Limited funding for the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 presidential helicopter, which is based on the three-engine AgustaWestland AW101, has made it into the final FY2010 U.S. defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3326), reviving the machine’s chances of one day flying the President. At the direction of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Pentagon terminated the program on May 15 last year.
Capitol Hill observers expect the House and Senate conference committee on defense appropriations to issue its final report this week. In it could be included some $129 million designated for the VH-71 presidential helicopter program.
Poland-based PZL-Swidnik late in October delivered its 1,000th helicopter fuselage–an
AgustaWestland last week achieved two significant milestones, with the first flights of two new military helicopter designs on consecutive days. First to fly was the AW159 Lynx Wildcat, which lifted off on Thursday at Yeovil in the UK. The aircraft performed “as expected” in general handling checks, according to chief test pilot Donald Maclaine.
The future of the VH-71 presidential helicopter program neared the wire last month as Congress worked to pass a final 2010 defense appropriations bill that the President would sign before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. If the bill is not signed into law by then, Congress would need to pass a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the Department of Defense. As AIN went to press, the bill had not yet become law.
Four new AW139s destined for Trinidad and Tobago are the latest in a series of U.S.-manufactured helicopters whose export loans are being backed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The Ex-Im reports guaranteeing through July more than $200 million in U.S. commercial helicopter export loans for aircraft destined for markets in the Americas and Asia.
In the latest annual AIN Product Support Survey, released yesterday, readers rated Gulfstream number one overall for both newer and older business jet support, while Pilatus ranked highest for new turboprops and Mitsubishi topped the rankings for older turboprops. In the newer jets category, Cessna came in second, followed by Boeing BBJ in third place.
The AgustaWestland A109E, owned by the New Mexico State Department of Public Safety and operated by the New Mexico State Police, had just rescued a lost hiker after a search near Baldy Mountain and was returning to Sante Fe when it collided with the side of a mountain in IMC shortly before dusk on June 9. Clouds, strong gusty winds, heavy rain and sleet were reported in the area at the time of the crash.
After a difficult period in which the whole program’s future lay in doubt, AgustaWestland’s Future Lynx has emerged with a new name–AW159 Lynx Wildcat–and renewed optimism. The aircraft was selected by the UK Ministry of Defence in May 2006 to fulfill its battlefield reconnaissance helicopter requirement for the British Army, and a surface combatant maritime rotorcraft requirement for the Royal Navy.
Italy’s Servozi Elicotteristici Italiani (SEI) is exhibiting its new Silens cabin and noise-abatement system for the AgustaWestland AW139 VIP on static display here.