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March 18, 2015 - Helicopter Links Opinion Piece

Airbus Helicopters Heli-Expo 2015 "H" Announcement

By Mike Hampson, owner, Helicopter Links

Airbus Helicopters X4 artist impression.(San Diego, California, USA): A month or two before Heli-Expo 2015, Airbus Helicopters started a branding campaign for its highly anticipated X4 helicopter. I am not quite sure when the X4 artist conception was first actually revealed to the public (I found an article online dating as far back as August 11, 2011 with the X4 artist conception); however, that first artist drawing (shown to the right) for the X4 was a highly stylized helicopter including large windows in front, a sleek nose and simply a very futuristic looking helicopter.

The front windows of the Airbus Helicopters X4 helicopter (Originally the Eurocopter X4) were similar to the very modern and beautiful — and almost ready for production — Marenco Swisshelicopter SKYe SH-09 (and yes Swiss-made) single-engine turbine helicopter using Formula 1 lightweight high crash resistant composite material for the cabin with a glass window on the floor between the two pilot's seats. The Marenco Swisshelicopter SKYe SH-09 is quite amazing helicopter, indeed with incredible visibility! But I digress.

When Airbus Helicopters published their first video announcing the X4 will be at Heli-Expo 2015, I noticed were using a stylized "H" for their ads. Once I saw the "H" being used, I quickly thought back to Heli-Expo 2012 (held in Dallas, Texas, USA), again digressing, when Bell Helicopter was ramping-up to roll out the mock-up of their new super-medium twin engine turbine helicopter (which we now know as as the Bell 525 Relentless). Bell Helicopter revealed a very stylized "R" and the name of their new helicopter was called the "Relentless". What a fantastic name for a helicopter!

I found the Airbus Helicopter "H" (photo to the right) at Heli-Expo 2015 which was projected by light on the dark blue carpeting found on the 2nd floor of Airbus Helicopter's trade show booth. As a duly qualified member of the press, I was allowed to sneak up to the 2nd floor to take some good photos of their trade show booth and found the "H" and got the picture.

But back to Airbus Helicopters. Since Airbus Helicopters X4 helicopter was going to be replacing their Dauphin helicopter, I thought their plan was to name the new X4 with a word starting with "H". Due to what Bell did for their Relentless helicopter in 2012.

I even ask Helicopter Links Facebook Followers to guess what they think the new name for the Dauphin helicopter would be. Me and others on my Facebook page came up with "Halo", "Helix", "Hydra" and "Heron". But I did not like any of these names and simply could not imagine what they'd name the new "Dauphin" helicopter. However, no one guessed that the "H" was to be the beginning of their helicopter models under the Airbus Helicopters name.

For 20 years, Eurocopter had made a name for themselves with their helicopter models starting with EC. On January 1, 2014, Eurocopter officially became Airbus Helicopters. However, the problem with designating Airbus Helicopters' helicopters models starting with the two-letter "AH", is that in the helicopter world, "AH" means Attack Helicopter! (To the right is the newest Airbus Helicopters' helicopter model called the H160 and what used to be called the X4.)

I am not sure how many people in the helicopter industry have finally accepted Airbus Helicopter's name but believe me, during Heli-Expo 2014 (in Anaheim, California, USA), I had many conversations with people (who I did not know) who were aghast, deeply troubled and/or angered by the name change from Eurocopter to Airbus Helicopters.

In fact, during 2013 and the months leading up to Heli-Expo 2014, when I talked to people in the helicopter industry either over the phone, in person, reading helicopter magazine editorials, or seeing comments on social media, the overwhelming reaction from the helicopter community was very negative. (To the right, a front-side view of the new Airbus Helicopters H160 mock-up.)

I think most people in the helicopter community recognized that the name Eurocopter was marketing genius and many thought that this genius was being passed over what seemed to be only for the sake of corporate think.

However, what I found interesting, is when I discussed Eurocopter's name change with my fixed-wing friends (or friends who were not helicopter aficionados or had little interest in aviation), they immediately told me that the Eurocopter name change wasn't an issue and thought that Airbus Helicopters was a fine name.

So, when Airbus Helicopters revealed their new X4 helicopter at Heli-Expo 2015, I had forgotten that Airbus Helicopters still had the helicopter model name designation problem hanging over their head. The "H" for the X4 reveal was not about re-naming their new helicopter but to reveal that all the EC helicopter model designations would simply be changed to "H" for the word helicopter.

Obviously, they were very clever by keeping things simple. Just use the letter "H" for all their helicopter models and don't even mention the "A". Easy, simple and a good solution. And so Airbus Helicopters X4 helicopter did not have a new name but was simply assigned the model number H160. (A view from the rear-right side of the helicopter of the new tailboom biplane-horizontal stabilizer.)

After the H160 was revealed on March 3rd at Heli-Expo 2015, most people who I talked to loved the look of the new helicopter. It is an amazing helicopter to see in person, it is really a big helicopter!

However, if after seeing the original artist impression of the X4 for several years, and anticipating the new helicopter, when I saw the new H160 mock-up, I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed.

However, during Heli-Expo 2015, several people mentioned to me that the nose of the H160 looks suspiciously like the H175 (formerly the EC175) helicopter; however, they really liked the design of the H160. And it's easy to see the similarity between the two helicopters. Which now begs the question, will Airbus Helicopter eventually go the way of AgustaWestland and try to make all their new helicopters look similar to the H175 or not? Regardless, with some clever thinking, the I do like the "H" designation. It keeps it simple, easy and to the point.

Here are some of the new name Airbus Helicopters name designations (this is not a complete list):

H120 (formerly EC120, EC120B)
H125, H125M (formerly AS350 B3e)
H130 (formerly EC130, EC130 T2)
H135, H135M (formerly EC135, EC135 T3/P3)
H145, H145M (formerly EC145, EC145e, EC145 T2)
H155 (formerly EC155)
H175 (formerly EC175)
H225 (formerly EC225)
H225M (foremly EC725)
NH90 (stays the same)

Then for Airbus Helicopters' military helicopter model designations, just add the letter "M", like this: H145M. However, this is just the beginning and there are some exceptions to the rule.

End article.


Stylized: Using the word "stylized" when talking about fonts is what graphic designers use when customizing a font to be unique for the situation required.

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