AgustaWestland continues work on AW139 upgrade

 - July 8, 2008, 9:24 AM

AgustaWestland is making several improvements to its AW139 medium twin, including flight-testing a de-icing system. Dubbed the full ice protection system (FIPS), the optional equipment is intended to earn the AW139 dual FAA/EASA certification for flight into known icing conditions. This milestone is expected late next year or during the first quarter of 2010.

The FIPS includes ice detectors to warn the crew ice is accumulating. “Air data sensors and the engine intakes are protected from ice build-up and ingestion,” according to the company. The main and tail rotor blades are fitted with electrically heated mats, and the windshield has its own heating subsystem. The crew must activate the rotor and windshield de-icing.

Currently in flight tests, an AW139 equipped with a development FIPS flies behind a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook. The latter carries a rail that sprays water as soon as the outside air temperature is capable of creating icing conditions for the AW139.

The company is also conducting tests in Chinook-sprayed ice “to demonstrate the system’s reliability and effectiveness.”

AgustaWestland emphasized that the range of icing conditions encountered during the trials is much wider than that encountered in typical operating environments. It is also conducting tests with artificial ice shapes.

An AgustaWestland spokesman noted that certification of the FIPS will be a boon for sales in Russia, where the company has great hopes for the AW139. So far, AgustaWestland has received orders for “more than 330” AW139s from about 80 customers in 30 countries.

AgustaWestland is also about to announce an mtow increase, from 14,100 to 15,000 pounds, but no further details were available.