Paris Air Show

Innovation Infects AgustaWestland Trio

 - June 20, 2013, 10:40 AM
Robert Farnese, AgustaWestland, market positioning and promotion manager

Innovation at AgustaWestland, according to Robert Farnese, company market positioning and promotion manager, comprises two elements. “First, you need to have an idea that works,” he told a Paris Air Show audience on Tuesday. “Second, you have to execute that idea.” He then added a caveat: “You must also master the present and have a vision for the future.”

That present and future for AgustaWestland (Chalet A260) is currently manifested in a helicopter family that includes the AW169 (mtow about 9,900 pounds), the AW139 (mtow14,991 pounds) and the AW189 (mtow about 17,600 pounds). The AW139 has been in production since 2004 (with more than 500 delivered), four AW189 flight-test aircraft have flown about 1,600 hours and the model is expected to be certified by the end of this year and the AW169 made its first flight in May and has accumulated some 300 hours. Certification is expected in 2014.

Farnese gave other examples of the helicopter OEM’s recent innovative achievements, including the success of AW139 itself (a leader in the intermediate helicopter segment, he said), a new AW189 main gear box, which has demonstrated in tests that it has run-dry capability for as long as 50 minutes, general avionics and systems integration and Project Zero, the all-electric, technology demonstrator with dual movable and shrouded main rotors in a tandem configuration. (The latter is in AgustaWestland’s static display area at the Paris Air Show).

By design, the three-model AgustaWestland family has a very similar look, both outside and inside. The models have different weights and capabilities, of course, but they have the “same DNA,” said Farnese. All are streamlined for performance, have a high tail rotor for safety, a minimized total footprint and reduced D-values. (The D value is a measurement equal to the overall length of a helicopter from the front of the rotor disc area to the rear of the tailrotor disc area.)

Inside, the cabins of all these helicopters have flat floors, flat constant-height ceilings and large cabin doors. “All the cabin space is usable,” Farnese said, “and all the cabins can be reconfigured quickly.”

From the pilot’s perspective, the cockpits are fully digital with a more-or-less common layout, are ergonomically designed and have “exceptional visibility,” or more correctly, fields of view. It should be noted that the AW139 has Honeywell avionics, while the AW169 and AW189 will have Rockwell Collins avionics. In fact, here in Paris, Rockwell Collins announced that it has launched the new HeliSure avionics family. AgustaWestland has selected the first two products of this family, Helicopter Synthetic Vision System (H-SVS) and Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (H-Taws), for its AW149, AW189, AW101 and AW169 helicopters.

Farnese offered a quote from an AgustaWestland test pilot: “There is a sense of familiarity in the cockpits…everything is designed to reduce the work load for the pilot.”

The helicopters do or will meet the latest FAA and EASA Part 29 standards, as well as oil-and-gas industry standards, which are considered the most demanding in the industry. Thus, these rotorcraft have crashworthy airframes, enough emergency exits so there are no more than two people per exit and main gear boxes that will keep running for at least 30 minutes after losing all oil.

To help reduce the costs of maintenance, support and training, AgustaWestland promises up to 20 percent commonality of parts among the three models, up to 30 percent commonality of ground-support and maintenance equipment and up to 40 percent reduction in training time from one model to another. (“Up to” is an obvious qualifier to this guarantee.)

While AgustaWestland plans to apply its family innovation concept to future models, Farnese could not say whether the concept would be retrofitted to in-production helicopters or to the AW609 tiltrotor.