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Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri (EC120)


Light Utility Helicopter


France | 1998



"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."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/06/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Airbus Helicopters H120B Colibri Light Utility Helicopter.
1 x Turbomeca Arrius 2F turboshaft engine developing 504 horsepower while driving four-bladed main rotor and Fenestron shrouded tail rotor unit.
Propulsion
174 mph
280 kph | 151 kts
Max Speed
17,011 ft
5,185 m | 3 miles
Service Ceiling
441 miles
710 km | 383 nm
Operational Range
1,150 ft/min
351 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Airbus Helicopters H120B Colibri Light Utility Helicopter.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
31.5 ft
9.60 m
O/A Length
32.8 ft
(10.00 m)
O/A Width
11.2 ft
(3.40 m)
O/A Height
2,183 lb
(990 kg)
Empty Weight
8,333 lb
(3,780 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri (EC120) family line.
EC120 "Colibri" - Base Series Designation.
P120L - Developmental designation.
EC120B - Standardized designation.
HC-120 - License-produced Chinese version of the EC120 model series.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri (EC120). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 600 Units

Contractor(s): Eurocopter / Airbus Helicopters - France; Harbin Aviation Industries - China
National flag of Australia National flag of Brazil National flag of Canada National flag of China National flag of France National flag of modern Germany National flag of Indonesia National flag of Lithuania National flag of Singapore National flag of Spain National flag of the United States

[ Australia; Brazil; Canada; China; France; Germany; Indonesia; Lithuania; Singapore; Spain; United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (174mph).

Graph Average of 150 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
600
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
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Interwar
WWII
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Postwar
Modern
Future
1 / 1
Image of the Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri (EC120)
Image from official Airbus Helicopters marketing material.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
TRANSPORT
COMMERCIAL AVIATION
VIP SERVICE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Airbus Helicopters H120 Colibri (EC120) Light Utility Helicopter appears in the following collections:
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