A bloody good day for a helo geek

It’s a nice change during a press visit when a company takes you out of a boring, cold conference room and lets you get up close and personal with the aircraft/tanks/guns you’re actually writing about.

A few weeks back, Quill was invited along with other journalists to Marignane to see Airbus Helicopters’ facility in the south of France. Here it makes helicopters such as the H225, H155 and the ever-popular H125.

Obviously we were subjected to the usual powerpoint extravaganza in a meeting room but we also were fortunate to take a flight on one the company’s newest aircraft – the H175. We’ve written extensively on the H175 and its development, you can read here at the Shephard site.

The example we flew on was a H175 that will eventually be delivered to operator NHV (reg: OO-NSG/F-WJXG), which currently flies six aircraft in the North Sea for oil and gas missions. Here we are boarding the aircraft and preparing for flight:

Surprisingly for the south of France, it was a miserable day. But we took off smoothly from Marseille Provence airport, where the Airbus Helicopters facility is located. The company shares the south side of the airport with the fixed-wing base of the Sécurité Civile, which operates a number of firebombing aircraft such as Bombardier 415s.

We saw some parked up as we taxied:

The co-pilot’s weather radar picture is a good indicator of just how awful the day was:

H160 weather radar

After taking in the sights of Marseille and the surrounding area, and being treated to a few close fly-bys of the 415s on training runs, we mysteriously landed at a grass airstrip just north of Marseille airport. A quick toilet break maybe? Or perhaps to take in the local sights? Some journalists found time to speak with our pilot and take some snaps of this beautiful-looking heli:

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And that was the end of…wait, what’s that on the horizon? Is it… yes it’s only the new H160! Airbus Helicopters decided to surprise us with a flight display of the first H160 prototype (PT-1). It’s safe to say that the aviation journalists all got a little excited (ahem, including me).

H160 with H175-2

One of the first things that strike you about the H160 is not only its good looks but also how quiet it is, it’s hardly audible until it’s nearly on top of you. The test pilots flew the aircraft up close so even us journalists with a feeble 18-55mm lense could still get some decent shots like the ones below:

H160

Here’s a selection of other photographs, admittedly I went a bit snap happy!

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The H160 is now well into its flight testing and a second prototype has joined the programme. First deliveries to customers are expected in 2018, which is hopefully when Quill will get a flight onboard the H160 as well! For more about the latest developments in the programme head over to the Shephard site where I’ve written about it in more detail.

So a H175 flight and our own personal H160 flight display on the same day – not a bad way to spend a Monday afternoon.

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