Aérospatiel Dauphin/Panther, Eurocopter EC155 & Harbin Z-9

The Dauphin helicopter was developed in the early 1970s to fill the gap between the Gazelle and Puma. Originally, it was a single turbine engine helicopter, but this proved not a success. Only after Aérospatiale added a second engine, it became more popular. Over the years many variants were developed, with fixed tail wheel gears, skids and retractable nose wheel gears. However, the main characteristics remained. Like the Gazelle, the Dauphin has a so-called fenestron, or shrouded tail rotor, at the end of the tail boom. On top is a large, tall vertical fin. The Dauphin also has horizontal stabilisers, with end plates, of which the shape depends on the version. Another feature that remained over all versions is the cockpit and cabin window arrangement. The helicopter has three upper cabin windows with narrow frames, with a single lower window in the cockpit door.

The Dauphin was license built in China under designation Harbin Z-9. The final generation was the Eurocopter EC155. At Airbus Helicopters, it was succeeded by the H160. The EC155 was further developed in Korea as KAI Light Civil Helicopter (LCH) and Light Armed Helicopter (LAH).

The three rectangular cabin windows in a row with narrow frames, and a single one below in the cockpit door, is typical for all Dauphins.

The vertical fin of the Dauphins, above the shrouded tail rotor, is quite tall. Also note the large, swept end plates on the horizontal stabilisers.

Different versions

To distinguish the different versions of the Dauphin and EC155 versions you'll have to look at

  • the shape of the gear box/engine housing, together with intakes and exhaust
  • the shape of the end plates on the horizontal stabilisers
  • the type of gear, tail gear, nose gear or skids
  • the shape of the nose
  • the number of main rotor blades
  • the cabin window configuration

Details will be added later.

Confusion possible with

Airbus H160


The Airbus H160 is clearly a descendant of the Aérospatiale Dauphin and Eurocopter EC155; they have the same basic appearance. The H160 however has sickle shaped main rotor tips, a canted fenestron and biplane horizontal stabilisers. 

Leonardo AW139/AW169


The AW139 and AW169 are in the same class as the Dauphin, but have an open tail rotor. Moreover, the horizontal stabilisers have bent up tips and the main gear is retracted in small sponsons.

Agusta A109


Another look-a-like in the same class, but like the AW169 the A109 has an open tail rotor. Additionally, the A109 has a pointed tail cone and a single wheel nose gear, amongst other differences.

Sikorsky S-76


The Sikorsky S-76 has a rearward retracting main gear like the Dauphin, but fully enclosed with gear doors, and a single wheel nose gear. Obviously, it also has an open tail rotor. So, all-in-all the S-76 and Dauphin are quite different.

Eurocopter X3


This helicopter with short wings and propellers has the fuselage and main rotor of the EC155, so therefore it may seem familiar. Apart from the wings and props, the X3 has an H-tail with swept vertical stabiliser.