Next Generation Offshore Helicopter Announced

Airbus X6
Airbus X6 Concept Model. Image Copyright Airbus Helicopters.

Published Jun 16, 2015 5:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

Airbus has entered the development stage of a next-generation helicopter designed for oil and gas missions.

The two-year concept phase start-up for the new X6 helicopter was announced yesterday at the Paris Airshow. The X6 will be heavy-lift rotorcraft is aimed at improving fuel efficiency as energy companies look to newer, more efficient helicopters to help mitigate costs amid low oil prices.

"It will be smoother, more comfortable, lower levels of noise ... And a much higher level of fuel efficiency," Airbus Helicopters Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said.

The X6 is widely described as a successor to the Super Puma, a workhorse of the offshore oil industry. It will be Airbus’ first civil helicopter equipped with fly-by-wire technology, which reduces traditional manual flight controls with electronic interfaces tied into onboard flight control computers. Fly-by-wire technology reduces the overall weight of the helicopter, allowing for increased fuel efficiency. Additionally, the electronic control system monitors pilot input to make sure the craft is always within the flight protection envelope. The technology is already in use in many of the company’s airplanes.

“[The X6] will set new standards in the industry not only for design, but for its production strategy as well, as we will rely on the industrial capacities of our core countries,” explained Faury. “Our objective is to bring to the market the most efficient helicopter solutions adapted for how our customers’ needs and the industry itself will evolve in the future.”

Airbus will be designing the helicopter in close collaboration with a customer advisory panel to ensure that the helicopter meets desired industry specifications.

The helicopter will be able to accommodate up to 19 passengers and will be all-weather ready – including full de-icing - from the first delivery. While, initially targeted to the oil and gas segments, the X6 will also be suited for Search and Rescue operations.

Once the main architechture and design has been achieved in the concept phase, a development phase will follow, leading to an X6 entry into service anticipated in the 2020s.