Leonardo is developing two performance packages for the AW169 medium twin that will increase engine shaft horsepower (shp), transmission rating, and available payload. The "Enhanced" and “Superior” performance packs rely on software updates and minor aerodynamic modifications to deliver increased performance. Leonardo expects EASA approval for the packages by the end of 2020 and will make them available on new deliveries and as a retrofit to existing helicopters beginning in 2021.
Retrofit pricing was not disclosed, but a company spokesman said he expected the retrofits to require 16 man-hours of labor. Available payload would increase from 440 to 770 pounds, depending on phase of flight and external conditions; more than 770 pounds for hovering, over 660 pounds for CAT. A-PC1 operations, and 440 pounds for one-engine-inoperative (OEI) hover. Shortly after initial EASA certification approval for the helicopter, Leonardo certified the AW169 for a maximum gross weight increase from 4.6 to 4.8 tons in 2016. That increased-gross-weight kit upped the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight from 10,141 to 10,582 pounds, a capability that could add up to 100 nm of additional range from the original ferry range of 431 nm (no reserve).
Leonardo’s Samuele Tosi, head of product marketing for dual-use helicopters, said the performance packs produce an increase of approximately 144 shp on the 1,000-shp Pratt & Whitney PW210A Fadec-controlled engines, and an increased transmission rating of approximately 150 shp. He said the differences between the packages is price and the amount of shp increase—with the Enhanced pack delivering approximately two-thirds the power increase of the Superior pack. He said the power increases would give the AW169 “the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class.
“The AW169 is designed to surpass customers’ expectations and set a new market standard within its category,” Tosi said, adding that it appeals to a wide variety of customers, including those upgrading from Part 27 helicopters (up to 7,000 pounds MTOW) and those switching from older, larger twins, including the BK117 and Bell 412. “Those designs are now showing their age,” he said.
Customers not only appreciate the AW169 and its newer design standards; more are attracted to it because of its flexible, multi-mission capabilities and quick-change configurations, a Leonardo spokesman told AIN. As an example, he pointed out the fleet of three AW169s acquired by Travis County, Texas, that will be used for a combination of firefighting, EMS, and law-enforcement missions. He also noted that the AW169 received military certification last year. “The market is showing increased interest in a range of missions. This upgrade provides a wide variety of applications spanning from civil to parapublic to military in all weather conditions.” The spokesman said that the helicopter had seen “very interesting success in more niche applications” such as wind farm support and electronic newsgathering in Japan.
Since the AW169 was first certified by EASA in 2015, more than 100 of these helicopters have been delivered and over 220 have been ordered. The in-service fleet has logged 45,000 flight hours with the fleet leader surpassing 2,000 hours. The aircraft features Collins glass-panel touchscreen avionics with capabilities that include a four-axis digital automatic flight control system and a dual flight-management system.
Top cruising speed is 155 knots, and the 222-cu-ft cabin can accommodate seven to 10 passengers. The aircraft is manufactured at Leonardo’s plant in Vergiate, Italy.