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UKMFTS Stories

Airbus Helicopters ramps up for UKMFTS as Juno H135 and Jupiter H145 go on display at RIAT 2017
Airbus Helicopters will be represented at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2017 through the presence of the Juno H135 and Jupiter H145 at the Defence Helicopters Flying School (DHFS) static display. Selected by Ascent Flight Training in 2016, Airbus Helicopters is the aircraft service provider for the UK’s Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) rotary wing element. The contract, worth £500 million over 17 years, will see Airbus Helicopters deliver 29 x H135 and 3 x H145 aircraft, all fitted with the latest standard Helionix full glass cockpit and advanced avionics system as standard.
In addition to the manufacture, modification and delivery of aircraft, Airbus Helicopters is now building up an Integrated Support Solution to meet the Ascent Requirement to start student training on 1 April 2018 (centenary of the RAF). This includes the development of aircraft support infrastructure, including hangars and depth-maintenance facilities.
Following Ministry of Defence Release to Service on 12 May 2017, scarcely one year on from contract signature, fleet numbers are rapidly increasing, with the full Jupiter H145 fleet and 12 Juno H135s aircraft already delivered. The aircraft are now being used to train early Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Ascent instructors, as well as the Airbus Helicopters’ own maintenance personnel. Once the training officially starts in 2018, Airbus Helicopters will be set up to provide the required 28000 hours per year across both fleets, enabling Ascent and the MoD to deliver the DHFS student throughput.

First flight in MFTS Helicopters

By UK Armed Forces Pilot

Major Peter Deegan of the Army Air Corps flies the H135 Juno and the H145 Jupiter for the first time
H135, MFTS, army, military training

An Army Air Corps pilot, Major Peter Deegan, accompanied by a civilian Captain, became the first UK Armed Forces pilot to fly in the new Military Flying Training System (MFTS) helicopters, flying in both the H135 Juno and the H145 Jupiter on the same day.


Speaking of his experience with the aircraft Major Deegan said, “It was great to fly both the H135 Juno and H145 Jupiter on the same day. It was a real help that both types use the Helionix system. In addition to the safety features it incorporates, it will be a great help with training due to the commonality, making transition from one aircraft type to another much easier.’
As Aircraft Service Provider for the rotary wing element of the MFTS, Airbus Helicopters is on course to deliver 29 H135 Juno and 3 H145 Jupiter, with one H145 and 3 H135 aircraft already in the UK. Under the contract, these aircraft will provide 28,000 flight hours per year from April 2018.


Both twin-engine aircraft come equipped with a fully integrated glass cockpit of the latest Helionix design, which includes a 4 axis digital autopilot. The system increases safety and protection against mis-handling and reduces pilot workload. The common use of Helionix across both aircraft types will ease transition for students as they pass through the various MFTS courses and prepare them to meet the challenges of the new digital systems fitted to all of the front-line aircraft.


Since the Ascent Fielding Team’s training began at Airbus' Oxford Airport training centre in November, 7 pilots have completed type-rating or equivalent courses for traditional H135 and H145, including 3 who have also been awarded instructor ratings on the H145 Jupiter. Training continues now to type rating standard on the Helionix-equipped H135 Juno. Overall over 250 hours have been flown, including over 100 on the single H145.

First Military Training H145 to Britain

Welcomed by Airbus Helicopters UK



As part of UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS), Ascent Flight Training will be delivering rotary wing (RW) Basic, Advanced and Maritime training to 266 students annually using 32 twin-engine Helionix glass cockpit helicopters.


As aircraft service provider, Airbus Helicopters will be providing the UKMFTS RW fleet of 29 H135s and 3 H145s to deliver 28,000 flight hours per year. Once on the Military Register, the H135 will take the name Juno and the H145 Jupiter.

With 18 months to go until the start of a full service provision, Airbus Helicopters is already ramping up its activity at its UK headquarters at Oxford Airport to complete final modification of the aircraft. It is also here that the initial conversion to type for the Ascent Fielding Team will take place. Subsequently the operation will move to RAF Shawbury in April 17 once infrastructure modification is complete.


It is at Airbus Helicopters’ base at Oxford Airport that the Ascent Flight Training fielding team have begun their training courses and have come face to face with the first UKMFTS helicopter in Britain, the Ministry of Defence’s very own Jupiter H145. It will shortly be joined by the first H135 Juno, which after completion will also be used for fielding team training.
The team at Airbus Helicopters UK are increasingly keen to get to grips with supporting delivery of the programme as key events and highlights start arriving thick and fast.

Full speed ahead on UK MFTS

Demanding targets are being met in the build-up to delivery of Airbus Helicopters’ commitment to the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS)

29 July

Today, the company has carried out the first flight of the initial UK MFTS aircraft, bringing delivery one step closer.
With 12 UK MFTS aircraft already in production at the company’s site in Donauworth, the programme is meeting the challenging deadlines by delivering key programme events to time including production ramp up and initial ground runs of the first UK MFTS H135, which took place at the end of June.
Airbus Helicopters will deliver 29 H135s and 3, hoist-equipped H145s to the UK MoD. These aircraft will be factory fitted with wire cutters and Safran’s Arrius 2B2Plus and Arriel 2E turbines for the H135 and H145 respectively. The schedule will see early deliveries in the latter part of this year, the majority of aircraft delivered during 2017 and final aircraft in early 2018.
The aircraft will be delivered to the company’s UK headquarters for completion, which will see the aircraft fitted with the final configuration of equipment, including communications, sensor and access equipment to meet the customer’s requirement, before handover to the customer in time to meet the delivery of flight hours for Ascent’s UK MFTS’ training schedule.
The UK MFTS programme will benefit from the latest enhancements available to the H135 and H145 family of aircraft, including lower maintenance burdens, reduced noise levels and intuitive avionics which provide pilot assistance enabling safe full use of the flight envelope.
The benefits of this latest generation aircraft became apparent to the customer and to the end –user when AVM Andy Turner, AOC 22 Gp responsible for flight training across the armed forces, and Paul Livingston, Ascent Flight Training Managing Director, visited the Donauworth site and had their first experience of and H145. After the flight AVM Turner, a helicopter pilot, who had the opportunity to fly the aircraft, said, “There is no doubt that we have a strong, committed, capable and dedicated partner in Airbus Helicopters. The aircraft have a tremendous pedigree with 20 years and 4m flight hours behind them. The innovations are superb, the flight dynamics are excellent, the Helionix instrumentation is incredibly intuitive and the platform will be an excellent lead in to Apache, Chinook, Merlin, Puma and Wildcat”.
Selection for UK MFTS of the H135 and H145, already the aircraft of choice for utility, law enforcement and emergency medical services, reinforces the role of these aircraft as the global reference in military flight training.
H135 Military Training Infographic

HCare and maintenance stories

UK’s Second HCare Contract

Signed by National Grid

12 August 2016

National Grid Electricity Transmission has signed a new, five year HCare contract for their AS355, becoming the second UK customer, after PDG Helicopters in 2015, to benefit from services available under the rotorcraft industry’s most comprehensive support coverage.
The new contract, signed by National Grid’s S.P Samways and Mike Palmer, provides the customer with access to a dedicated pool of spares, committed delivery times and fixed rate conditions ensuring manageable maintenance cost and increased aircraft availability.
John Rigby, National Grid’s Chief Pilot said, “Thanks to Airbus Helicopters’ new HCare offering, National Grid has been able to benefit from improved services which, in the long run, will prove more cost effective due to the customised package and committed lead times in the supply of spares. This allows us to improve our power line patrol productivity with reduced downtime and more predictable costs”.
Gary Clark, Head of UK Civil Business at Airbus Helicopters, said, “The AS355 is a proven versatile and highly manoeuvrable aircraft. The HCare contract ensures National Grid can continue to benefit from this asset for years to come”.
In 1990, National Grid transformed the inspection of power lines by establishing a dedicated helicopter support operation. The company owns and operates its helicopters, using them to inspect conductors and pylons to provide imagery and data for refurbishment programmes, conduct repairs to the high-voltage lines without interrupting the power supply and detect potential threats including objects in close proximity or one-off risks such as fire and flood. Not only do helicopters ensure a very rapid and effective tool for these inspections and repairs, they also ensure that any part of the 7000km network, including 22,000 pylons, can be easily reached.
Logging more than 1,300 flight hours per year while patrolling power lines across England and Wales, National Grid is able to inspect every line at least once per year. Typically the helicopter hovers or trawls alongside the line at a speed of 40-60mph, enabling trained observers and High-Definition cameras to get a good view of the fixtures and fittings. The unit also uses infra-red techniques to carry out thermal imaging surveys on overhead lines and substations, a tool particularly useful during the winter months where heat signatures are more pronounced.
Since the arrival of their first helicopter in the shape of the Airbus Helicopters AS355 Twin Squirrel, air support has become a critical part of the company’s efforts to maintain a 99.9999% reliability record for their high-voltage network. The new contract with Airbus Helicopters will ensure that the AS355 workhorse continues to provide timely and effective inspection and repair operations for the next five years.

Stories from our people

Meet the Expert: Captain Barry Flower, Airbus Helicopters Maintenance Pilot at Farnborough Airshow 2016

15 July Meet the Expert: Farnborough Airshow 2016 Video

HEMS stories

UK air ambulances save lives

With the H135 and H145

14 July 2016

“When we first bought the H135 in 2008, we asked ourselves how we could best meet the needs of the patient,” says Nigel Hare, operations director at Devon Air Ambulance, a helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) and air ambulance operator serving England’s south western county of Devon.
“When responding to patients who are in life-threatening situations, it is essential that every aspect of our service provides the very best chance for the patient to survive. Every minute matters, so we need a reliable aircraft that is quick to deploy and has a fast cruise speed so that we can reach the patient and transfer them to hospital quickly, while also being smooth and stable in flight to prevent the patient’s condition from deteriorating,” says Hare. “The additional requirement of having an aircraft with sufficient endurance to enable us to respond to the next patient resulted in us choosing the H135.”
Further north in county Yorkshire is the headquarters of Yorkshire Air Ambulance, likewise a HEMS and air ambulance operator, which recently received its second twin-engine H145 on July 13 at the Farnborough International Air Show.
“The H145 performs well with near 360-degree visibility for a HEMS pilot who needs to get into tight, small sites near where casualties need to be evacuated,” says Yorkshire Air Ambulance chief pilot Andrew Lister.
Although located at opposite ends of England, the large counties of Devon and Yorkshire share much geography in common: hills, moors, forests, coasts and beach. Small villages dot the countryside, some so geographically remote that, when a medical emergency occurs or a patient needs to reach medical care, prompt access to transportation is of the essence.
Helicopters play a critical medical transport role in these two counties in both emergency and non-emergency – also known as air ambulance – situations. Air ambulance is a form of public transport in which patients, often fairly sick, are transported from one hospital or location to another. Helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) refers to missions where life is at risk.
The vital role of the helicopter in medical situations scales to the entire United Kingdom, where a fleet of 37 helicopters provide the primary pre-hospital medical transport service according to the UK Association of Air Ambulances (AAA), the organisation representing 20 UK air ambulance organisations.
Many helicopter operators perform both of these services, including all 19 of the AAA’s members. Among them is the East Anglian Air Ambulance, based in Cambridge, which was the first air ambulance service to save lives with the H145 in the UK in 2015.

Three operators, two helicopters
Devon Air Ambulance, Yorkshire Air Ambulance and East Anglian Air Ambulance have fleets comprised entirely of Airbus helicopters – two H135s for Devon, two H145s for Yorkshire, and two H145’s for East Anglian. These air ambulance charities are far from alone, as worldwide the H135 and H145 account for over 40 percent of the HEMS market.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance chief pilot Lister says their new H145s are modern and easy to fly with a small footprint: “Flying is a dream. The Helionix software to me, as a new end user, is intuitive and does what you want it to do. Very quickly I found myself engaging the higher levels of the autopilot.”
Steve Rush, a Devon Air Ambulance pilot with 24 years of flying experience, describes a similar experience with the H135: “The H135 feels like it was built around the pilot. When you sit in it and put your hands down to where they naturally want to be to fly, that’s where the controls are and the aircraft is wrapped around your comfortably. It’s a swift process to get aircraft started and online. We can get airborne in a time frame not limited by the aircraft.”.
Both aircraft are likewise well equipped to meet the unique needs of a medical-based mission performed in challenging landscapes.
“Devon’s various landscapes provide different challenges. The H135 is well equipped for landing in confined areas thanks to its small footprint, or land in marshes or sandy beaches with the bear paws. The cockpit visibility from where the pilot sits is very good,” says Rush.
“The H145 is a larger aircraft with better endurance and a longer range than we’re used to, which helps us cover Yorkshire’s 5 million acres, but the overall footprint is small enough for reaching patients in tight areas,” adds Lister.
Speaking in 2015, East Anglian Air Ambulance medical consultant, Dr. Jeremy Mauger, commented, “The H145 has more space, better equipment, and is smoother than I had imagined.” He adds, “The loading with the new stretcher worked superbly and we were able to make a significant difference in the care of that patient.”

Charity services for the local communities
Devon Air Ambulance, Yorkshire Air Ambulance and East Anglian Air Ambulance share another thing in common besides flying Airbus helicopters: much of their air ambulance services are charity based.
Devon Air Ambulance for example started as a local community charity to raise funds to provide a medical resource that could respond more quickly in certain cases than a land ambulance could. They flew their first mission in 1992.

Devon Air Ambulance H135 video

Yorkshire Air Ambulance similarly owes many of its operations to public donations. “Our H145s are essentially owned by the public from contributions donated to the air ambulance cause,” says Lister.
The pre-hospital air ambulance sector in the UK is operated predominantly by 20 air ambulance charities working closely with ambulance services who task the aircraft. Only the Scottish Ambulance Service provides a state-funded fleet of aircraft.
Clive Dickin, national director of the AAA comments: “Some countries look on in disbelief that the UK has a charity-funded HEMS fleet, thinking that it is unsustainable or unprofessional. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sector is very well supported and during the 2014/2015 fiscal year raised over £146M which is an amazing feat. Since 1987 when the first charity was established, there has been a constant drive to improve the service through patient focus, which now sees an ever-improving and enhanced fleet of aircraft with increasing and expanding clinical capability. This would not be possible without the continuous and ongoing generous support of the charities' supporters.”
The AAA recently worked with the UK Treasury to acquire more funds to support air ambulances, something that has allowed many operators to extend or renew operations and aircraft.
This financial independence is a source of pride for many operators. “We are not reliant on other organisations,” says Hare of Devon Air Ambulance. “If we know there is a particular type of treatment we need to provide or equipment to carry, we can do that if that’s what the patient needs.”
As always for these helicopter users, the patient comes first.

Pride and Passion: Yorkshire Air Ambulance Presents its New H145

Yorkshire Air Ambulance unveiled their first of two new H145 to stakeholders, public and local and regional dignitaries at an event at their air support unit at Nostell.

To the backdrop of the Airwolf soundtrack and a light display that would put the Geneva Motor show to shame, Yorkshire Air Ambulance dropped the curtain on their brand new H145, presenting it to the world for the first time.
The collective gasp of amazement from gathered officials, supporters and media belied the thrill that this event at Yorkshire Air Ambulance’s (YAA) Nostell Air Support Unit base provoked. After all this was no ordinary event. The presentation of the H145 was the culmination of a five year process which, against some expectations, saw them establish a firm financial foundation, obtain its own AOC and present its newly acquired aircraft, a replacement for the old MD902s the charity has been using until now.
As a charitable organisation, any expense is heavily scrutinised, especially a £12m cost for two state-of-the-art helicopters, equipped with one of the most advanced medical fits on the market. However, in the words of Peter Sunderland, Chairman of YAA, ‘we’ve made the right decision’. With funds predominantly provided by the 4 million-strong population of Yorkshire, in addition to £1m support from the Chancellor George Osborne (paid from the LIBOR fine funds), Yorkshire Air Ambulance are realising their Vision of the Future, the charity’s strategy to provide a long-term, sustainable air ambulance service for the 5 million acres that represent the Yorkshire territory.
The pride the YAA team has in the aircraft, which was unveiled by the Chairman, Vice-Chairman Bruce Burns and former England Cricket Captain and YAA patron, Geoffrey Boycott, was apparent throughout the unveiling. Vice-Chairman Bruce Burns referred to it as a ‘phenomenal piece of kit… …which has better safety and is cheaper to maintain than our current aircraft’.
YAA’s passion, the foundation on which the charity’s volunteers, management, fundraisers and crews energy and enthusiasm is built on, was evident especially in the words of YAA’s Chief Pilot, Andy Lister who, after a familiarisation flight said, ‘It is a superb machine which has evidently been carefully designed and considered and the Fenestron tail rotor provides improved safety and enhanced confidence’.
Offering nearly twice the endurance compared to YAA’s current aircraft and availability rates of roughly 95%, the H145 is set to become an iconic view in the Yorkshire skies as it provides an increase of 30% in the life-saving missions YAA is able to conduct.

Puma 2 stories

Upgraded Puma fleet reaches 10,000 flight hours

The helicopters have been upgraded to new-generation standards and are operating around the world

The Royal Air Force’s fleet of Pumas reached the 10,000 flight hour mark in February. Under the direction of the Puma Life Extension Programme, a landmark in fleet renewal programs, the helicopters have been upgraded to new-generation standards and are now operating in the U.K. and on overseas deployments. Full story