A grand day out

 - March 22, 2007, 8:25 AM

At Farnborough, AgustaWestland unveiled yet another, long-anticipated evolution of the A109–a stretched and higher-power model dubbed the A109S Grand. Leonardo Monti, who leads the company’s civil marketing effort, described the eight-seat, 7,000-pound aircraft as “an intermediate twin with light-twin economics.”

The new variant, which fills the performance gap between the A109 Power and AB139, is pitched to compete with Eurocopter’s EC 145 and Bell’s new 427i, as well as larger machines such as the N3 Dauphin and Bell 430. According to AgustaWestland, it offers 90 percent of the capacity of those helicopters at a much lower cost.

AgustaWestland has calculated (using, it says, the same methods as Conklin and de Decker) a “variable cost per hour” figure of $615.24, compared with quoted figures for the Euro-copter AS 365N3 ($969.38), the Bell 430 ($782.06) and the EC 145 ($747.17).

The Grand has been flying for 18 months but Monti admitted it was hard to pin down an exact date for the first flight. “We flew the rotors, transmission and PW207C engines at different times.” Agusta claims power ratings of 735 shp each for takeoff, 815 shp OEI for 2.5 minutes and 625 shp each max continuous. Upgraded aerodynamics deliver a cruise speed of about 155 knots.