careful thought has gone into the helicopter’s access points as well. The nose avionics bay opens directly onto batteries, fans and air conditioning sensors so technicians can check these vital components. Cowlings on the central fuselage open without tools, and technicians can reach the upper deck (via footsteps) to carry out their inspection of the main rotor at eye level. The upshot: operators gain autonomy in caring for the helicopter as well as maximising its availability on the road.
Innovative, interactive training
The programme and training tools for H160 technicians and pilots are an extension of the aircraft. Interactive and intuitive, the system emulators and the Helionix trainer make it easier to understand all onboard systems by simulating their operation and malfunctions; the component locator is used to train technicians and pilots on the location of components. Hands-on training for a series of models and physical parts, essential despite the improvement of digital tools, allows technicians to work through different tasks.
For pilot training, there is the H160 Level D full flight simulator and a cockpit procedures trainer which, due to its immersive environment, ensures an efficient transition from theory to practice.
Airbus Helicopters has established a strong, versatile training model across its network of customer centres, and training means will be making their way to points across the globe. The OEM will send technician training rigs directly to Japan – the first such event outside of Europe – while Japanese training instructors have begun their familiarisation of the H160’s controls, features and handling qualities in an FFS cockpit.
Precision and visualisation with 3D
The new generation of technical documentation uses extremely precise 3D illustrations, with a minimum of text. With the O.R.I.O.N. digital reader, it is also available offline, on digital tablets, making it accessible at any time and everywhere. Thanks to digital continuity, the illustrations are automatically updated when maintenance manuals are revised. The accuracy of 3D visuals removes ambiguity and prevents misinterpretation. "It’s a powerful safety factor for the customer," says Di Costanzo.
Digital and connected in all phases of operation
The H160 benefits from a connected ecosystem to support flight operations, airworthiness and maintenance activities. Via onboard connectivity solutions, data such as usage and health information are transferred to a cloud-based server for analysis on the ground, helping operators simplify their operations and make the most of their fleet’s data. Each phase of an operation is supported, from flight preparation to in-flight pilot assistance, post-flight debriefing and maintenance planning, leading to greater time savings, reduced risk of human error and improved aircraft availability and operational safety. Informing the rationale behind this digital environment, data is made available to the right team at the right moment.
A flight manual with benefits
The digital flight manual, or c-RFM (computerised rotorcraft flight manual), provides the crew with any information they need on aircraft performance in terms of weather conditions, options, required flight profile, etc. Airbus Helicopters is the first helicopter manufacturer to have designed and certified a flight manual equipped with a calculation app. The c-RFM digitises and automates calculation tasks given to the crew, which improves safety and performance levels as the c-RFM includes the exact configuration of the aircraft recorded by the app in the calculation. Installed on a touch-screen tablet, the tool is intuitive and user friendly. It also enables the integration of all PDF technical and operational documentation (checklists, operation manuals, etc.), avoiding the need to carry hundreds of pages in the cockpit.
“The development of a new helicopter is always an exciting journey and with the H160 this is even more so,” says Laurence Di Costanzo. “We are committed to making customers’ missions a success from the start.”