HAI Convention News

AgustaWestland Philadelphia Poised For Growth

 - February 25, 2014, 8:00 AM
AgustaWestland will begin assembling the AW169 twin at its Philadelphia facility in 2015 and plans to ramp production of that model up to 20 per year beginning in 2017. The AW169 is suited to support a wide range of missions including aerial escort, security operations, fire support and offshore operations.

AgustaWestland Philadelphia has experienced rapid growth in recent years and is planning for even more. The workforce at the plant has increased from 160 in 2005 to 560 today and workers there assemble the AW139 medium twin and the AW119Kx single for deliveries in North and South America. Since 2005, AW Philadelphia revenues have grown by $500 million to $717 million in 2012, about 18 percent of AW’s total revenues, when the plant assembled 36 AW139s and 12 AW119s. And that production is growing. Over the last five years, AW has built 150 AW139s in Philadelphia, and 45 percent of all helicopters built there are exported. It also provides major product and engineering support for AW; engineers at Philadelphia developed the AW119Kx with the Garmin G1000 avionics system and major options and modifications for the AW139.

Last year the company announced that it would begin assembling the new AW169 twin there in 2015 and planned to ramp production of that model up to 20 per year beginning in 2017. (The main AW169 assembly line will remain in Vergiate, Italy with major components produced at AW Yeovil, UK.) AW Philadelphia also is becoming an increasingly important part of AW’s overall global components sourcing.

The AW169 is the first serious challenge to Sikorsky’s S-76 dominance of the U.S. corporate market and AW Philadelphia president Bill Hunt thinks the AW169’s larger cabin and speed make it a serious contender. “More than anything else, our corporate and executive customers demand speed and ultimate levels of comfort in their helicopters,” Hunt told AIN. “We expect to grow our market share. The AW169 is unlike any other aircraft in its weight category, with regards to avionics upgrades, increased cabin and baggage space, greater power-to-weight ratios and use of composite materials in its airframe.”

The AW169 also remains a contender for U.S. DoD and parapublic roles as the bias for new helicopter acquisition programs is expected to shift to commercial off-the-shelf solutions for select applications. AgustaWestland already has had success with promoting the larger AW139 for these missions globally and with local and state governments in the U.S., and AW North America CEO Bob LaBelle sees no reason why this formula cannot be applied to the somewhat smaller AW169 as well. “Operators in Italy, UK, Spain, Estonia, Japan, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, are using the AW139 with great success for parapublic missions like border patrol and search and rescue,” he said. “Here in the U.S., our federal and state government AW139 operators include Customs and Border Protection, New Jersey State Police and the Maryland State Police, which take advantage of flexible configurations that allow for homeland security, law enforcement, EMS and search and rescue operations to be carried out using the same aircraft. Likewise, the AW169 is uniquely suited to support a wide range of missions including aerial escort, command and control, security operations, deep operations, target acquisition and targeting, and fire support coordination.”

AW has invested heavily in U.S.-based product support in recent years and finished second in AIN’s product support survey in 2013. There are 13 autorized service centers in the U.S, three in Canada, three in Mexico, one in Puerto Rico and one in Panama, all managed from Philadelphia. Additionally, AW has 20 tech reps working in the field throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico and 45 technicians available from AW’s Part 145 facility in Philadelphia where more can be drawn from production as needed. AW deploys technicians to assist customers with fleet integration and training and performing heavy field maintenance and repairs. Two mobile support trucks, one in the U.S. in partnership with Mecaer, and another in Mexico operated by Hawker, support these efforts. Philadelphia also partially supports operations in Brazil with AW Italy.

AW maintains an extensive parts inventory at Philadelphia as well as at its regional supply centers in Las Vegas and near the Gulf of Mexico. Plans also are in the works to build another supply center in Canada. Philadelphia also provides support and oversight of several different customer maintenance support plans.

AW Philadelphia also is home to the AgustaWestland Training Academy, staffed with 15 pilots, nine ground instructors, a business support staff and a senior training manager. AW Philadelphia instructors technicians are currently completing maintenance training on the AW169 and AW189 and will be ready to instruct and work on those aircraft by the time they are certified, the company said.

The training academy is currently equipped with one AW119, maintenance simulators for the AW119 and AW139, one AW139 full flight simulator (located nearby in Whippany, N.J.), two virtual interactive procedure trainers for the AW139 and AW109SP and spare parts for hands-on technician training. Training academy classrooms recently underwent thorough updating with the installation of smart boards, and the academy is developing new multimedia courses.