“Patrulla ASPA” are the current Spanish Air Force helicopter aerobatic display team, flying with five Eurocopter EC-120 Colibri helicopters. The team was formed on Sept 23, 2003 at the Armilla Air Base. The first demonstration of the new team was on May 16, 2004 in Sevilla and their foreign debut was at the Portugal Air Show in 2005.
The Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) EC120 Colibri (English: hummingbird) is a 5-seat, single-engine, single main rotor, light helicopter. Jointly designed and developed by Eurocopter, China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), Harbin Aviation Industries (Group) Ltd (HAI) and Singapore Technologies Aerospace Ltd (STAero) at Eurocopter France’s Marignane facility, the EC120 B is assembled by Eurocopter in France and Australia. In China, the aircraft is produced by Harbin as the HC120. Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC) started manufacturing HC-120 in 2004, the assembly line in this northern China city is the only HC-120 line outside of France. Chinese PLA Army and local police forces purchase HC-120 helicopters.
Eurocopter has a 61% interest in the project, with CATIC owning 24% and STAero with 15% share.
Design and development
The EC120 B is mostly built from composite materials and has a fenestron tail rotor, making it a particularly quiet helicopter (FAA Appendix J flyover noise signature = 78.7 dB SEL, 6.7 dB SEL below Stage 2 limits). Certified to FAR 27 standards, the EC120 B also features crash-resistant seats and a crash-resistant fuel system.
The design of the Colibri’s wide cabin makes it suitable for wide variety of civilian and parapublic missions, such as utility transport, offshore transport, training, law enforcement, casualty evacuation and corporate transport. In the casualty evacuation role, the helicopter can carry one pilot and one stretcher patient as well as one or two medical attendants. For cargo carrying, the Colibri can carry one pilot plus 2.94 cubic meters (103.9 cu. ft.) of total useful load volume (cabin and hold). The EC120’s 0.8 cubic meter (28.3 cu. ft.) hold is accessible from the side and rear.
In addition to its civilian roles, the Colibri is also used by the military for training, observation and light utility missions. In the latter role, it can carry a sling load cargo of up to 700 kg (1,543 lb).
The EC120 B is able to carry equipment such as FLIR cameras, spotlights and other useful tools. Some law enforcement agencies using the EC120 B include: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Edmonton Police Service, Calgary Police Service, the York Regional Police, and the Albuquerque Police Department.
The first EC120 B was delivered in 1998 and by 2008, Eurocopter had already delivered more than 550 Colibris to various customers.
In 2004, the United States Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) selected the EC120 B to meet its Light Sign Cutter requirement, a program potentially involving 55 aircraft with a total value of US$ 75 million in then-year dollars. In 2006, the CBP ordered 15 EC120 B helicopters, with a further five aircraft since ordered.
In January 2008, the French Defense Ministry selected the EC120 as the French Army‘s new lead-in rotary-wing trainer, replacing the Aérospatiale Gazelle. 36 EC120 Bs equipped with Sagem avionics will be operated through a 22-year public-private partnership (PPP), with the first aircraft due to arrive in 2010.
Cruise speed: 200 km/h
Wingspan: 9.96 m
Length: 9.60 m
Top speed: 280 km/h
Range: 770 km
Engine type: Turbomeca Arrius