Thu, Feb 10, 2005
China Likes It
Is anything safe from Eurocopter? Not if they can help it.
Makers of helicopter weightlifting champions might have been
looking on smugly as the European maker chased smaller fry to the
fringes of the marketplace, but they're now in the sights of the
EADS subsidiary, and that has to be a heck of a spot to be on.
The EC175 is designed to have a gross weight of about 10,000
kilograms. That will place it, in its own line, between the EC155
and the elderly Super Puma. Eurocopter will co-develop the craft
with an as-yet-unnamed Chinese firm.
How far along is the EC175? We can't be sure, but we saw what we
believe was a prototype main transmission gearbox for the future
king of the Eurocopter line. In discussions before the EC175 was
made public, Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen (ZF) officials described
this box (photo) as a main transmission for a helicopter in the
10,000 kilogram class. Did it make sense for a power-transmission
company like ZF to be so deep in applied engineering just for the
sake of experiment? But when pushed, the transmission guys clammed
After Eurocopter president Fabrice Bregier revealed the EC175
program, we went back to talk to ZF again. They did say that the
box "might resemble" something they would do for "a project like"
the EC175, but they also pointed out that this high-tech
experimental box includes some items that might not make it into a
final version, especially the internal swashplate, the 10:1 ratio
and the dual ring gears (which are only there because of
Eurocopter has succeeded thanks to immense resources that let
them react quickly to customer needs, and, most of all, thanks to
good products. So if they follow through with the EC175 it will be
a competitor to reckon with.
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