AgustaWestland revealed yet another new helicopter yesterday in Farnborough– the twin-engine, 4.5-metric ton AW169. Nestling between the GrandNew and AW139 in the company’s product line, the AW169 (shown here as a mockup) is aimed primarily at the government, parapublic and commercial markets, offering an eight- to 10-seat cabin that can be rapidly reconfigured for a variety of roles.
“The AW169 keeps us in line with the latest market needs, and ahead of our competitors,” said AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi, presiding over the unveiling. “We are unveiling the AW169 here at Farnborough because of the real and exciting potential this aircraft will have for the UK in terms of the market, and industrially. Our company’s commitment to the UK industrial base, I believe, is widely recognized, and the AW169 is another opportunity for the UK to support and participate in a major new program,” he said.
That opportunity was recognized by the presence of Vince Cable, UK secretary of state for business, innovation and science, who said at the unveiling, “The AW169 is indeed an exciting project that will sustain and grow our domestic high technology engineering and manufacturing base into the future.”
However, just how much involvement the UK arm of AgustaWestland will have in the AW169 is dependent partly on whether there are significant orders from within the UK.
AW’s Yeovil facility is already participating in the design, development and eventual production of some systems where it has considerable expertise, notably the transmission and blades.
Furthermore, AgustaWestland forecasts sales of 900 to 1,000 helicopters over the next 20 years, which would necessitate the establishment of a second assembly line. If sufficient sales can be made in the UK, then Yeovil would join the Italian production line in building the aircraft, allowing it to also benefit from building aircraft for export. Graham Cole, Agusta-Westland’s managing director, put it simply: “The more [orders] we get from the UK, the more work we do in the UK.”
During the unveiling, Cole announced the formation of a team to begin marketing the AW169 to UK parapublic agencies. “If they buy AW169s,” he told AIN, “they’ll be putting jobs into the UK and not elsewhere, and helping with the balance of trade.”
AW169 on Show
What was revealed yesterday in mockup form is the outcome of the XX9 project that AgustaWestland has talked about since at least 2008. The detailed specifications of the twin-engine AW169 have yet to be finalized, but should be completed in time to be revealed at the Heli-Expo exhibition next March in the U.S.
The company is coy about the planned date for the helicopter’s first flight, but said it is aiming toward an FAA/EASA Part 29 certification and service-entry in the 2014 to 2015 timeframe. AW has selected the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210 turboshaft engine to power the type, although alternative powerplants could be offered at some point.
The AW169 is being developed to provide good hot-and-high capability, and has a heavy-duty design so it can handle a range of operations, including military applications. Prospective customers include law enforcement and security agencies, including those with special forces, search-and-rescue organizations and emergency medical responders. The type also has natural applications in the commercial world, both onshore and offshore.