HAI Convention News

Leonardo Progresses on Multiple Program Fronts

 - March 7, 2023, 8:39 AM
(Photo: Mariano Rosales)

Leonardo senior executives at Heli-Expo said the company’s rotorcraft development programs are making solid progress while admitting that some prices and wait times have doubled along the supply chain company-wide. However, military sales offset Covid-generated disruptions in civil helicopter production, including the marketing of civil platforms for military and para-public applications on the AW119 and AW139, the latter with a combined fleet that has amassed more than 3.6 million flight hours. In what is perhaps Leonardo’s most successful dual-use program to date, Boeing announced on Tuesday that the first batch of 13 production MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters will commence manufacture. In the U.S. Air Force program, Boeing takes a new-build Leonardo AW139 manufactured in Philadelphia and adds military modifications and mission equipment. Up to 84 MH-139As could be produced during the course of the entire program, the value of which could reach $2.4 billion.

Meanwhile, refinement of in-production aircraft continues, including the development of more than 200 kits for the AW189 super-medium model. 

On the development side, Leonardo reported that the AW609 civil tiltrotor has reached the “final stages of certification” as the FAA prepares to initiate type inspection authorization (TIA) flight tests. Along with the test fleet, three customer aircraft remain in final assembly. However, under questioning, managing director Gian Piero Cutillo admitted that an order for four AW609s from an unnamed European customer, announced at last year’s Heli-Expo, was the largest contract it had received for the type.

Assembly of the larger Next Generation Civil Tiltrotor (NGCTR) technology demonstrator, largely funded by the European Union’s CleanSky 2 program, has begun and could be completed next year. While the AW609 can seat up to nine passengers (utility configuration), the NGCTR would seat between 19 and 22. 

Cutillo also said that the recently announced switch of engines on the AW09 (formerly Kopter) single, from the Honeywell HTS900 to the Safran Arriel 2K, would delay certification by no more than six months to one year. 

Leonardo (Booth B1005) also continues to make progress on the development of a variety of digital and virtual reality products including an enhanced training device and an extended reality simulator. The latter will appear on display in the company’s booth at Heli-Expo. The company designed it to serve the light helicopter market.