Safety First In Airbus’ Luxe ACH160 Helicopter

The sleek body chopper combines sumptuous creature comforts with peace of mind.

By Michael Verdon 22/11/2021

You’ll forget the generous cabin space, low decibel levels and the spine-coddling comfort of the supple leather seats. You’ll definitely forget the 68 patents that helped transform helicopter design. Because even in the ACH160, the world’s most luxurious helicopter, niceties go out the window when you’re in free fall over the ocean, blue water rushing up to meet you.

But in that moment, one of those 68 patents won’t forget you: The autopilot, in recovery mode, arrests the plummet, bringing the copter back to a stable flight. It’s a stunning show of technology for Airbus’s most advanced corporate helicopter, which will be delivered to a US client next year. Airbus will also complete the interior on this first ACH160, which I had a chance to experience in Monaco.

“This is the latest of a new generation designed from the passenger’s point of view,” says our test pilot, Olivier Gensse, who has been with the H160, the standard version of the ACH160, since the program’s inception. Between the sleek body, Fenestron tail rotor, spacious four-foot-four-inch cabin headroom, oversized windows and low vibration levels, it’s clear what he means.

Airbus ACH160 Helicopter

The spacious interior, low vibration levels and next-gen avionics make the ACH160 the ultimate corporate helicopter. Adrien Daste/Airbus

During the simulated vortex-ring-state free fall, a condition where the helicopter’s rate of descent rapidly increases, Gensse pushed a button on the control stick twice that causes the machine’s automatic recovery mode to take over. Gensse also simulated an out-of-control flight in brownout conditions, resembling limited pilot visibility.

“Helicopter accidents often involve human error, especially if avionics are complicated,” Gensse says. “We designed the Helionix 3 system to be intuitive and simple, displaying critical information as needed. It’s about reducing the workload for the pilot without a hundred buttons on the display.” The ACH160 also has automated takeoff and a collision-avoidance system, both of which signify “a lot of new technology” incorporated into the design, according to Frédéric Lemos, chief executive of ACH. “We’ve had three prototypes flying, so many test hours have gone into the development.”

I also experienced the ACH160’s more civilized side, flying around Monte Carlo Harbor, with the Monaco Yacht Show in full swing. I imagined landing on one of the largest superyachts. Vibration and decibel levels were indeed low, especially after comparing it to an A125 in Las Vegas a few weeks later, and the bigger chopper’s executive cabin offered an entirely different experience—more town car than cramped clown car. And while the ACH160’s new owner chose the clean, corporate look of the ACH Line interior, other customised versions are also available.


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

Embraer Is Testing Self-Flying eVTOLs Over Rio de Janeiro

The tech will lead to air taxis flying themselves as part of urban transport.

By Michael Verdon


The First Electric Aeroplane That You Can Fast-Charge Is Coming

Diamond Aircraft’s eDA40 can be recharged in about 20 minutes.

By J. George Gorant


The First Flying-Car Airport Opens In The UK

But you can’t take off just yet.

By Tori Latham


Furniture Maker RH Has Designed Sleek Private Jets And A Yacht You Can Charter

The upscale home-furnishings company is bringing a trained design eye to both often-overlooked interiors.

By Helena Madden


Inside The First All-Private Space Mission To The International Space Station

The Ax-1 crew is scheduled to splash down after conducting scientific research aboard the International Space Station for nearly two weeks.

By Michael Verdon


Buy the Magazine

Subscribe to Robb Report today!

Subscribe today

Stay Connected