The Airbus Helicopters EC120 B Colibri is a 5-seat light utility helicopter
powered by a single Turbomeca Arrius 2F turbine engine. The EC 120 B
Colibri, also known as Hummingbird, was developed with simplicity of
design and low costs of maintenance in mind. It makes extensive use of
composite materials and modern avionics. The new generation of fenestron
tail rotor takes part in the decrease in external noise level, which
makes the EC120 B ideal for missions near settled areas. The project
started in 1990 when Aérospatiale of France, CATIC of China and
Singapore Aerospace agreed in forming a partnership to develop a new
light helicopter, then designated P-120L. Definition phase of the
original P120L was subsequently redesigned with 500 kg lower gross
weight and new engine and rotor. The helicopter divisions of
Aerospatiale from France and MBB from Germany merged in January 1992 to
form the Eurocopter Group. In October 1992, development of the new
helicopter started and in January 1993, Eurocopter designation EC 120
was given to the helicopter. Mid-1993, the design definition was
completed and assembly of first of two prototypes began at Eurocopter
France at Marignane in early 1995. Eurocopter EC120 prototype F-WWPA
c/n 1 flew first on 9 June 1995. The second prototype (F-WWPD c/n 2) was
flown 17 July 1996. Certification to JAR 27 was achieved on 16 June
1997. Production of the EC 120 began on a small scale in 1997 at
Eurocopter France's Marignane facility, with the first production
c/n 1005) flying on 5 December 1997.
The airframes are made in China and the final assembly line of the EC120 is at the Eurocopter Marignane factory in France.
Next to the final assembly of the EC120 in France, a number of helicopters were assembled in Australia and Brazil.
On 11 June 2004, a contract was signed to set up a second assembly line in Harbin, China, to manufacture the EC120 helicopter.
The Chinese EC 120, built by HAI - Harbin Aviation Industries Co., Ltd. (Hafei Aviation), part of AviChina Industry & Technology
Company Ltd., is designated HC120 for the Chinese domestic market as well as the army's pilot training. China ordered 150 HC120
helicopters for the Army Aviation Unit (AAU). The assembly line in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjian Province, is capable of
producing 20 HC-120 helicopters a year. The first HC120 of this assembly line was flown first on 29 December 2004. In 2006, Regourd Aviation in France
obtained EASA certification for the modified EC120 "Voyager", an EC120 with auto-pilot, glass cockpit & integrated avionics. On 6 November 2015,
Airbus Helicopters started flight tests with the H120 demonstrator F-WMXC powered by a cleaner, more efficient 4.6-liter high-compression diesel engine
in place of the Turbomeca Arrius 2F turboshaft. These test flights are part of the European Clean Sky initiative’s Green Rotorcraft Integrated Technology
Demonstrator (ITD) program that started in 2011. In addition to Airbus Helicopters, the project involves TEOS Powertrain Engineering and Austro Engine.
Since March 2015, Airbus Helicopters uses “H120” as marketing designation for the EC120 B helicopters. The ICAO Aircraft Type Designator for both
the EC120 or H120 and the HC120 is EC20. Serial production of the Airbus Helicopters H120, originally the Eurocopter EC120 B, has officially ended.
The last H120 helicopter on order was delivered in September 2017. Over 700 single-engine H120 Colibris have been delivered in more than 50 countries
with more than 400 operators. The decision to stop production of the H120 was the result of Airbus Helicopters’ strategy to focus on markets where high-end
technologies bring the most value to customers. The company therefore concentrate on further developing its offer in the intermediate single-engine
segment with the H125 and H130 through continuous improvements of these two best-seller types.
As a result of the merger between the Eurocopter parents Aérospatiale-Matra; DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (DASA)
and Construcciones Aeronàuticas Sociedad Anonima (CASA) in July 2000, the Eurocopter group became a division of the new formed
EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space company). Taking off into 2014, EADS was rebranded as "Airbus Group". Uniting
all its activities under a single brand, its helicopter division Eurocopter was rebranded as Airbus Helicopters on 8 January 2014.
On 14 June 2001, Eurocopter EC120 B s/n 1207 was registered ZS-RZZ in
South Africa with R.J.Thomson Family Investments. On 15 March 2006,
reservartion was made in the USA for registration N639LH, but the helicopter remained
registered as ZS-RZZ in South Africa. Finally on 25 March 2011, this reservation for registration N639LH was cancelled.
Despite the reservation as N369LH, on 20 September 2006, Eurocopter
EC120 B ZS-RZZ was transferred and registered with Idada Trading 171.
When registered with Idada Trading 171, the helicopter was seen operated
as Vodacom Netcare 911 Surf Rescue. In March 2009, Eurocopter EC120 B
Colibri ZS-RZZ was fresh painted and registered with Mistico Trading 62
(PTY) Ltd., Bryanston, South Africa, on 14 September 2009. EC120 B Colibri ZS-RZZ was operated in Mozambique (ferrying tourists between Vilanculous
and the islands) until November, 2012. Eurocopter EC120 B ZS-RZZ underwent the 12 year inspection and was repainted, interior refurbished, and the
avionics were updated. It took Eurocopter SA more than a year to get this all done. The helicopter is currently hangared at Grand Central Airport
just north of Johannesburg, South Africa. Once permissions are complete and a hangar is built, it will reside at Blair Atholl Golf Estate just
north of Lanseria Airport.