The AgustaWestland/Bell/Lockheed Martin VH-71 made its first flight July 3 in Yeovil, UK. The 40-minute flight reached speeds of 135 knots and was reportedly uneventful, but there are likely challenges ahead for the program. The U.S. Navy is developing the VH-71 as a replacement for the 30-year-old Sikorsky VH-3Ds and somewhat newer N-60 “Whitehawks” that transport the President and other high-ranking government officials.
AgustaWestland has delivered two helicopters–one AW109 Power light twin and one AW139 medium twin–to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. These two aircraft are part of a June 2006 order, which includes two CA109 Powers to be produced by AgustaWestland’s local joint venture with AVIC II. The CA109s are said to be in the final assembly phase at Jiangxi Change Agusta Helicopter facilities.
AgustaWestland has designated Kaigai Aviotech of Japan to sell the AW119 Ke, AW109 Power and Grand in the Japanese commercial market. The two companies also agreed to establish a maintenance and support center for AgustaWestland helicopters in Japan.
At the Farnborough Air Show last month, helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland unveiled its new Agusta A109S Grand, a medium twin-engine rotorcraft designed to fill the gap between the Agusta A109 Power and the Bell/Agusta AB139, now entering service. The helicopter is expected to receive certification early next year, with deliveries to begin in the second half of the year.
AgustaWestland has won a contract from the UK government’s cabinet office to supply resilience training. These services will be provided as part of the Project Gold Standard, which aims at effective management of emergencies and disasters. AgustaWestland will teach strategic Gold commanders using courses, simulation and exercises. The first Gold Standard Exercise is pegged for June 25.
Boeing is confident that its HH-47 rotorcraft will be reconfirmed as the winner of the
potential $10 billion U.S. Air Force combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) competition. But even without adding the 141 helicopters required for CSAR, the evergreen Chinook looks set for at least two more decades of production for the U.S. Army and international customers.
AgustaWestland has announced orders for six AW139s in Australia. The Queensland Government and CHC, in New South Wales, have each purchased three of the medium twin helicopters. They will operate them in emergency medical and rescue services. The helicopter manufacturer has also won a contract from the Japan National Police Agency to supply five AW109 Power light twins for law-enforcement missions.
Under pressure from its competitors, Eurocopter–still the number-one manufacturer in the civil helicopter market–is working hard to cope with a rapid production ramp-up of its own helicopters at a time when rivals are introducing a dizzying array of new models.
AgustaWestland and Eurocopter have confirmed “their joint commitment to the NH90 program,” the two companies announced here at Heli-Expo’07. They will ensure that commitment is reaffirmed during meetings planned during the next few weeks between the NATO Helicopter Management Agency and government representatives. The NH90 backlog stands at 445 firm and 100 options ordered by 18 armed forces in 14 countries.