Manufacturer promises new booms for AW139

 - February 22, 2010, 9:06 AM

In the wake of the highly publicized tail-boom failure on a Gulf Airways AW139 last August 25, AgustaWestland has been quietly assuring customers with AW139s on order that it will begin equipping them with a new-design tail boom beginning next month. The boom on the Gulf AW139 failed while the aircraft was taxiing in Doha, Qatar, and there were no injuries. That boom exhibited signs of delamination, as have numerous other tail booms, according to operators who spoke to AIN. Some of the delamination is sufficiently severe to require replacement of the entire
tail boom. The incident prompted AgustaWestland to issue an Alert Service Bulletin outlining emergency and then repetitive inspection techniques for the AW139’s composite tail boom. The EASA and FAA later issued emergency Airworthiness Directives.

The AW139 airframe and components are made under contract by PZL Swidnik in Poland and Turkish Aerospace Industries. The new boom will employ a different composite technique and use an aluminum skin bonded to honeycomb, according to one U.S.-based AW139 customer who spoke to AIN. Not clear at this point is whether Agusta-Westland will offer the new-design boom to owners of existing AW139s and under what terms.

Operators contacted said that as of yet they have not been offered the new boom for existing helicopters. One said it was “a matter of ongoing negotiation” with AgustaWestland. On February 16, an AgustaWestland spokesman told AIN that the company would issue a statement regarding the AW139 tail boom “in the very near term.”

The $21 million medium twin has been a strong seller, particularly to oil and gas customers, since its introduction in 2003. More than 440 have been sold to almost 120 customers in more than 40 countries. U.S. customers include the Bristow Group, Department of Homeland Security, the Los Angeles (City) Fire Department, Era Helicopters and Evergreen Helicopters. The helicopter is assembled at AgustaWestland plants in Italy and Philadelphia.