Seamlessly blending in with the minimalist white and blue colour scheme of Airbus Helicopters’ stand at HAI Heli-Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, this year, the H215 on display was having some quiet time (if you disregard the waves of visitors poking and prodding the exterior and perching across the accessible pilot’s seat to see the avionics) before it kicked off its US tour the day after the exhibition.
The day before the show was due to end, I received an email from Airbus Helicopters offering me a ride on the type before it was to leave Louisville and fully embark on the trip.
As someone who had never actually been up in a helicopter before, you can probably guess my answer.
After the fun of arriving at the wrong side of Bowman Field – a few kilometres southeast of downtown Louisville – and missing the first scheduled flight, I eventually made it to the correct location, where there was a pristine white H215 waiting to pop my helicopter ride cherry. My new flight time was 2:15pm, somewhat appropriately.
It appeared Airbus Helicopters was also using the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities and flight controls to some pilots who had not been up in the type before, as a number waited in the pre-flight ‘green room’.
As 2:15 came, it was time to board. The video below shows a few moments of the 30-minute flight, where you can also hear the pilot’s comms as he provides some tips to the co-pilot on how to properly control the 8.6t machine.
Previously known as the AS332 C/L1e, the type was relaunched in November 2015 as the H215, with the OEM confirming that from 2017 it will be produced in Brasov, Romania.
The utility machine is being pitched at a number of markets and the US tour will see fire-fighting high on the itinerary, as it makes its way to the Aerial Firefighting International event in Sacramento later this month, where the type could be announced as the winner of the 15-helicopter tender put out by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
After a pretty smooth ride and an Airbus Helicopters goodie-bag on departure, I was ready to leave Louisville and head back to London – unfortunately in a slightly less impressive United Airlines 767 from the 1990s that was, quite literally, falling apart.
Keep an eye out on the RotorHub news stream, where updates on the type and the aforementioned fire-fighting tender will be posted.