The BK117 had its first service flight in April 1989. Since then, the brightly painted helicopter at Airbus Helicopters has served as a test vehicle for research and development. The pioneering technologies, which have been tested on it, help to make the use of helicopters faster and safer in an emergency. On February 7, Airbus Helicopters gave the research helicopter to the University of Stuttgart on a permanent basis.
Information about the BK117
From 1989 to 2016, pioneering technology was tested out on the BK117 helicopter. For example, the helicopter was fitted with an outer shell made of fiber composite, which was used to carry out research into lightweight technologies. In order to be able to recognize changes to the structure, the helicopter cells only had a clear varnish on the outside for the first few years. From around 1997 onwards, the helicopter was used in the aviation research program, when it was given a coating of blue varnish and adorned with the letters AWRH in bright colors, the German abbreviation for “all-weather helicopter”.
Systems were also tested which take away some of the burden from the pilot by recognizing and avoiding obstacles. These optimization measures freed up the pilots to concentrate on flying.
During the aircraft’s last few years in service, so-called active rotors were tried and tested in flight. This involved influencing the characteristic movements of the rotor blades individually using control and optimization processes, and so significantly reducing the level of vibrations and sound. This project also involved research groups from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and Geodesy, who played a major role.