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Akin to a pilot in the cockpit who has to be mindful of the overall landscape and the immediate demands of navigation and controls, Leonardo has taken the ‘helicopter view’ approach to staying agile amid the increasingly tough terrain of the global helicopter market.
Following the launch, certification, and entry into service of the all-new AW169 and AW189, and with orders of the best-selling AW139 rapidly approaching 1,000, Leonardo has descended for a closer look at expansions and developments that can better position the company to meet operators’ ever-changing requirements.
Flying 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from Philadelphia and reaching Leadville, Colorado, in two days, a multi-role AW119Kx recently underwent testing activities that allowed it to perform in very demanding hot and high conditions.
The flight test program included performance tests such as hovering (both in ground effect and out of ground effect), cruise, rate of climb and autorotation. The aircraft, fully instrumented during the flight test with an instrumentation boom, performed high altitude performance flights including take-offs and landings at 14,880-foot density altitude and flights at 24,000-foot pressure altitude/25,000-foot density altitude.
The AW119Kx demonstrated significant power index margins, highlighting outstanding performance and handling capabilities in an extremely challenging environment. This latest achievement confirms the outstanding capabilities of the AW119Kx and contributes to the strength of the aircraft across a range of roles and geographies with an ever-increasing market potential.
It’s believed that achieving these altitude targets will expand opportunities for sales of the aircraft to commercial and government operators across the world.
The program now awaits European Aviation Safety Agency certification, and Federal Aviation Administration validation, of the flight envelope expansion.
The AW119Kx is a regular over the skies of the Upper Midwest and Northwestern United States, where it has found a niche among EMS providers such as Life Flight Network and Life Link III, and is a new entrant in the Chinese EMS market. Evidence of Leonardo’s continuous effort to grow the capabilities of its proven product line, the high altitude certification will add to AW119 sales, which now exceed 280 aircraft sold to over 100 customers in more than 30 countries.
Product developments have been key to the success of the AW139 and allowed it to expand its mission scope and customer base over the past decade, as it surpasses 1.5 million total flight hours across the 71 countries in which it operates.
In step with the AW119Kx, the AW139 also demonstrated that its performance transfers to high altitudes, taking off and landing at 16,300-foot density altitude/20,000-foot pressure altitude during recent trials that will ensure it stays ahead of civil and government requirements as it enters its second decade in service.
The AW189, quickly becoming the aircraft of choice for offshore and search-and-rescue operators, is now fully certified to fly in the known icing conditions often found in the North Sea.
These advancements have helped Danish operator Bel Air fly over 6,000 flight hours — just two years after entry into service.
“In 2016, we decided to install limited ice protection (LIPS) on our AW189 helicopters to ensure even better service to our customers during winter operations,” said Susanne Hessellund, CEO of Bel Air.
“Again, we benefitted from good cooperation as Leonardo sent some of their best experts to Denmark to assist us with this extensive retrofit of the new LIPS systems.”
And next up for the most recent addition to the AW Family, the AW169? Entry into service in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina, and the addition of the obstacle proximity laser imaging detection and ranging (LiDAR) warning system are all milestones to come in 2017.
Established training tools have been there to meet current and future pilots and operators of AW169s. The AW169 Level D full-flight Simulator was certified June 2016, and is now fully operational.
This training and support has helped propel the AW169 into new and untapped mission segments, such as flying in support of the development of the world’s largest offshore windfarm, in the North Sea.
Adding value to each of the aircraft in the AW Family, Leonardo’s Skyflight Mobile tablet flight planning software is now available for the AW169, AW139, and AW189. Designed to support customers in their flight planning activities and optimally conduct safety assessments, it allows pilots to chart their path — as Leonardo has charted theirs.
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