Leonardo’s AW109 light twin turned 50 on Wednesday. Originally designated the A109, the light twin helicopter made its first flight on Aug. 4, 1971, and was the company’s (then known as Agusta) first autonomous design. The helicopter entered service in 1976 and since then more than 1,600, including updated variants, have been sold in more than 50 countries.
The original 2.4-tonne model featured a four-blade articulated main rotor, semi-rigid two-blade tail rotor, and retractable landing gear with seating for eight. A logistics center established in Philadelphia to support the A109 would eventually grow into the large assembly, support, engineering, test, and training center for a variety of Leonardo models, including the new AW609 civil tiltrotor.
Larger and more contemporary three-tonne class models derived from the A109 include the Power, Grand, GrandNew, and Trekker. They also encompass military and government variants, including the LUH and Nexus. The newer designs feature modern digital avionics, revised cabins, enhanced aerodynamics, new engines, and main undercarriage options, including an offering on the Trekker that substitutes skids instead of wheeled gear.