Airbus H145

Airbus H145

The latest version of this well-regarded model delivers major advantages, including a smoother, quieter ride than its predecessors.

Five is better than four. That’s the math behind the latest iteration of Airbus Helicopters’ H145, which the FAA certified in November. 

Developed in partnership with Japan’s Kawasaki, the $9.98 million light twin adds an extra main rotor blade for a total of five and features a bearing-free main rotor system. Typically, the more main rotor blades you have on a helicopter, the smoother the ride, the more you can lift, and the smaller the rotor disk. Besides offering those advantages, the new variant simplifies maintenance. 

The helicopter’s twin Safran Arriel 2E turboshaft engines are equipped with full authority digital engine control, and the previous H145’s Helionix digital avionics suite has been augmented with a four-axis autopilot that makes the aircraft substantially easier to fly single-pilot. The upgrades can be retrofitted onto four-bladed H145s, but not the new model’s legacy progenitors, the EC145 and BK117

Many Ancestors

Those progenitors have a long trail. You can trace the roots of the newest H145 back to the late 1990s, when it was developed as a stretched version of the popular BK117C1. That’s the model that Germany’s Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) and Japan’s Kawasaki originally built in the late 1970s and that was itself a derivative of the MBB BO105. Daimler-Benz later bought MBB and rolled it into Eurocopter in a merger with France’s Aerospatiale, and the BK117C2 was rechristened the EC145T1. 

An updated version of that aircraft, the EC145T2, debuted in 2011. The T2 featured two more powerful Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines, which are rated at 894 shaft horsepower each. They deliver 21 percent more takeoff power than the engines on the T1.

The T2 also replaced the T1’s conventional tail rotor with a longer tailboom and an aft-ducted anti-torque fan known as a Fenestron. It prevents people who are loading cargo, luggage, or patients through the rear clamshell doors from walking into a spinning tail rotor. 

In addition, the Fenestron reduces noise. Helicopter noise is a hot-button issue in many communities and on the federal level. Flying a “quiet technology” model such as the T2 mitigates public complaints and the potential for resultant government action against operators. 

Both the EC145T1 and T2 sold well, particularly as executive, medevac, and military aircraft whose users find that their 9.7-foot-long, 5.4-foot-wide, 212-cubic-foot cabin  

\hits the sweet spot between light and medium twins, providing the ideal combination of interior space and operating efficiency. 

A Military Variant

The military variant of the helicopter in the U.S. is designated the UH-72. Airbus has delivered more than 460 UH-72A Lakota helicopters in nine configurations to the U.S. Army, Navy, and National Guard from its production facility in Columbus, Mississippi, over the last 14 years, and the model is now the Army’s primary trainer. It has also gained a niche following as an aerial tender for super yachts. And you can order an H145 with an interior worthy of carrying billionaires to floating pleasure palaces. 

Back in 2011, Airbus rolled out the versatile “Mercedes-Benz Style” cabin, with seating for four to eight. It combines high-end leathers, finishes, and veneers with all the modern electronic conveniences and ample storage room for skis, golf clubs, bicycles, surfboards, and other toys. The cabin of the “MBS” 145 can easily and quickly be reconfigured, thanks to rail-mounted seats and tables and a moveable aft interior wall. Other features include color-adjustable ambient lighting, beverage chill boxes, and video monitors. The styling is sleek, clean, and modern and will age well. 

Performance Enhancements

Performance features on the new H145 include a foldable main rotor blade system, which will work well for yacht-board operations: all blades fold backward within the wingspan of the horizontal stabilizer if you simply remove one bolt from each blade. The whole process takes just 10 minutes. Aside from its light weight and easy stowage, the new rotor system has many advantages over the legacy design, key elements of which date back to the BO105 of the 1960s, which featured a maintenance-hungry titanium, oil-filled main rotor head with bearings. The new bearing-free system has no rotor head and requires no oil or grease and little maintenance. 

Cutting weight from the main rotor blade system gives the H145 a 330-pound increase in useful load, boosting maximum takeoff weight to nearly 8,400 pounds. Adding the extra main rotor blade allowed Airbus to shrink the main rotor disk from 36 to 35.4 feet. 

Those new blades incorporate Airbus’s Blue Edge technology spawned from the European Union’s Clean Sky program. The Blue Edge blades feature tips with a bend that resembles the business end of a hockey stick. As rotor blades spin, the tips emit vortices. Bending the tips disrupts the “blade vortex interaction” from one blade to the next, reducing the helicopter’s noise signature by as much as 5 dB. 

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The new H145 comes standard with a wireless communications system that provides Wi-Fi to the cockpit, imports navigation and mission databases from tablets, establishes automatic connections via Wi-Fi or cell, automatically exports data from previous flights, generates flight reports, launches automatic downloads, and exports a previous flight’s data. 

These features and capabilities combine to deliver impressive performance. During flight testing in 2019, a five-bladed H145 landed on Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere at an altitude of 22,840 feet, setting an altitude record for twin-engine helicopters. 

You might not need such extreme performance, but it’s nice to know that with the new H145, it’s possible. 

2021 Airbus Helicopters H145 at a Glance

Price (typically equipped): $9.98 million 

Crew: 1–2                                                      

Passengers (executive configuration): 4–8

Range (no passengers): 351 nm

Range (seats full): 260 nm

Max cruise speed: 140 kt

Max takeoff weight: 8,378 lb


            Volume (including baggage area): 212.8 cu ft

            Width: 5.4 ft 

            Height: 4 ft