The latest variant of Agusta Westland’s AW101 medium-lift helicopter is appearing at the Paris Air Show for the first time here this week, raising the new variant’s international profile and helping the manufacturer promote new business with the likes of Fittipaldi Aircraft, a joint venture between car racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi and investment bank State Capital.
The Pentagon is increasing production of the General Atomics Predator and Reaper armed UAVs and withdrawing 250 strike aircraft. The long-awaited statement on the U.S. Fiscal Year 2010 budget by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed an end to F-22 production at 187 aircraft, offset by a slight advance in the pace of the F-35 program.
Executives at two of the world’s largest helicopter makers insisted at Heli-Expo that the industry can continue to flourish even in the face of a severe economic downturn.
Citing a backlog of more than ?10 billion ($12.8 billion) and increases in both revenue and orders during the first nine months of 2008 compared to the same period the year before, AgustaWestland executives on Saturday night said they remain “reasonably and realistically optimistic” about the future of their company as well as that of the industry at large.
Intense speculation surrounds the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 U.S. defense budget submission, which is now being deliberated in secret within the Pentagon. According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, difficult choices must be made. The spotlight has fallen on two aerospace programs: whether to buy any more F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, and whether to abandon the VH-71 Presidential helicopter program.
The first of five “block one” new production presidential helicopters arrived at Lockheed Martin’s Owego, N.Y. facility last month for systems integration, paint and interior. The VH-71s are based on the AgustaWestland EH-101 and will be operated by the Marine Corps. A follow-on “block two” of 23 additional helicopters with more advanced capabilities will join the fleet beginning in 2013. Block one helicopters also include four test aircraft.
The program to provide new VIP helicopters for the U.S. president has taken a step forward with first flight of an “operational pilot-production example” of the Lockheed Martin VH-71. The three-engine helicopter, which is based on the AgustaWestland AW101 (born as the European Helicopter Industries EH 101), had its maiden flight at the AgustaWestland factory in Yeovil, England, on September 23.
The first production model of a new generation of Marine One U.S. Presidential helicopters made its initial flight earlier today at AgustaWestland’s plant in Yeovil, England. Designated by the U.S. Navy as VH-71, the helicopter is based on the three-engine AW101. The first block of five helicopters is scheduled to begin entering service next year. The Navy has been test flying four prototype block one aircraft over the past year.
Sikorsky President Jeff Pino describes his vision for a “self-actualized” helicopter, discusses the technology of the X2, tells what Sikorsky is doing to increase production capacity and comments (briefly) on the new VH-71 presidental helicopter. Click here to view.
Asia accounted for about 20 percent of AgustaWestland’s orders last year and the European helicopter maker therefore sees the region as a growing market. The booming Chinese economy is a big factor in this assessment, as is the European helicopter maker’s presence in the People’s Republic through an expanding relationship with the Chinese aerospace industry.