Although Turkey announced its selection of the AgustaWestland A129 for its tactical reconnaissance and attack helicopter program in March, it took until September 7 to finalize a contract whereby the Anglo-Italian rotorcraft maker will participate in Turkey’s ATAK program in partnership with prime contractor Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI).
Brazilian-based Synergy Aerospace has ordered 12 AgustaWestland helicopters, including AW109 Powers, Grands and AW139s. They will be used in corporate, executive and offshore transport. The contract is part of a 2006 framework agreement. Meanwhile, Spanish marine safety agency Sasemar has ordered two additional AW139s in search-and-rescue (SAR) configuration, to be used for SAR and water-pollution detection.
The UK government is investigating GKN’s $1.79 billion (£1 billion) sale of its 50-percent stake in helicopter company AgustaWestland on grounds of national security. Government trade and industry minister Helen Smith has issued a European Intervention Notice under the 2002 Enterprise Act.
AgustaWestland appointed former Bell CEO John Murphey to run Agusta-WestlandBell (AWB), the joint-venture company formed to manage the US-101 helicopter program. The US-101 and Sikorsky S-92 are the two finalists in the competition to replace the current fleet of Marine One helicopters that carry the President.
Italy’s Finmeccanica, which owns 50 percent of AgustaWestland, reportedly plans to become sole owner of the Anglo-Italian helicopter company by buying London-based GKN’s 50-percent share. The statement came at GKN’s annual meeting, where stakeholders blamed AgustaWestland for causing interim profits to fall “somewhat below” those achieved a year before.
Italian-based manufacturer AgustaWestland early last month expressed interest in buying all or part of its Polish-based counterpart, PZL-Swidnik, should Polish authorities confirm their intention to privatize the company. The two companies have been cooperating for 11 years. PZL-Swidnik now produces the fuselages of five AgustaWestland models–the AW109 Power and Grand, AW109 LUH, AW119 Ke and AW139.
Business/VIP helicopter owners are increasingly demanding more cabin comfort and equipment. Helicopter manufacturers enjoying a booming market for their products are thus endeavoring to make their interiors look more like those of business jets.
The AgustaWestland/Bell/Lockheed Martin VH-71 made its first flight July 3 in Yeovil, UK. The 40-minute flight reached speeds of 135 knots and was reportedly uneventful, but there are likely challenges ahead for the program. The U.S. Navy is developing the VH-71 as a replacement for the 30-year-old Sikorsky VH-3Ds and somewhat newer N-60 “Whitehawks” that transport the President and other high-ranking government officials.
AgustaWestland has delivered two helicopters–one AW109 Power light twin and one AW139 medium twin–to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. These two aircraft are part of a June 2006 order, which includes two CA109 Powers to be produced by AgustaWestland’s local joint venture with AVIC II. The CA109s are said to be in the final assembly phase at Jiangxi Change Agusta Helicopter facilities.
AgustaWestland has designated Kaigai Aviotech of Japan to sell the AW119 Ke, AW109 Power and Grand in the Japanese commercial market. The two companies also agreed to establish a maintenance and support center for AgustaWestland helicopters in Japan.