Eurocopter's solution to develop a new light helicopter lay in forming a partnership with CATIC (Harbin) of China and Singapore Technologies Aerospace of Singapore.
Eurocopter (then Aerospatiale), CATIC and STA launched definition development of a new light helicopter, then designated P-120L, in February 1990. The teaming arrangements for the helicopter saw Aerospatiale/Eurocopter take a 61% program share and leadership, CATIC with 24% and STAe with 15%. A development goahead contract for the new aircraft was signed in October 1992 (by which time Aerospatiale's helicopter activities had been merged into Eurocopter) and the EC-120 designation was announced in January 1993 (the Colibri [Hummingbird in English] name came later). Design definition was completed in mid 1993.
Within the Eurocopter/CATIC/STAe partnership, Eurocopter is responsible for the design and manufacture of the rotor system and transmission, final assembly (at Marignane in France), flight testing and certification. CATIC builds the EC-120's fuselage, landing gear and fuel system, while STAe's areas of responsibility covers the tailboom, fin and doors.
Notable Colibri design features include a three blade main rotor with a Spheriflex hub integrated with the driveshaft and transmission, composite main and tail rotor blades and skid landing gear, a metal construction fuselage and a new eight blade Fenestron shrouded tail rotor. The Turboméca TM-319 Arrius 1F turboshaft was selected to power at least the first 300 Colibris. The Colibri's cabin features standard seating for five including the pilot.
The first of two EC-120 prototypes first flew on June 9 1995 from Eurocopter France's Marignane facility. French DGAC certification was awarded in June 1997, while the first production Colibri first flew in December that year.
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