The Airbus Helicopters AS365 Dauphin has proven itself a commercial success in the helicopter market covering service for over forty years. Over 1,000 units have been produced to date. The product was developed by French aircraft-maker Aerospatiale (hence its "AS" designation) but then was absorbed into Eurocopter before the brand was taken over by Airbus (Airbus Helicopters).
Following the commercial failure that was the single-engine SA360 "Dauphin" (34 units completed from 1976 until 1977), Aerospatiale sought to right-this-wrong by developing a twin-engine form to help broaden the Dauphin's market interest. Work began as soon as 1975 even as the SA3650 was still in development and attempting to enter service. A first-flight in prototype form was recorded on January 24th, 1975. Following the usual tests and certification, the product was introduced through the SA365C production model during December of 1978 (the series was redesignated from "SA" to "AS" much later in January of 1990).
Despite its 1970s design origins, the AS365 still holds an elegant, futuristic-looking design. Smooth contours are the call of the day. There is twin, side-by-side seating for the pilots over the short nosecone assembly and a passenger section accesses by side fuselage doors. The engine compartment sits above the passenger section and these two units drive a four-bladed main rotor unit overhead with a drive shaft, running through the tail stem, manages a Fenestron-shrouded tail rotor unit. The latter, while being more complicated in its design nature, allows for a reduction in operating noise for the helicopter. Horizontal planes are set to the either side of the tail unit at its midway point and, to these, are attached vertical planes. The vertical tail fin at the extreme end of the aircraft is designed as part of the Fenestron shroud. A retractable, wheeled undercarriage provides a smooth ground-running capability.
The base AS365N3 production model requires a crew of just one for basic operation. Up to twelve passengers can be taken up. Overall length is 45 feet with a rotor diameter of 39 feet and a height of 13.3 feet. Empty weight is 5,315lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 9,500lb listed. Power is from 2 x Turbomeca Arriel 2C turboshaft engines developing 838 horsepower during take-off. This arrangement results in a maximum speed of 190 miles per hour, a ferry range out to 515 miles and a service ceiling of 19,240 feet. Rate-of-climb is 1,750 feet-per-minute.
Internally, the more modern production models feature an equally-modern cockpit. There are the usual systems and components featured such as the flight stick between the knees and the collective next to the center console. The pilot is typically seated at the right front seat with some controls duplicated for the pilot in the left front seat. Vision out of the cockpit is good as large window are used forward, above and to the sides. Foot pedals control rudder actions as necessary.
The French Navy was one of the primary customers of the AS365 and these were traditionally used in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role. The fleet was operated from land bases as well as from French Navy warships such as FS Charles de Gaulle, the flagship aircraft carrier of the service (2017).
After the initial SA365C model was followed by the SA365C1 which carried an Arriel 1A1 series engine. The SA365C2 followed with the Arriel 1A2 engine and the SA365C3 with the Arriel 1C.
The SA365N arrived as an improved form of the SA365C and first-flew in March 1979. It was fitted with an Arriel 1C engine of 660 horsepower and featured a host of changes including modified tail surfaces, rotor and gearbox as well as an increased MTOW. The SA365N1 borrow some of these features and was given an Arriel 1C1 engine of 705 horsepower as well as new Fenestron tail blade arrangement for quieter operation. The AS365N2 carried an Arriel 1C2 engine of 737 horsepower, a modern transmission and had an increased MTOW. The AS365N3 was a hot-and-high development with Arriel 2C engine, revised Fenestron tail rotor unit and quieter operation. The AS365N4 became the EC155 in the Eurocopter product lineup to serve in the passenger market transport role.
The series went on to include both governmental and military level operators ranging from Australia and Bangladesh to the Spain and Uruguay. its versatility was such that the type served equally well for all the major services - Air Force, Navy and Army as well as Coast Guard. Private service operators also emerge.
The SA365 also forms the basis of the United States Coast Guard's HH-65 SAR platform (built from the proposed SA366G1 "Dauphin") as well as the French Navy's AS565 "Panther" military transport. it has also been furthered through the EC155 passenger market hauler and the Eurocopter X3 experimental compound helicopter (since retired). The AS365 have been assembled in China (as the "Z-9") and produced in Brazil (by Helibras).
Airbus is developing its H160 model (detailed elsewhere on this site) as a successor to the AS365 but this product remains in the works as of November 2017.