Russia’s Oboronprom Corporation and AgustaWestland announced the signing of a heads of agreement for the joint final assembly of the AW139 medium twin helicopter in a still-to-be-built factory near Moscow. According to Oboronprom director general Andrey Reus, outlined plans call for a production rate of 24 helicopters per year.
Both companies aim to have a Russian-assembled AW139 on the market in 2010. The cooperation plans they revealed in May are therefore taking shape quickly. “The ‘heads of agreement’ is the last step before a detailed agreement. We are still discussing workshares, territories etc.,” Reus said.
On another note, AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi answered comments made the day before by his Bell colleagues about their joint BA609 Tiltrotor program. A Bell executive hinted that the U.S. firm now looks favorably upon the transfer of more work to AgustaWestland. “We are working with Bell to optimize the program; our goal is to certify the Tiltrotor as soon as possible,” Orsi said.
Pressed on the possible development of an improved performance variant of the Grand– the SP version–Orsi did not deny the rumor. “We always work to upgrade our products but we do not introduce them until they are ready,” he stated. Orsi also said BERP IV technology, now available on the AW101 medium/heavy tri-engine helicopter, will “sometime, somehow” be introduced to other models in AgustaWestland’s range.
On the Future Lynx program, the funding of which has been questioned, business managing director Graham Cole said there exists “no limitation on the program whatsoever.” He insisted on technical progress, pointing out the Future Lynx has gone through a critical design review recently. “It was as good as it could be,” he emphasized.
The Anglo-Italian firm yesterday announced a new sale. Greek civil engineering company Michaniki has ordered a Grand light twin in VIP configuration. AgustaWestland has received 230 orders for the Grand since it was launched here in 2004 as a stretched A109. Meanwhile, the AW139 has reached the 350-order mark. AgustaWestland’s production plans call for increasing production from 128 helicopters in 2005 to 260 in 2010.
Three parallel efforts have been launched in customer support. In response to fleet growth and to improve responsiveness, AgustaWestland has launched expansion works at its logistic centers in Italy, Belgium and the U.S. These have been networked with new centers in Malaysia and Brazil. Logistic centers supply 60 authorized service centers. AgustaWestland is to open one such service center in Russia.
AgustaWestland last year invested 11 percent of its revenues in research and development. It is a co-leader (with archrival Eurocopter) of the CleanSky joint technology initiative, a major European research program, and is studying active blade control to cut noise. It plans ground testing of an active blade segment, then wind tunnel testing of a complete model and eventually flight-testing of such a new rotor. Also, AgustaWestland is working within CleanSky on replacing hydraulics with electric systems. Considered, too, are fuel cells in lieu of auxiliary power units on medium and heavy helicopters.