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Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri / (Eurocopter EC120)

France (1998)
Picture of Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri / (Eurocopter EC120) Light Utility Helicopter

Introduced in 1998, the Eurocopter EC120 Colibri model series has filled niche roles in the light utility helicopter market - both military and civilian in nature.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri / (Eurocopter EC120) Light Utility Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 6/22/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The helicopter market is just as diverse as any other in the world with companies determined to cut out their fair share of earnings and retain existing customers all the while attempting to win new ones. Additionally, design and development of helicopters runs deeper than traditional fixed-wing aircraft due to the different forces at play - a helicopter must be able to hover, fly conventionally, land in remote areas of the world and all types of weather and environmental situations while operating close to the ground. As such, the Eurocopter EC120 "Colibri" ("Hummingbird") was born through the contributions of three defense industry players scattered about the globe - Aerospatiale / Eurocopter of France (now Airbus Helicopters), Harbin of China and STAero of Singapore. The result has been a well-accepted light utility platform that has surpassed over 550 examples since production began in 1995.

Looking to succeed their lines of Gazelle and SA315 light helicopters, what was then-Aerospatiale began work on the "P120L" product. To help with the ultimately complex and expensive venture, the company reached out to international partners to help shoulder the load of development and manufacture. This eventually resulted in the addition of the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC - Harbin) and Singapore Technologies Aerospace (STAero). The official project launch arrived in February of 1990 and it was agreed upon that Aerospatiale would retain 61% ownership in, and lead of, the project with CATIC given 24% and STAero the remaining 15%. In October 1992 arrived the official go-ahead for the project while Aerospatiale was absorbed into the Eurocopter brand label. In January of 1993, the product was officially designated "EC120".

The program split was as follows: Eurocopter engineers worked on the main rotor and gearbox (among other facets) and CATIC was charged with manufacture of the fuselage, fuel system and undercarriage while STAero was left to formulate the composites, construct the cabin doors and complete the tail units. Final assembly would be done by Eurocopter at Marignane, France and include installation of the avionics fit, the hydraulics and electrical systems and other vital internal components.
The prototype was made ready in 1995 and achieved its first-flight on June 9th of that year. The design carried a most sleek appearance with its nose section heavily glazed for excellent vision for the flight crew. The fuselage was well-rounded and streamlined from nose to tail. The engine compartment sat atop the passenger cabin with the engine driving a three-bladed main rotor unit. The tail stem housed a drive shaft for the eight-bladed Fenestron-shrouded tail rotor buried within the vertical tail fin. The shrouded nature of the tail rotor provided much quieter operation at the cost of complexity. Horizontal planes were affixed along the tail stem's side near its midway point. A simple twin-skid undercarriage arrangement was used for landing actions. Internally there was side-by-side seating for a crew of two and passenger seating for up to four.

Selected power was from a Turbomeca TM319 "Arrius" 1F series turboshaft engine of 504 horsepower. Performance included a maximum speed of 172 miles per hour, a cruising speed of 138 miles per hour, a range out to 440 miles and a service ceiling of 17,000 feet.

With the first prototype doing well in the early test phase, the consortium moved ahead and added a second by late 1996. The product was revealed in February of 1997 to visitors at the Helicopter Association International (HAI) event held in Anaheim, California which led to first-orders. Certification was had in June of that year and service introduction arrived in 1998 - challenging the likes of Bell's Model 206, 407 and 505 systems in the field. The first EC120 was delivered in January of 1998. Additional production lines were arranged in Australia to help meet the market demand.

The helicopter has gone on to find homes in all key markets - civilian, governmental and military. Operators of civilian- and governmental-minded EC120s have been seen in Australia (Search & Rescue services), Brazil (police), Canada (police), Germany (Police), Iraq (police), Lithuania (border patrol), Spain (police) and the United States (Department of Homeland Security). The militaries of China, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Spain have all accepted the type into service (the Chinese version is designated "HC120" while standard global EC120 models are known as "EC120B"). Many services use the helicopter in its intended light utility role while others also press it into the helicopter training role.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (174mph).

    Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Airbus Helicopters H120B Colibri's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
600
600


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: France
Year: 1998
Type: Light Utility Helicopter
Manufacturer(s): Eurocopter / Airbus Helicopters - France; Harbin Aviation Industries - China
Production: 600
Status: Active, In-Service
Global Operators:
Australia; Brazil; Canada; China; France; Germany; Indonesia; Lithuania; Singapore; Spain; United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Airbus Helicopters H120B Colibri model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
31.50 ft


Meters
9.6 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
32.81 ft


Meters
10 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
11.15 ft


Meters
3.4 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
2,183 lb


Kilograms
990 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
8,333 lb


Kilograms
3,780 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Turbomeca Arrius 2F turboshaft engine developing 504 horsepower while driving four-bladed main rotor and Fenestron shrouded tail rotor unit.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
174 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
280 kph


Knots
151 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
441 mi


Kilometers
710 km


Nautical Miles
383 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
17,011 ft


Meters
5,185 m


Miles
3.22 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
1,150 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
351 m/min

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

None.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• EC120 "Colibri" - Base Series Designation
• P120L - Developmental product designation
• EC120B - Standardized designation
• HC-120 - License-produced Chinese version of the EC120 model series.