20/Twenty: Airbus’s Versatile ACH145

Matthew Orloff February 27, 2023

ACH145 lands on a yacht
The Airbus ACH145 light twin is compatible for yacht and other offshore operations.Credit: On Deck Aviation

A variant of the MBB-BK117, twin-engine Airbus H145 was the final variant of the series marketed as the Eurocopter EC145, MBB-BK117 D2. 

Over the years, the helicopter has upgraded to the current BK117D3 standard, with an upgraded 5-blade rotor system. The relatively new designation of ACH145 reflects the rebranding to Airbus Helicopters in January 2014. Demand for the ACHH145 has remained high, with a waitlist of about two years for a new unit with a list price of $9.7 million. Its closest competitor for sales is the Bell 429.

Multiple operators and acquisition companies can affirm that a fair price for a pre-owned ACH145 is north of $7 million. The figure remains consistent among newer and older model-year H145s, especially since the oldest models date back just to 2014.

Published performance data includes a maximum range of 335 nm with a 30-min. fuel reserve, an endurance of 3 hr., 35 min.  and a recommended cruise speed of 130 kts. The helicopter’s useful load is 4,200 lb. with a standard fuel tank capacity of 1,593.9 lb. The hover ceiling OGE (out-of-ground effect) is 8,955 ft.

“This helicopter can represent the trophy, luxury SUV found on display on one’s driveway, except for a certain crowd that driveway is a superyacht,” says Scott Gugel, owner of On Deck Aviation, a company specializing in yacht-based aviation. Gugel hires and trains pilots to land helicopters on superyachts and praises the H145 as his favorite helicopter to fly. He also serves as a regional sales director for Global Aircraft, an aircraft sales and management firm.

The operational capabilities of the H145 extend beyond this niche demographic, however, which explains why competition and price for a pre-owned model are relatively high. Other multi-mission areas include law enforcement, emergency medical services, offshore oil operations and passenger transport for private and business aviation.

ACH145 interior layout configurations can vary with space for up to 10 passengers with one or two pilots. “The interior is very convertible,” Gugel says. “All the seats can be taken out, leaving you with a large flat deck. The back opens like a clam shell.” 
Its versatility has made the H145 popular among police and government agencies for public-use-related operations. These are the customers contributing most to the waitlist, and the large accounts that sales departments inevitably target the most, leaving business and civil operators with more competition to gain access to any available supply. At any given time across the global marketplace, less than five ACH145s are typically available, with a portion of these sales occurring off-market.

In-House ‘Helionix’

ACH145 flight deck
ACH145 Helionix flight deck. Credit: On Deck Aviation

Powered by two ARRIEL 2E turbine engines with FADEC engine control, all ACH145s come equipped with Airbus’s in-house “Helionix,” a system dubbed as the only avionics suite developed for helicopters. 

“The system displays only the most pertinent details of a flight phase, filtering out all unnecessary and distracting information,” says Christian Gottschalk, head of the Helionix program at Airbus Helicopters. The suite offers two-to-four multifunction display screens designed to improve situational awareness.

In 2021, a wireless airborne communications system was deployed on the ACH145 that enhanced its connectivity by transmitting helicopter data in real-time. That year, Airbus reported its global helicopter fleet with Helionix avionics had completed more than 500,000 flight hours.

Another component of Helionix that pilots including Gugel value is the four-axis autopilot. “The autopilot has a noticeable performance increase compared to other OEMs’ helicopters; you can even take your feet off the pedals,” Gugel says. “The OEI (One-engine-inoperative) performance coupled with its fenestron tail-rotor technology and ease of use provide greatly enhanced safety features.”

Mercedes-Benz Style

ACH145 cabin
ACH145 cabin interior. Credit: On Deck Aviation

Before the ACH145 rebranded to Airbus Helicopters in 2010, Mercedes-Benz Style created a luxury design concept for the Eurocopter version. One year later, the Mercedes-Benz Style EC145 made its debut at the European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland, attracting interest from VIP operators.

The design complements a mix of configurations accommodating four-to-eight passengers and has been noted to contribute to a positive passenger experience. “It’s a smooth ride with good visibility,” says Gugel. “The design is based on a legacy aircraft; everything on it is constantly improved upon due to this heritage.” 

Cabin interior highlights include a wooden floor with LED lights, a front separation wall between the cabin and cockpit, soundproof interior panels, an inflight entertainment system, an electrical interface and several basic items covered with leather. One disadvantage is the Mercedes-Benz style has developed a reputation for being heavy, making it harder to remove for maintenance activity.

Most operators find that ACH145 maintenance tasks, both calendar and flight-time related, are accomplished during normal 400-hr. and 800-hr. annual inspections, leaving the helicopter available for operation the remainder of the year. 
The D3 version of the ACH145 entered service in 2020 equipped with a five-bladed main rotor as opposed to four. According to Airbus Helicopters, there are 38 D3s in service. There are nearly 1,500 BK117, EC145 and H145 models in operation worldwide. At any given time, up to two D3s are listed for sale on the market, with a fair price between $8.5 million and $9 million, according to Global Aircraft.

BCA welcomes comment and insight from aircraft dealers and brokers for its monthly 20/Twenty pre-owned aircraft market feature. The focus aircraft for March is the Beechcraft King Air 350 and for April the Dassault Falcon 900. To participate, contact [email protected]

Matthew Orloff

A Bird’s Eye View Adds New Perspective to Luxury Ocean Travel

Palau, as seen from a helicopter (Photo: On Deck Aviation)

“It is only when you are flying above it that you realize how incredible the earth really is.” – Philippe Perrin, pilot and astronaut

For so many superyacht owners, life at sea is all about the experience. What new destinations can be discovered and how can time be spent in the most memorable way with family and friends? Though exploring the ocean from the water’s surface is an undeniably incredible experience, it only provides part of the picture. When superyachts are outfitted with helicopters or sea planes, the owner’s experience on the ocean is elevated.

Mexico, as seen from a helicopter (Photo: On Deck Aviation)

“Seeing a site like Pompeii or Palau from the air adds new perspective,” said Scott Gugel, president of On Deck Aviation. “It’s one thing to explore or SCUBA dive an incredible site, but seeing it from the air is a whole different feel.”

“It’s just more fun when you can experience a destination aloft,” added SHADOWCAT’s Robert Smith, co-founder and president of YCTS, Ltd. “Whether an owner wants to fly around a volcano, see a shipwreck from above or land on a glacier in Alaska, a helicopter provides greater access to adventure.”

Stromboli volcano, in Italy, as seen from a helicopter (Photo: On Deck Aviation)

For commercial operators of vessels like cruise ships, sea planes and helicopters can be added to smaller support vessels to provide guests with adventure packages and high-end excursions, a growing new vacation niche.


More than just pleasure, however, aircraft also delivers yachters important logistical support.

Owners and incoming guests can take direct transfers to and from airports, with the benefit of greater privacy and speed. Incoming crew can be immediately flown in, reducing risk of travel delays during time-sensitive shift changes. Helicopters can be used to make provision runs for groceries, like local fish, cigars or rum, for the evening meal or for important supplies. If equipment like an air-conditioning system breaks, a helicopter can fly in replacement parts quickly. And in the unforeseen event of injury, a pilot can fly a patient to a local hospital with haste.

Hodor’s H145 helicopter lands at an airport (Photo: On Deck Aviation)

“Having aircraft on board is a very practical decision for many superyacht owners,” said Smith. “More and more buyers desire a helicopter deck, not only for the enhanced experience and safety at sea, but because it increases a yacht’s value in charter operations and resale.”


So, why then, are there only about 200 yachts worldwide outfitted with helicopter decks?

“The reason is that superyachts aren’t truly designed to carry and land helicopters and other aircraft,” explained Smith. “Oftentimes owners must make a choice between dedicating space for a landing pad or an outdoor dining area or guest accommodations. And utilitarian landing pads detract from a superyacht’s overall aesthetic.”

Typically, a helicopter pad is added near the bow of a superyacht, which Gugel said may offer limited space, depending on the size of the vessel. Because of this, such pads often cannot be certified, or accommodate the owner’s desired helicopter. Smaller vessels also do not often allow space for aircraft hangars and other aircraft support facilities.

By contrast, SHADOWCAT catamaran support vessels have plenty of deck space for helicopter pads and offer superyacht owners a designated place to house and carry aircraft. Larger shadow yachts, like SHADOWCAT’s 78m option, offer several decks of generous toy storage and enough space to house even the largest of VIP twin-engine helicopters, such as the new and exciting H160 or the AW139, both of which provide more seating and greater safety than other helicopters.

SHADOWCAT Hodor (Photo: Clint Jenkins Photography)

“The SHADOWCAT design offers a generous beam and inherent stability over monohulls,” said Gugel. “It lends itself to seamless integration of helicopters for very safe operations while at sea. SHADOWCATs offer enough room for a hangar, a larger certified landing pad and accommodations for aircraft crew.”

“With the pad located towards the back of the support yacht, pilots can approach the stern for landings, which offers greater visibility and a wide, clean landing platform,” said Smith. “It’s safer for everyone.”

SHADOWCAT Wayfinder (Photo: ARMON Shipyards)

The spacious SHADOWCAT design also makes wash-downs and maintenance of helicopters and planes an easier process.

“On a support vessel such as the SHADOWCAT, the helicopter crew is given more space and less constraints in their ability to properly maintain the aircraft. Regular washing and preventative maintenance for the aircraft is no longer a challenge with regard to disturbing the guest experience on the main yacht,” said Gugel. “The storage space for spare parts and maintenance support equipment, and the ability to outfit the helicopter deck appropriately, is one of the greatest assets of the SHADOWCAT.”

When it comes to tackling the regulations and certifications for aircraft and landing zones, SHADOWCAT’s connections are an asset.

“We have relationships with aviation experts, like On Deck Aviation, and others, who can work with owners collaboratively to determine the requirements, regulations and insurance during the design phase, and later source and train flight crew,” explained Smith. “Whether someone needs a touch-and-go pad or something more advanced, we can design SHADOWCAT vessels to meet nearly any aviation need.”

“The key is to work with an aviation expert early in the yacht design process, so the owner’s aviation expectations and desires can be accommodated,” said Gugel. “Unfortunately, this is often overlooked, and the helicopter arrangements onboard might not support the aircraft the owner has selected. One of our services is to provide practical consulting for aircraft-yacht integration to mitigate risk. We feel this, in conjunction with our other offerings, helps provide the owner with the best aviation experience possible.”

SHADOWCAT Hodor (Photo: Clint Jenkins Photography)

About On Deck Aviation
On Deck Aviation specializes in all matters related to aviation integration with yachts, aircraft acquisitions, build-out and design selections, pilot crew finding, deck and equipment outfitting and consulting for the owner’s best yacht-based aviation experience. Additionally, On Deck Aviation provides HLO training for on board operations and safety management training and integration of helicopter operations into vessel ISM. Through its affiliate company, Global Aircraft, On Deck Aviation provides the best in aircraft sales and acquisitions of both helicopters and private airplanes.