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EC135 or MD500: Which is quieter?


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I'm doing research for a film, and I'm looking for the quietest light helicopter (in terms of external noise) that could reasonably be used by an American law enforcement agency. By "reasonably", I'm taking ancillary issues into consideration, such as country of origin (I think a US agency might prefer US-made equipment), cost and popularity.

 

I've reached the conclusion that the MD Helicopters MD 500 is most frequently cited as the world's quietest helicopter, due to its NOTAR system. Is there a specific model that is the "quietest" of all the 500s?

 

However, I've also seen several people cite the Eurocopter EC135 as the quietest. Does anyone have any data or figures on sound levels generated by either of these two helicopters? Again, I'm talking about sound that an observer would hear from the ground, like rotor noise- not cabin noise levels. Do you know of any other light helicopter that you consider to be quieter than these two?

 

Thanks in advance for your help!

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The EC120 is quieter than both the 520N and the 135, and we use them for law enforcement patrol work. I don't think you will find many municipal or county agencies using the EC135 for a patrol ship, just because of the operating cost. The exceptions would be agencies that perform regular medical transport and/or hoist work.

 

We operated MD500's and one 520N before switching to the EC120. One of our primary reasons we chose the 120 was its overall noise signature. It is a very quiet helicopter, unless you fly it out of trim, in which case it sounds like a flying woodchipper.

 

With all that said, the EC135 is still one of my favorite helicopters, but that's just an opinion. :)

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I have to agree with EC120AV8R. The 120 is used in the law enforcement community and is probably one of the most quiet helicopters out there. That wood chip sound is awesome. Ive only heard it watching one of my co-workers doing autos.

Edited by cutter49
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The EC120 is quieter than both the 520N and the 135, and we use them for law enforcement patrol work. [...]

We operated MD500's and one 520N before switching to the EC120. One of our primary reasons we chose the 120 was its overall noise signature. It is a very quiet helicopter, unless you fly it out of trim, in which case it sounds like a flying woodchipper.

 

Thanks for the information! That's exactly what I was looking for.

 

I also have a few more questions. In all cases, we're talking about a large city like New York or Chicago, with the accompanying city sounds, but later at night so there's not *too* much ambient noise:

 

1. If I'm standing directly beneath it, what's the lowest altitude at which the EC120 can fly before I hear any sound?

 

2. If I'm standing on the ground and the EC120 is flying at low altitude (say, rooftop height), what's the closest distance before I hear it?

 

Also, the same two questions, except instead of being heard at all, how about before the sound is identifiable as that of a helicopter?

 

Finally, would the EC120 be appropriate as a delivery vehicle for quickly and covertly inserting a small team (three or four men) of law enforcement field agents in an urban environment? Can the interior be configured as a sort of "mini troop transport" with bench seats, or whatever, instead of the nicer seating I usually see in press photos?

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Thanks for the information! That's exactly what I was looking for.

 

I also have a few more questions. In all cases, we're talking about a large city like New York or Chicago, with the accompanying city sounds, but later at night so there's not *too* much ambient noise:

 

Finally, would the EC120 be appropriate as a delivery vehicle for quickly and covertly inserting a small team (three or four men) of law enforcement field agents in an urban environment? Can the interior be configured as a sort of "mini troop transport" with bench seats, or whatever, instead of the nicer seating I usually see in press photos?

 

First of all there is nothing covert about a helicopter in a city. There are way too many eyes. As for city noise at night it really depend on where you are. Some portions of the city while quieter than day time are still noisy.

 

NYPD has 4 Agusta 119's and 2 Bell 412EP's. Where as Chicago has a 206B3 and a 206L4 registered to the city of Chicago plus a UH1B to Chicago Emergency Services and 2 Bell 412EP's registered to the Chicago Fire Department. So I can't say for sure if CPD has and uses helicopters or not.

 

By covert delivery, I am assuming that you are talking about a SWAT or Tactical unit. I have not flown a 120, but everything I have heard is that it is a little short on power. Keep in mind that SWAT/Tactical Teams tend to be on the heavy side. The guys are not your average 180 pound people. They are usually 200 or over and with all their gear, they will be closer to 250 plus. That is why the NYPD has their 412's. Plus there are companies out there that do custom interiors for law enforcement.

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I have also heard complaints about the lack of power in the EC120. I knew some guys that work for CBP and hated the 120 for lack of power.

The EC130 has a lot more power (over 340 MORE HP) and could easily carry 3-4 fully loaded tactical guys AND it's quiet. The useful load of the 120 is 1590 vs. 2313 for the 130.

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So I can't say for sure if CPD has and uses helicopters or not.

 

CPD does operate the 206L4 (N911YY)

 

I'm trying not to over think the answer to his question too much here. Certainly if you wanted a delivery platform for a tactical unit, a light helicopter would not be the first choice. I think the overall gist of the question is what would you see more commonly used by a PD [for patrol (my assumption)], is it quiet and could it deliver SWAT guys.

 

I have delivered sticks of SWAT guys (3 or 4 at a time) to roof top pads with the 120. It works, but we strip off the nightsun, FLIR ball, and go light on fuel.

 

Sure a 130 could be used, but the 130 makes a HORRIBLE patrol ship. There is way too much real estate between the pilot and the Tactical Flight Officer (TFO). The pilot has a helluva time orientating the orbit well, because he can't really see what the TFO is looking at. You have to look at the back of the TFO's helmet to see where he is looking and adjust the orbit accordingly. That's ok, but it effectively takes the pilot out of the call as a second set of eyes on the scene.

 

If you wanted something bigger than a 120, but wanted to keep it fairly quiet, and operating cost wasn't an issue, the 135 would be a better choice over the 130. They are widely used in the UK as patrol ships. I had the opportunity to fly with a police crew in the UK (in the 135), and it was a great platform.

 

Realistically, here in the US, where a twin is not required over the urban area, you just won't see them commonly used as PD patrol ships. So, that gets us back to the 500 (or 520N 0r 600N), 206, AS350 and the 120. Of all those, the 120 is the quietest, and we haven't found any mission we could perform with the 500, that the 120 can not do.

 

Could the 120 use more power? Sure, there are very few helicopters that couldn't benefit from a little more power. I agree, that where CBP flies the 120, with high DA, it can be anemic. We just haven't run across that problem here at the coast too often.

 

That's just my 2 cents though.

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Finally, would the EC120 be appropriate as a delivery vehicle for quickly and covertly inserting a small team (three or four men) of law enforcement field agents in an urban environment? Can the interior be configured as a sort of "mini troop transport" with bench seats, or whatever, instead of the nicer seating I usually see in press photos?

 

 

Have a look at the EC-120 brochure on the eurocopter HP, lots of photos with different interior there:

http://www.eurocopterusa.com/images/produc...ure-01-2009.pdf

 

I don't have any time in them, but from looking at the numbers, pilot plus 3 agents with equipment is realistic - pilot plus 4 is pushing it a bit.

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