“Hotel Sierra Juliet Charlie November …” Captain Athayuth Khaosaard’s (or Captain Arthur, as some people call him) voice resounded over the headphones we were wearing. No, he was not calling up a girl for a date, but the roto-aircraft number in preparation for take-off.
I was on board the Airbus H130 helicopter, ready for its first media flight in Malaysia. After its unveiling at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2017 last month, the H130 was being flown in Kuala Lumpur with potential buyers onboard numerous flights.
The first thing that struck me when I boarded the helicopter, which seats seven, including the pilot, was its spaciousness, and its ultra-wide windows, offering a panoramic 180° view. The seats were staggered, with those at the back slightly raised, so even though I was seated behind, I could enjoy the scenery during the flight.
According to Airbus Helicopters vice-president of sales Guillaume Dubreuil, the H130, which is designed for tourism and sightseeing, VIP and corporate transport, emergency medical services, law enforcement and surveillance, and aerial work, is the largest single-engine helicopter and is three to four times cheaper to buy and operate than a twin-engine.
“It costs below RM2,200 per hour to operate while a twin-engine costs more than RM4,400,” he said at a media briefing before the flight.
As the H130 flew over Kuala Lumpur city, we enjoyed spectacular views of Batu Caves, the Petronas Twin Towers, KL Tower and Taman Melawati. At one point, Athayuth turned off the vibration control system so that we could experience the difference. With it off, there was only a slight vibration but it was one of the smoothest flights I’ve ever been on.
Claimed to be the quietest helicopter on the market in its category, the H130 is even quieter than what is usually allowed by the Grand Canyon National Park in the United States, a recognised benchmark for eco-friendly tourism operations.
In fact, according to Dubreuil, the seats are also installed with an energy-absorbing system to protect the passenger’s spine. He added that the huge cabin is designed with a full-flat floor which can be easily modified for multiple situations: Seats can be taken out to make room for cargo, or even a stretcher, in medical emergencies.
Compact and lightweight at 1,433kg, the powerful helicopter can fly at a maximum speed of 287km per hour. Dubreuil added that it offers 10% more power and lower fuel consumption.
He also said that there are currently between 650 and 700 such copters in use in 60 countries, with over 250 in the United States alone.
Aerial view of Kuala Lumpur from the H130 airbus helicopter.
What would you use the helicopter for?
Worldwide figures reveal that 38% of H130s are used for private and business aviation; 36% used for commercial air transport; 12% for emergency medical services; 8% for aerial work; 1% for public services; and 1% for oil and gas.
In Asia-Pacific, 40% is used for passenger transport (including offshore work); 5% for pure tourism; 4% for emergency rescue work; and 33% for private and business aviation.
The price range for the H130 is between RM15.5mil and RM17.5mil and it is available at Airbus Helicopters Malaysia in Subang, Selangor.