Kopter helicopter resumes test flights flies after major modifications

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Leonardo-subsidiary Kopter has flown a heavily-modified prototype of its SH09 light helicopter for the first time earlier this month.

The Switzerland-based helicopter developer which employs around 300 people, was acquired by Leonardo in April 2020. The SH09, which Kopter says is the first clean-sheet design helicopter developed in decades, is powered by a single Honeywell HTS 900 turbine and is designed to offer twin-engine helicopter capabilities, such as carrying up to 8 passengers and payloads as much as 1,500kg with a range of up to 800km.

Modifications made to SH09 third prototype (P3) include a new main rotor head design, a new main gear box with an extended mast, and new flight controls configuration. Engineers  also installed a Garmin G3000H integrated flight deck, with the  flight being the first time the flight deck has been flown on a helicopter.

The latest retrofit is one in a series of major redesigns since the SH09 made its first flight in October 2014, while the certification and entry into service of the helicopter has been pushed back several times.

P3 took off from Mollis, Switzerland and successfully completed the test flight, with expected improvements to handling qualities and stability “immediately apparent to the crew” said Kopter. During the first flight it was possible to complete a set of low-speed envelope maneuvers up to 35 kts, including forward, rearward and sideward flights as well as spot turns.

Several flights have taken place during this month and the crew has been able to expand the flight envelope to climb, descents, autorotation and turns up to 5000ft, said Kopter.

Richard Grant, Kopter’s chief test pilot said, “The overall helicopter response to control inputs has been improved. All maneuvers could be performed accurately with deliberate and precise inputs.”

The Garmin G3000H has performed as expected. Michele Riccobono, Kopter chief technology officer and head of flight operations said, “The results of these first flights with this new configuration are the evidence of the Kopter engineering capability to accurately predict the helicopter behavior and successfully drive the design towards the required performance improvements”.

The flight test program is continuing with the expansion of the weight, speed and altitude envelopes while assessing the new flight deck avionics suite.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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