EBACE Convention News

Leonardo Helicopters Plans Agusta-branded Service Centers

 - May 20, 2023, 4:00 AM

Leonardo is continuing to evolve its Agusta luxury sub-brand with plans to offer dedicated helicopter service centers in the coming years. The first likely will be in Europe, according to Manuela Barbarossa, Leonardo’s head of the VIP/corporate segment.

The company (Booth S58) launched the Agusta brand in 2021 following a similar move by rival Airbus in 2017, when that company announced Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH). Formed in Italy in 1923 by Giovanni Agusta, Agusta began manufacturing helicopters under license from other OEMs—most notably Bell starting in 1952—and began developing its own indigenous helicopter, the Agusta A109 light twin, in the late 1960s. It then merged with Britain’s Westland Helicopters in 2000 to form AgustaWestland. The company was rebranded as Leonardo Helicopters in 2017, a nod to Italian inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci. 

Eighteen months after Leonardo announced its Agusta VIP brand, the company is beginning to attach features and benefits to it, including the “Agusta for You” menu of custom-tailored completions, maintenance, and operational solutions. Available maintenance plans under the program cover scheduled and unscheduled events for both airframe and avionics. “Effectively, it provides customers with a turnkey solution in terms of coverage,” Barbarossa said. Plans are available for the company’s complete line of helicopters, typically billed on a per-flight-hour basis, and can include features such as substitute aircraft. 

Concurrently with program evolution, Leonardo is adding more Agusta-branded dealers, including long-time Leonardo dealer Sloane Helicopters in the UK and Ireland. Leonardo is now the largest corporate/VIP helicopter manufacturer in the UK. Over three decades, it has delivered 91 helicopters to Sloane, and it plans to turn over another 10 through this summer.

Barbarossa said the Agusta brand is likewise making inroads in Turkey and South America. Leonardo announced recent orders for three AW109 GrandNew and Trekker light twins into the South American market.

These VIP-configured helicopters were sold to SynerJet Latina, a new distributor responsible for Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Paraguay, with deliveries slated for 2024 and 2025. Of the more than 900 Leonardo VIP/corporate helicopters flying worldwide, approximately 25 percent are based in Latin America.

While the AW139 intermediate twin continues to be the VIP ride of choice among the company's offerings, Barbarossa said interest is picking up for some of Leonardo’s other models, including the AW169, super-medium AW189, and AW609 civil tiltrotor.

The AW609 is winding its way through the final stages of certification and interest in that model is expected to increase once certification has been achieved. At Heli-Expo 2023 in March, Leonardo managing director Gian Piero Cutillo admitted that an order for four AW609s from an unnamed European customer, announced last year, was the largest contract it had received for the type.

Cutillo also said that the recently announced switch of engines on the AW09 (formerly Kopter SH09) single, from the Honeywell HTS900 to the Safran Arriel 2K, would delay certification by no more than six months to one year. Fitted with the new engine, the AW09 PS4 prototype made its first flight in March at Leonardo’s Mollis, Switzerland facility.

Leonardo said it received “preliminary” orders for 50 AW09s to date and predicted the order book could reach 200 by the time serial production starts in mid-2024. Barbarossa said she expected the AW09 to appeal to Agusta customers due to its low noise signature and smooth ride from a redesigned five-blade main rotor system. The aircraft made its first flight in 2014 and subsequently went through several major redesigns.