HAI Convention News

Japanese firm buys a dozen AW139 twins

 - September 28, 2006, 10:12 AM

Mitsui Bussan Aerospace of Japan planned to announce this morning it has signed a contract valued at approximately $100 million for the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters. Deliveries are scheduled to begin next year.

This latest order is in addition to three AW139 helicopters for Mitsui Bussan that were already delivered to Japan for special modifications and which will be entering service in the near future with the Tokyo metropolitan police. And it brings the AW139 order book to nearly 170 ships. Of that total, 30 are in service.

Era Helicopters of Lake Charles, La., recently accepted the third of a 20-ship order for AW139s. While formal acceptance ceremonies are scheduled for later today at Heli-Expo’06, the actual aircraft is already in service in the Gulf of Mexico.

The AW139 entered service last year with Era, operating in the Gulf of Mexico, and with CHC Helicopter of Richmond, British Columbia, operating in the North Sea.

Already developing a reputation as a rugged and reliable platform, the AW139 has found employment in a variety or roles, in particular law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical service and offshore support of the petroleum and gas industry.

The contract signing here at Heli-Expo’06 also marked an agreement between the two parties making Mitsui Bussan an exclusive AgustaWestland distributor. The latest order for AW139s, said AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi, makes Mitsui Bussan “one of the largest distributors.”

With the success of the AW139, pressure to meet demand has prompted the company to build a new manufacturing facility in Philadelphia devoted to production of the AW139. The $27 million, 110,000-sq-ft facility is scheduled for completion by year-end.

Also expected to come online before the end of the year is an AW139 full-flight, level-D simulator at the new Rotorsim facilities in Sesto Calende, Italy. Rostim is a joint venture set up by AgustaWestland and Canadian simulator specialist CAE. The new simulator will provide type and recurrent training for pilots and maintenance personnel.

Those watching the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, where American skier Lindsey Kildow crashed during a downhill training run, may have seen the AW139 in action. It was being used by Italian operator Air Green in a search-and-rescue/emergency medical service role during the games.

But the AW139 is not AgustaWestland’s only success. The company has also announced that the Phoenix Police Air Support Unit recently accepted the first of three A119 Koalas configured with new, high-tech mission-specific electronic equipment. Delivery of the A119 came just a few months after delivery of an A109 Power to the Phoenix police and fire departments.

Farther abroad, AgustaWestland had received an order for the A109S Grand, a growth variant of the A109 Power. The first Grand to be sold in the Philippines, it will join 10 other A109 variants already in service there.

The Grand was developed to “meet a wide range of roles, providing the cabin space and payload that until now could only be met by larger more expensive helicopter,” said the company. The Grand order book is approaching 60 aircraft.