AgustaWestland bond strengthens

 - September 28, 2006, 2:14 PM

At the AgustaWestland breakfast yesterday, company president Giuseppe Orsi emphasized the continued integration of the two companies– Agusta and Westland–and the importance of a single corporate face in the marketplace. Both owned by Finmeccanica, the two were officially merged into a single unit in 2000, but full integration of resources has been slow to develop.

“We are accelerating the integration of our companies to fully exploit the power of our unity,” Orsi said. “There will be unified responsibilities in the operation as well as in the supporting functions across geographies.”

But at the same time, he stressed that the integration will take into consideration specific customer’s national interests and obligations. “While global, we want also to be American in the U.S. and British in the UK.”

Part of the integration process is a rebranding that will present all its facilities as AgustaWestland, followed by the place of business. For example, the new plant being built in Philadelphia will be known as AgustaWestland Philadelphia. Also, all new helicopter product model numbers, starting with the 139, will carry the AW prefix.

Stressing the global nature of Agusta-Westland, Orsi noted that work is well under way on its new plant in Philadelphia, “as a further commitment to our United States customer base.” The $27 million, 110,000-sq-ft plant is scheduled for completion by year-end. When it goes online, it will double the current Philadelphia workforce to more than 300. It will also allow AgustaWestland to substantially increase its AW139 production to meet customer demand.

On the military side, AgustaWestland is partnered with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems of Waco, Texas, to present the AW139 as a candidate for the U.S. Army’s light utility helicopter program. Pratt & Whitney Canada and Honeywell are also partners in this effort.

AgustaWestland announced a strategic partnership agreement with the UK’s Ministry of Defense and selection of its Future Lynx as the medium helicopter of a new generation for land and naval missions of the British armed services.

Orsi made reference to AgustaWestland’s winning bid to develop its EH101 for the U.S. Presidential fleet. The company is working with U.S. partners Lockheed Martin, Bell and General Electric in development of the “increment one” variant.

He also noted, “We are close to the preliminary definition of the AW149, a 7.5-ton military utility helicopter.” More details, he said, will be forthcoming at the Farnborough Air Show in July.

Discussing the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor program, Orsi said the target is certification no later than the spring of 2010. “We at AgustaWestland believe in the potential of this tiltrotor program,” he said, and added, “We are sure that [partners] Bell and Textron demonstrate the same confidence in the program we do, dedicating to it the necessary priority in terms of resources.”

Bruno Spagnolini, AgustaWestland managing director for commercial programs, offered those attending the breakfast more specifics as to the company’s place in a world market. A 2005 overview showed an increase in orders, expressed in value total, of 100 percent over 2004. And last year, the company took 162 orders and delivered 121 aircraft. Orders for the new Agusta A109 Grand now exceed 60, and plans are to increase production of the light twin to 22 aircraft this year and 25 next year.

One day, concluded Orsi, AgustaWestland will become synonymous with helicopters and vertical flight. “You can bet on it.”