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Leonardo is test flying a prototype AW169 equipped with skids in preparation for the launch of a kit that will be available for both military and commercial markets.
The prototype aircraft was pictured during test flights equipped with the skids as well as an unsual adaptation to its horizontal stabilizer, with the vertical fins at either end curving inwards.
“Skids provide a further option for the global market leveraging the outstanding versatility by design and growth potential of the AW169,” said a Leonardo spokesperson in an emailed response for comment.
“The addition of skids to the available customized options of the AW169 is intended to meet market needs in both the military and public service domains.”
The skids will provide a third landing gear option for AW169 operators, following existing retractable wheeled landing gear, and fixed wheeled landing gear.
They will be offered as a certified kit for military and commercial customers. Skid-configured AW169s have already been ordered for military and homeland security duties in Italy, the spokesperson added. The Italian Army’s AW169 LUH multirole helicopter will have skids, they confirmed.
The Italian LUHs are expected to be delivered in 2023, The spokesperson said other operators have also asked for skids, and the kit may be available earlier than that.
At HAI Heli-Expo 2014, Leonardo unveiled the AW109 Trekker, which added skids to the AW109’s airframe. Certified in Europe in 2017, the adaptation has proved extremely popular, with Leonardo selling more than 70 of the variant.