Kopter completes initial SH09 third prototype tests

P3, the third prototype of Kopter SH09, has completed more than 50 hours of initial test flights in Switzerland.

This prototype has climbed to 5,000ft, reached a speed of 126kts and completed various manoeuvres such as turns, auto-rotations and short field take-off and landing profiles.

Kopter’s chief technical officer and head of flight operations, Michele Riccobono said: “The team is very pleased with the results of this flight test phase. The aircraft behaved as expected, confirming the initial design assumptions of the SH09 concept.

“We look forward to pursuing the flight test program in Sicily in order to complete the final optimization of our aircraft and freeze the configuration for the baseline Type Certificate”.

P3 is getting ready to begin the next wave of testing in Pozzallo in the province of Ragusa, Sicily. Alongside these test flights, the company is also finalising the design of its fourth prototype – the PS4 – which will support one more passenger, extend the capacity to eight, and feature a new fuel tank system.

When the PS4 is completed, it will join the P3 in test flights in Sicily to help the SH09 achieve certification on hot and high condition flights.

Many flight tests for the P3 were conducted at Kopter’s Mollis airfield in Switzerland. Kopter was given the go-ahead on 12 February to construct a new 20,000m2 building for pre-assembly of the SH09. Kopter Group will move into the new building in 2021.

With this new pre-assembly plant, Kopter expects to achieve an annual production rate of 50 helicopters in the next five years and for the number of employees to increase from 100 to 400.

New entry

Entering the helicopter market as a new manufacturer is not a light task. And in a market where not many helicopters are being sold, it may seem like a strange choice.

However, Kopter has decided to enter the market with a light single-engine helicopter, a helicopter type detached from the volatile markets such as oil and gas. Parapublic, EMS and police operations are some of the most-stable helicopter markets and the SH09 has been designed to be able to fly missions in all three.

Operators are also keen to fly the aircraft. At last year’s Heli Expo in Las Vegas, Kopter announced that more than 40 orders and options had been signedfor the SH09.

It is also ensuring the SH09 will have a long shelf life by making it compatible with emerging technologies including autonomy and hybrid-electric propulsion. At our Helicopter Investor 2019 conference in January, Kopter Group CEO Andreas Lowenstein said:

“The helicopter concept as such has still some prosperous decades ahead, as long as it knows how to integrate useful new technologies and innovations, like our SH09 does.

“Alternative concepts will be developing with real market impact only at a later stage with the increased use of artificial intelligence-based autonomy and hybrid/electrical propulsion, once performance, cost, regulatory and social issues are solved.”

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