MARIGNANE, France: The delivery of the 36th EC120 marked an important step in this innovative program, a public-private partnership set up to provide the French armed forces with a modern and cost-effective training helicopter.
Today, Hélidax officially received its 36th and final EC120 from Eurocopter. On hand for the transfer were Joseph Saporito, Executive Vice President of Commercial Programs for the Eurocopter Group, and Jean-Louis Rotrubin, Chairman of DCI and Hélidax.
Hélidax is equally owned by its founders DCI and INAER France (formerly Proteus). On January 31, 2008, the DGA (French government procurement agency) awarded Hélidax a contract for 16,000 to 26,000 flight hours a year to provide ab initio helicopter pilot training to all three branches of the French armed forces and the Gendarmerie. The training will take place at the French Army Air Corp’s training school (EALAT) in Dax.
As part of the innovative partnership agreement, Hélidax is responsible for the financing, operation and maintenance of the helicopters, and retains full ownership. The training work itself, however, will continue to be provided by the military instructors at EALAT.
The French Army opted for the EC120 to honor the contract, and the first three helicopters were delivered to Dax in October 2009. Within just twelve months, all 36 helicopters were delivered and have progressively been replacing the 54 SA341 and SA342 Gazelles previously used for training. With a training staff of 80 and a fleet of 36 EC120s, the EALAT in Dax is now the largest helicopter training academy in Europe. Instructors and trainees from Belgium also serve at the school year round, making it a truly multinational institution.
The EC120s are delivered up to Eurocopter standard in the NHE (New Training Helicopter) version to Hélidax. With the assistance of INAER France, the company then equips the helicopters with the avionics required by the EALAT, such as a full screen cockpit with night vision goggle (NVG) capabilities and an automatic pilot, to better prepare the trainees for the modern helicopters they will be flying during their careers: the Tiger, EC725 Caracal and, over time, the NH90.
Although the EC120 is less powerful than the Gazelle, it can perform just as wide a range of missions: flight training, navigation, night flights with NVG, autorotations, instrument flights, and initiation to mountain flying. It also offers better availability and direct operating costs that are approximately 30% lower thanks to reduced maintenance needs and better fuel consumption. The EC120 is equipped with the most cutting-edge technology and is the first helicopter with crash-resistance certification, offering training in optimum safety conditions.
Eurocopter has delivered more than 650 EC120s to date, and many of the world’s air forces have placed their confidence in the helicopter. Its compact size, low costs, excellent flight quality and simple piloting capabilities have made it a popular choice for training missions. The fleet currently in service logs more than 150,000 flight hours every year.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 15,600 people. In 2009, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.6 billion Euros, orders for 344 new helicopters, and a 52 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors.