Leonardo’s AW09 “is at the center” of the company’s efforts to assess hybrid propulsion for helicopters, with full-scale bench testing scheduled for 2023 and first flight of a hybrid AW09 prototype slated for “a couple of years later,” a spokesman told AIN. The company has already completed a feasibility analysis, defined system architecture, and begun the development of different subsystems with selected technology partners.
Research on the hybrid AW09 will be supported by Leonardo’s network of authorized service and logistics centers in more than 40 countries, as well as company training academies in Italy, the UK, U.S., and Malaysia.
Meanwhile, flight testing continues on the turbine-powered AW09 prototype, which has a single Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engine. To date, the AW09 prototypes have logged some 500 flight hours.
Following Leonardo's acquisition of Kopter Group for $185 million in 2020, the company acquired the single turbine helicopter program—formerly known as the Kopter SKYe SH09—bringing substantial engineering, production, and marketing resources to the project. Last year, it revamped the prototype’s design with an elongated mast, updated flight controls, Garmin G3000H avionics, revised upper cowlings for improved aerodynamics, and a new main rotor hub and blades.
The new rotor blades are scheduled to undergo flight trials beginning in March on test aircraft PS4, followed later this year by PS5. A Leonardo spokesman told AIN that “these two prototypes are the main workhorses for the certification flight-test campaign and will be complemented by [an earlier flight test aircraft] P3 for those test topics for which the aircraft is considered representative of the type design.”