The aircraft set to train Australian Defence Force aviators is an impressive piece of kit.
The Airbus EC135 T2+ offers the performance and safety of a twin-engine helicopter and will replace the Navy’s Squirrel and Army’s Kiowa, which are more than 30 and 40 years old respectively.
The EC135 is widely used by police, firefighting and ambulance services and for oil and gas platforms, or corporate transport, across the world.
With its gloss black and yellow livery the helicopter has a high-visibility glass cockpit, a multi-axis auto-pilot and advanced technologies to help instructors perform training missions.
Qualified flying instructor Army Captain Adrian Ludman, of the Joint Helicopter School at HMAS Albatross, said the single-engine previous training aircraft had all instrument dials.
“The EC135 is an electronic-age modern helicopter with digital displays, replacing the analogue instruments, and dual certified GPS navigation systems allowing flight in-cloud with no requirement for ground-based navigation systems,” he said.
“The EC135s are fitted with winches and hoists and a hook for underslung loads and are capable of carrying up to six people, though in the training role it will carry four crew.”
On pilot training sorties a pilot and instructor will be in the cockpit with the instructor in the left seat. For aircrewman training, two qualified pilots will be up front with an instructor and student in the cabin learning how to operate the equipment in confined areas, providing clearances to the pilots.
Captain Ludman said other features included inlet barrier filters which protected the helicopter engines from ingesting foreign objects like stones or larger debris.
“It is unique as it is one of the few helicopters in the world to have the fenestron or protected tail rotor, instead of the conventional tail rotor,” he said.
“It increases safety for people on the ground and lowers susceptibility to foreign object damage and is one of the quietest helicopters
in its of its type.
“It has an anti-resonance isolation system to dampen vibration from the main rotor and the fenestron tail rotor helps reduce take-off and overfly noise, which makes it popular for police and emergency medical services flying in urban areas.”
Captain Ludman said in certain configurations the twin-engines meant the EC135 could continue flying if it lost an engine.
“The Squirrel and Kiowa have single engines, so if they failed it was inevitable the helicopter was landing,” he said.
“All operational Australian Defence Force helicopter types now have twin engines, which means the EC135 is excellent for future training.”
Captain Ludman spent the past six years flying CH47 Chinooks with 5 Aviation Regiment including the new ‘F’ models, which have only been in service for two years.
He said it was fantastic to be a part of the Joint Helicopter School because it was the future of Navy and Army aviation.
“We have the ability to influence and support the front line units so it’s good to come from such a unit into a training environment and shape it to what they need,” he said.
The current Navy News (29 June) has an eight page liftout on the Helicopter Aircrew Training System.