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  • Joe Breitfeller

Airbus Partners With Japanese Helicopter Operator Hiratagakuen to Test Future eVTOL Routes in Kansai

Airbus has partnered with Japanese Helicopter operator Hiratagakuen to test future eVTOL routes and operations in the Kansai region and beyond. Together, the partners will tackle crucial issues associated with the launch of commercial CityAirbus NextGen service.


CityAirbus NextGen Rendering - Courtesy Airbus

On Wednesday (September 7, 2022), Airbus announced the launch of a new partnership with Japanese helicopter operator Hiratagakuen to test future eVTOL routes in the Kansai region, a key addition to Airbus’ strong regional footprint and growing international network. Under the agreement, the partners will resolve crucial issues required to launch commercial service with the CityAirbus NextGen. As a key step, Airbus and Hiratagakuen will organize a simulation of ideal routes, review operational concepts and determine the necessary equipment for safe eVTOL flights in the Kansai region. Additionally, the partners have selected Osaka prefecture for a demonstration flight later this year.


With the goal of implementing mobility services beyond urban environments, the partners will support the development of advanced mobility solutions with CityAirbus NextGen for uses ranging from air medical services to commercial transport and ecotourism. In support of this objective, Airbus and Hiratagakuen will use an H135 helicopter to test advanced navigation and communications technologies for safe eVTOL operations in urban environments, while simulating the flight configuration of the CityAirbus NextGen.


In Wednesday’s announcment, Hiratagakuen’s Vice President – Aviation Operation Division, Mitsuhiro Hirata, said,


“We are very pleased to conduct a demonstration flight in the Osaka-Kansai region with Airbus for the future of mobility, using the latest H135 helicopter. We have been operating Airbus helicopters for many years and highly appreciate their high safety, performance, operational reliability and proven after-sales support. We are aware that a revolution in air transportation is now approaching in the Osaka area, and we expect CityAirbus NextGen to play a central role in this revolution.”


Also commenting on the new eVTOL partnership, Airbus’ Head of UAM Strategy Execution and Partnerships, Balkiz Sarihan, said, “We are honoured to further our long standing collaboration with Hiratagakuen by working on this exciting journey towards zero emission flights. Their expertise in commercial air transport and air medical services operations makes them an ideal partner for defining the operational framework for advanced air mobility with CityAirbus NextGen in Japan.”


Based in Kansai, Hiratagakuen is a helicopter operator that specializes in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), the transportation of personnel, flight training and maintenance. Currently, the company’s fleet includes 14 H135 and two H145 helicopters.


Airbus unveiled the eVTOL prototype CityAirbus NextGen in September 2021 to explore air mobility technologies. Recently, the company also announce the construction of a dedicated centre to test the aircraft’s systems in preparation for its maiden flight. Airbus is also working with industrial and institutional stakeholders the lead the development of urban air mobility ecosystems, as recently announced with ITA Airways in Italy and through the launch of the Air Mobility Initiative in Germany.


Airbus’ relationship in Japan dates back over 60 years, and the company has delivered over 600 commercial fixed wing and rotorcraft to Japanese operators. Airbus leads the helicopter market in Japan with over 50 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors, and has over 370 helicopters in service with 100 customers. In Kobe, Airbus’ helicopter facilities offer a suite of helicopter services and turnkey solutions across the EMS, law enforcement, electronic news gathering and parapublic sectors.



Source: Airbus