The Airbus Helicopters H135 has reached a major milestone: the 1,400th light twin-engine helicopter was recently delivered to Mont Blanc Helicopteres, adding to a fleet of more than 20 H135 and H145 helicopters in HEMS service with the French operator. The milestone caps off a 20-year history for the programme and cements the H135 as a leader in the HEMS industry, currently holding 25 per cent of the global market share for HEMS and boasting over 650 units in service.
Transferring patients from one care centre to another is a complex operation, even in the best of times. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to transfer critical care patients has become a crucial ability that helps swing the balance in life and death situations, freeing up resources for health care systems under stress.
“As the benchmark for HEMS helicopters, the H135 is the safest, most reliable and most economic platform, arriving at the scene on time every time,” states Martin Schneider, Airbus Helicopters' head of the H135 programme. “There are more than 650 H135s in EMS duties, operated by thousands of pilots and medics who protect and save lives each day.”
Since first entering service in 1996, the H135 family of helicopters has gone through regular improvements in performance and capabilities. In order to respond to the unique needs for HEMS operators, the programme has taken an active role by conducting conferences, interviews, questionnaires and surveys, as well as using Reliability Data Group customer input and reliability figures.
As operators seek to improve onboard care, adding more specialised medical equipment, which translates to increased load, the H135 team have gone to work. As a result the latest H135 version has an increased MTOW of 90 kg and a useful load increase of up to 225 kg, allowing HEMS operators to explore new possibilities for the care provided during transit. Other improvements have focused on the airframe, engine, and cockpit; mission equipment; maintenance and reliability, to name a few.
From an operational point of view, Airbus' introduction of the Helionix avionics suite, which was exclusively designed for helicopters and includes a four-axis autopilot, reducing pilot workload, increasing situational awareness and enhancing overall flight safety. Helionix also is night-vision ready, further augmenting mission capabilities and safety when the H135 is operated in darkness or in low visibility conditions.
Overall, H135s are operated for a wide range of missions by more than 290 customers in 65 countries. In addition to HEMS, this helicopter family is deployed for law enforcement, private and business aviation, offshore windfarm management and military flight training.