AgustaWestland has announced a weight upgrade and Russian assembly plans for the AW139 medium twin, while new helicopter models are in development and a series of efforts is launched in customer support.
AgustaWestland has announced that orders in the first half of this year have risen by 10 percent over the same period last year, to U1.62 billion ($2.5 billion). Meanwhile, the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker is creating a subsidiary company in Portugal, called AgustaWestland Portugal, to provide complete helicopter support services. Its first contract is to maintain the Portuguese Air Force’s 12 AW-101 transport helicopters.
SkyTrac’s automated flight following and satellite communication system has received FAA STC and Transport Canada Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) approval for installation in Robinson R22s and R44s. SkyTrac is already approved for installation in various AgustaWestland, Bell, Eurocopter and Sikorsky models.
AgustaWestland is making several improvements to its AW139 medium twin, including flight-testing a de-icing system. Dubbed the full ice protection system (FIPS), the optional equipment is intended to earn the AW139 dual FAA/EASA certification for flight into known icing conditions. This milestone is expected late next year or during the first quarter of 2010.
Manufacturer AgustaWestland and Italian operator Alitalica recently signed an agreement to install a “helicopter hub” at Rome’s Urbe airport. Under the agreement, AgustaWestland will establish a maintenance center for its helicopters. Alitalica will offer “passenger hospitality services, passenger transport and corporate helicopter management services.” The helicopter hub is expected to start operating next year.
Russia’s helicopter business received a boost with an announcement by the country’s vice premier, Sergey Ivanov, that production rates for both civil and military models should be increased. Next January, the government is due to issue draft plans that will call for almost $6.4 billion of fresh investment in the industry through 2015, with half of the sum to come from the private sector.
Texas Aviation Services in Fort Worth has teamed with Brazilian aviation consultant Sierra Aeronautica of São Paulo for the completion and importation of executive, emergency medical service and utility helicopters into Brazil.
Consolidation among European helicopter operators continues, with Heliportugal joining forces with French operator SAF Helicap, creating a fleet of nearly 50 aircraft.
With its acquisition of Italian counterpart Elilario, Spanish operator Grupo Inaer has become one of Europe’s largest helicopter operators, with a fleet of nearly 220 rotorcraft. The deal is valued at ?60.8 million ($91 million). Whether the new entity will be called Elilario or Inaer Italy has yet to be decided.
AgustaWestland scored a big win last month with the sale of 12 new search-and-rescue (SAR)-configured EH 101 helicopters to the Portuguese government. In a deal valued at $313 million, Portugal voted to buy a fleet of the Anglo-Italian helicopters to replace its SAR fleet of Eurocopter Pumas. In winning the deal, AgustaWestland beat out an offer from Sikorsky for an equal number of its developing S-92 rotorcraft.