AB139 on track for certification

 - May 7, 2008, 5:42 AM

With the Italian government still investigating the cause of the April 22 crash of a prototype Bell/Agusta AB139 helicopter near Monteleone, Rimini, in northern Italy, work toward certification is progressing. Unofficial accounts of the accident investigation point to human factors instead of mechanical failure during a high altitude, low airspeed flight.

The first production AB139, in flight test since last June, will soon be joined by a second and third, before securing certification early next year. More than 500 hours of flight test have been concluded, meeting such milestones as Category A, hot-and-high performance and flight in excess of its design top speed (185 kt, or 1.1 Vne). Cruise speed at mtow is 157 kt. Sideways and backward speeds up to 54 kt have been achieved (45 kt is the target certification speed).

Orders for 22 AB139s have been taken thus far, with the helicopter carrying a price tag of $7 million in a single/dual pilot IFR configuration.