Back in 2007, a Swiss company set out to deliver a new helicopter design. While it has been over ten years – with constantly changing release dates and $430 million later – the time is soon approaching.
Kopter, which was formerly known as Marenco Swiss helicopter back in February 2018, says that they will put out the first SH09 in 2019. To top this, Kopter claims the SH09 will be rank in the top three civilian helicopters.
Andreas Lowenstein has been the CEO of Kopter since January 1, 2017. The 25-year-old was hired to help get the project rolling. Together the new management boasts over 220 years of helicopter experience in the industry.
“The company had been driven by people who did not come out of the helicopter industry,” Lowenstein said. “It was led by a group of brilliant engineers, but we need to bring the SH09 to certification. That means you need a team that is skilled and experienced in the certification of aircraft and, most importantly, that is trusted by the certification authorities.”
Martin Stucki founded the company. While he is credited with having great ideas in the realm of aviation, he stepped down from his CEO position and frustrations of the inability for the SH09 to gain certification through the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Lowenstein said that the SH09‘s slow progress is partially due to the size of the team not being big enough.
“The certification scope you have to cover is so broad. The documentation you have to produce is so thick,” Lowenstein said. “You cannot do it with 140 people, which is about what we had when I arrived. We also had to shape the product support operation, build the sales team, and create an assembly-line process, all in order to win certification.”
In the 18 months Lowenstein has been on board, the company has increased to around 300 people. By the end of the year, the company expects to add another 50. The company’s headquarters have been relocated to a bigger facility.
The SH09 ran into problems. Testing on the helicopter started in 2014 but ran into trouble because of a high level of vibration. It took over a year to solve this problem. A new design resulted and there are now new rotor blades.
When compared to the Bell 407, or the Airbus H125, the SH09 offers more cabin space. It is a single-engine helicopter and is highly competitive. The SH09 boasts a lightweight body and an HTS9000 engine. The helicopter is expected to be able to handle high altitudes.
Larry Roberts, a United States helicopter sales executive who worked in the past for Airbus and Bell was hired by Lowenstein in late 2017. Roberts said the cabin size makes it able to carry on a broader range of missions and it can transport close to seven passengers.
“We’re able to offer a helicopter with a cabin that’s as big or bigger than the H145 at a price close to the H125 and 407,” Roberts said. “Twin-engine cabin and performance for a single-engine acquisition and operating costs is a very, very attractive offering, we think.”