In collaboration with the French aviation authority, Airbus Helicopters tested a new engine backup system onboard its Flightlab for rotors on September 21, 2021.

The campaign intends to develop a safety system by providing emergency electrical power for single-engine helicopter operations in an inflight emergency due to turbine failure.

The peripheral aim of the program is to pave a path for a hybridized propulsion system for helicopters and provide definite short-term flight safety refinements.

"The engine backup system is a good example of the incremental approach in our innovation strategy," said Tomasz Krysinski, Head of Research and Innovation at Airbus Helicopters. "The current EBS flights are a very important first step towards a future hybrid propulsion system, and we already foresee a second phase of the project with more energy and power onboard."

The rotor Flightlab was equipped with a 100-kilowatt electric motor connected to the main gearbox, which can provide electrical power for 30 seconds in case of engine failure. The emergency electrical power gives the helicopter pilot extra time to react and analyze the situation, facilitating a smoother autorotation maneuver to the ground. 

The flight tests also included simulations of engine failures in different flight situations and weather conditions.

"We are looking at developing a fully parallel hybrid propulsion system mixing thermal and electrical energy together with the aim of optimizing fuel consumption and enabling hybrid single-engine flights over urban areas," added Krysinski.

In addition to testing the helicopter's safety margins and performance characteristics, performance increment parameters were also analyzed, which could potentially provide additional payload capacity to the rotor aircraft operators.