FIDAE 2012: Helibras soon to begin local assembly of EC725s
The Brazilian subsidiary of Eurocopter, Helibras, is preparing to start the assembly of EC725 helicopters for the Brazilian armed forces' H-XBR programme.
A new final assembly line building for the EC725 is now complete at the company's site at Itajuba in Minas Gerais state and work on the first Brazilian assembled aircraft will begin in early April with the first Brazilian-built aircraft due to make its first flight about a year later.
'There have been many changes at Helibras over the past year, this is a very exciting time for us,' Helibras CEO Eduardo Marson Ferreira told Shephard.
'The new facility is complete and we are moving both the EC725 and Esquilo assembly into the new building, while our old facilities will be used for MRO.'
The company's workforce has increased to 655, while 45 Helibras engineers, who have been working alongside their Eurocopter counterparts at Marignane in France, will shortly return to share their knowledge and experience.
The first 16 of the 50 EC725s ordered by Brazil will be built in France, while from the 17th aircraft onwards the helicopters will feature increasing amounts of Brazilian content, including equipment and components sourced from domestic suppliers.
To date, one aircraft has been delivered to each of the armed forces – army, navy and air force – and it is the air force aircraft (FAB3510) that made a 25-hour journey from the north of Brazil to attend the FIDAE 2012 airshow.
Currently all the aircraft delivered are in a basic transport configuration, but two of the French-built aircraft – the fourth and fifth aircraft to be delivered – are to be used as prototypes for the mission systems integration that will be installed in later aircraft. Such systems are expected to include anti-surface warfare systems for the naval version.
Furthermore, Marson Ferreira indicated a possible order for Helibras-built EC225s for use by Brazil's quickly-developing oil and gas industry, but said that more would be revealed once the new plant had been officially opened in April.
As well as the EC725 assembly, Helibras has recently flown the first prototype of the newly upgraded AS565 Panther for the Brazilian Army. The company was awarded the contract to update the 32 Panthers plus two crashed aircraft in January 2010.
The update includes re-engining the aircraft with the new Turbomeca Arriel 2C2 turboshaft and new avionics suite and glass cockpit. The work on the Panthers will be complete by 2021.
The company is also negotiating the final specifications for a modernisation of the Brazilian Army's fleet of 36 AS350 Fennecs. The work is set to include the installation of new avionics and to bring the aircraft up to a single standard, rather than the fleets-within-fleets situation the Fennec is currently in.
Source: By Tony Osborne in Santiago, Chile / Shephard News Team - 29 March 2012
Photo: Brazilian Armed forces EC725 Helibras (Photo by shephardmedia.com)