AW Takes Another Shot at OGP Market

Aviation International News » August 2011
July 29, 2011, 11:10 AM

AgustaWestland’s new CEO, Bruno Spagnolini, ensured that his company made a big splash at this year’s Paris Air Show, announcing a new helicopter, new joint ventures, plans to increase product support and service and takeover of the languishing civil tiltrotor program from development partner Bell Helicopter.

However, AW’s biggest news of the show was the introduction of the new AW189, an eight-ton twin civil variant of its AW149 that can seat 12 to 18 passengers and is aimed squarely at Eurocopter’s and Sikorsky’s share of the lucrative offshore oil service market. AW says the new helicopter is slated to enter service in 2014 and will be powered by twin, 2,000-shp General Electric CT7-2E1 Fadec-controlled turboshafts that feature built-in particle separators. In a clear shot at Sikorsky’s S-92A, AW emphasizes that the 189’s main gearbox will have 30-minute dry-run capability and will have a lower seat-mile cost than “more expensive 19-seat helicopters.”

AW says the 189’s open-architecture avionics suite will feature a digital glass cockpit with four eight- by 10-inch displays, a four-axis dual-duplex digital automatic flight control system, dual flight management system, and both synthetic vision and enhanced vision systems. The company says “single-pilot IFR certification is a design objective.”

The 189’s cabin is being designed for overwater survivability with a push-out emergency exit window for every two passengers and emergency floats that can handle sea state six conditions, according to AgustaWestland.

Besides the lucrative OGP market, AW says the 189 will also be directed at the search-and-rescue and corporate/VIP markets and will have its own auxiliary power unit (APU), the Microturbo e-APU60 (see article on page XX). AW declined to reveal a target sales price, but did say that the helicopter would have an unrefueled range of 400 miles with 12 passengers and a cruise speed of 143 knots. 

Development Programs Under Way

Because the AW189 shares so much of its construction with the AW149, including the engines, rotor systems and avionics, AW views the program as low-risk. The AW149 itself is an outgrowth of the proven AW139 program. Compared with the 139, the 149 has a slightly larger main rotor diameter; more powerful engines; is 12 feet, six inches longer; and weighs almost 5,000 pounds more. Overall cabin volume is 409 cu ft.

Following its recent loss of the $4 billion Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP), the 149 remains an aircraft in search of a customer, but AW stresses that development is proceeding. The second prototype, P2, the first with production engines, flew for the first time in February and was on display at Paris this year. Through June the two prototypes together had flown more than 250 hours and a third test ship is scheduled to join the fleet later in the year.

AW expects the 149, like the AW189, to be certified in 2014. Spagnolini said, “The development of the AW149 military helicopter demonstrates our commitment to bring to the market a new generation of multi-role military helicopter in the medium lift category.” He said it is the only all-new helicopter in its class and is “ideally suited” to replace thousands of helicopters that are 30 years old or more. AW is marketing the 149 for a variety of roles, including troop transport, SAR, scouting, medevac and VIP military transport.

AW expects to fly the AW169 next year and certify it in 2014. Spain’s Inaer recently ordered 10 copies of the new 4.5-ton twin, and AW said at Paris that it has “a significant number of firm orders” in hand for the helicopter.

AW’s PZL-Swidnik unit separately signed a memorandum of understanding with Inaer to expand the aerial firefighting market over the next decade throughout southern Europe using PZL’s W-3A Sokol medium twin utility helicopters. The six-ton W-3A can be fitted with Bambi Bucket and expandable belly tank for fire-suppression missions. Currently 150 of the helicopters are in use by 20 customers in eight countries. Inaer is a global helicopter emergency services company with operations throughout Europe, South America and Australia and the company acts as an authorized AW service center at its various locations throughout southern Europe and the UK.

AW139 Enhancements

Demand for the AW139 medium twin continues to be strong, with more than 400 delivered and 540 ordered to date. AW recently finalized its HeliVert joint venture with Russian Helicopters for production of up to 15 AW139s annually at a new plant just outside Moscow. Russia and the CIS countries have acquired more than 20 AW139s over the last two years.

AW is currently developing several upgrade packages for the 139, including satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS), ADS-B out, TCAS II and a limited ice protection system (Lips). The Lips includes icing sensors and heated windshields but not the heated rotor blades of the AW139’s full ice protection system (Fips) that is currently in service. Via FAA STC, AW is also pursuing full cargo or cargo/passenger combi cabins for the aircraft. Overall, the company is planning to boost AW139 manufacture from the 83 produced in 2010 to 100 next year to meet market demand.

While the joint venture with Bell to develop a civil tiltrotor has formally come to an end, the two companies will continue to collaborate on the project, but with AW taking full ownership. However, the exact details of the deal have yet to be announced. A Bell spokeswoman told AIN, “The basic agreement is still subject to review and approval by several governments, therefore the next steps– components, engineering subcontract and so on–won’t be settled until after transaction approval.”

Worldwide, AW is moving aggressively to expand its service footprint. Ten new authorized service centers are currently being approved in locations that include Russia, Portugal and Australia. The company is also in the final stages of adding “several” new blade repair centers. Over the last four years, AW has appointed 30 new service and blade repair centers. The company also said it will be increasing its current staff of 40 technical representatives to 50 by next year to bolster its staff of 30 customer support managers. The tech reps will be able to access fleetwide data 24/7 through AW’s fleet operations center, established last year.

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