Thanks to Andrea PINTO and Tiziano CAPENTI for these images of the Leonardo AW109E Power CSX81963 … wearing large sticker “A109E 11847 LAST ONE” in Vergiate (VA), June 2019 … and wearing the full Nigeria Air Force colors in Venegono, October 2019.
Thanks to Marco TOSO for these unique images of the third Leonardo AW169 just delivered to Weststar NDD Srl as I-WNDC. The helicopter was pictured during the first stop of her long delivery flight to Equatorial Guinea. Milan Malpensa, October 2019.
PRESS RELEASE – Argentina, 25 September, 2019 – Airbus Helicopters has reached new heights: the latest version of the H145 has set its skids down on the Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, culminating at 6,962 metres (22,840 feet). This is the first time a twin-engine helicopter has landed at this altitude, confirming the performance and the extensive flight envelope of the new H145.
The conditions for this mission were extreme, due to the atmospheric conditions in the area and the winter season. The aircraft took off from Mendoza, Argentina, flew 30 minutes to the foot of the Aconcagua where it began its ascension. After 15 minutes of climbing, the helicopter landed at 1.45 pm on the summit, at a temperature of -22ºC. The crew onboard the helicopter consisted of Alexander Neuhaus, experimental test pilot and Antoine van Gent, experimental flight test engineer.
“We had to stay focused on the mission due to severe winds with gusts up to 30 knots and the low air density. The handling qualities of the new H145 are excellent and combined with Helionix and its 4 axis-autopilot, we reached the summit safely,” said Alexander Neuhaus, experimental test pilot at Airbus Helicopters. “The aircraft performed outstandingly. We flew over the summit of the Aconcagua and still had power reserves that would have allowed us take two people on-board.”
The flight test was supported by the Fuerza Aerea Argentina, who provided aerial support with their Lama helicopters; Patrulla de Rescate de Alta Montaña de Policia de Mendoza, who assisted with a contingency plan; Parque Provincial Aconcagua, facilitating operations and logistics, and Helicopters AR, a local operator with over 15 years of experience flying in the Aconcagua area with their Airbus H125 helicopter.
This is not the first mountain Airbus Helicopters has mastered. On 14 May 2005, the flight test pilot Didier Delsalle landed a single-engine H125 on Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.
Prior to the successful high altitude test campaign in South America, the new H145 performed several test campaigns including in Spain at medium altitudes and Finland for cold weather. In total, more than 400 flight hours have already been clocked on the two five-bladed H145 prototypes to ensure EASA certification by early 2020, followed by FAA certification and first deliveries later that year.
The new version of its best-selling H145 light twin-engine helicopter was unveiled at Heli-Expo 2019 in Atlanta in March. This latest upgrade adds a new, innovative five-bladed rotor to the multi-mission H145, increasing the useful load of the helicopter by 150 kg. The simplicity of the new bearingless main rotor design will also ease maintenance operations, further improving the benchmark serviceability and reliability of the H145, while improving ride comfort for both passengers and crew.
After more than 36 years of continous operationg in Italy, this Aerospatiale AS355F1 Ecureuil 2 ( c/n 5180 ), originally registered I-VRVR, is now starting a new life in New Zealand with Airlift Ltd as ZK-ICK. The picture was taken at Ardmore Airfield during September 2018.
Thanks to Stefano MILANOLO for these new images of the AgustaWestland AW139 EI-GOU operated by Weststar Aviation Services [wearing the original Air Born Indonesia color scheme] … overnight in Torino, on the way to Equatorial Guinea for off-shore operations in Africa. Torino Caselle, July 2019.
The first MH-139 for the Air Force—which replaces the UH-1N Huey in the roles of nuclear missile field support, VIP transport, and some other missions—is in production at Agusta-Westland facilities north of St. Louis, Mo., and if there are no hiccups, it will fly by the end of the year, Boeing officials reported. The Agusta-Westland facility, part of Boeing’s major subcontractor, Leonardo, will assemble the fuselage, put on the rotors, and essentially build a civilian version of the aircraft, Rick Lemaster, company director of vertical lift marketing, told reporters in a briefing at Boeing’s Philadelphia, Pa., helicopter factory on May 16. It is then handed over to Boeing, which militarizes it for the Air Force’s unique missions. Boeing will convert the vanilla aircraft into an MH-139 by changing the baggage door compartment to “allow some special equipment to be installed” that the Air Force declines to identify. Defensive aids, such as flare dispensers and missile warning systems will be added, as will the machine gun mount and a “crashworthy, self-sealing fuel tank,” Lemaster explained. Additionally, ballistic protection will be added to the floor and cockpit. Once complete, the aircraft will receive USAF certification and fly off to their duty station. Lemaster said the Air Force will likely “turn on production in the next year or two, and once that happens the company anticipates to deliver about 10 aircraft per year into the early 2030s. The numbers may vary, as USAF’s contract allows for more or less aircraft each year. The MH-139 is a $2.38 billion firm, fixed-price contract program, of which $375 million gets the ball rolling with engineering and manufacturing development. Although the Air Force quoted a figure of $1.7 billion in savings when it announced Boeing had won the UH-1N replacement contest last fall, Boeing’s number is more conservative, Lemaster said. “We said we could save $1 billion, in terms of overall life cycle costs, or compared to competitors. That was our calculation, between support cost and acquisition.” The big discriminator between Boeing and its chief rival, the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky Blackhawk, was the fact that the Air Force didn’t need a larger, combat-capable aircraft, he said. “This aircraft is relatively easy to maintain compared to competitors,” Lemaster said. The MH-139 is “not as big and heavy as a Blackhawk,” which he called “a great capability, great in combat, but that’s not what the Air Force requirement was.” Boeing’s approach was to offer an aircraft that is “right-sized for the mission,” Lemaster asserted. The first two aircraft are to be delivered in late 2020. They will then enter a test program, and if all goes well, operational testing will be in 2022, followed by full-rate production in 2023. The Air Force will buy at least 84 MH-139s. Armed versions with an M240 machine gun externally mounted on the starboard side will be fielded by three Air Force Global Strike Command bases, each with 11 aircraft to rapidly respond to threats at missile fields and provide other support for the ICBM mission. Some 30 aircraft will be based at JB Andrews, Md., for VIP transport. Four aircraft each will support VIP and aeromedical evacuation missions at Yokota AB, Japan, and the Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, and escape school at Fairchild AFB, Wash. The MH-139 “schoolhouse” at Kirtland AFB, N.M., will get the remainder, minus the two initial aircraft, which will stay at Eglin AFB, Fla., for ongoing test of modifications and software. Lemaster said the AW-139, on which the MH-139 is based, is in service with 250 customers in 70 nations, and the fleet has accumulated more than two million flight hours, “So it’s a very mature product,” allowing Boeing to quote fixed-price support costs. The Air Force plans to fly the aircraft 480 hours per year, each. The highest-time version of the aircraft has just reached 12,000 flight hours, so it will be a long time before the Air Force will need to think about the MH-139’s replacement, Lemaster said. “There is no airframe life limit, so there’s no requirement to take it back to a depot and do modifications,” he noted. Having succeeded in running over an hour with no transmission oil—a “run dry” test, Lemaster said, “It’s just a very survivable aircraft.” Additionally, the helicopter has been certified for one pilot under instrument flight rules, meaning the service could optionally relax its two-pilot requirement down the road, he said. For ease of maintainability, the engine and transmission are above the cabin, and built-in foot stands allow preflight inspections without putting a hardstand next to the aircraft, he said. There’s “one contiguous open space” in the cabin, offering flexibility of use. Although the engines don’t have infrared suppressors, the exhaust heat is fairly low, without intense hotspots that would make a good infrared target. Lemaster said he thinks the first batch of aircraft will be a run of eight, but “there’s a lot of flexibility in the way the contract is structured, so they can add or subtract the quantity. We’ve given them firm pricing for all of those iterations, and they’ll buy what they want.”
Thanks to Luigi PISANO for this unique image of the factory new Leonardo Helicopters AW139 N139EX operated by Saudi Aramco, wearing new company color scheme. On delivery via Milan Malpensa, April 2019.
Thanks to Oscar BERNARDI for this image of the Leonardo Helicopters AW139 registered I-EASM [later N139EX] while performing pre-delivery flights in Venegono (VA), March 2019.
PRESS RELEASE – LANGKAWI, 27th March – Weststar Aviation Services, a leading regional offshore helicopter transportation services provider, and Leonardo signed a contract – valued at around 50 million euros – for three new-generation AW169 and two AW139 helicopters for offshore operations in West Africa and the Middle East.
The contract signing ceremony was held today at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) in the presence of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. The three AW169s helicopters will be for Weststar’s ExxonMobil & Noble contract in Equatorial Guinea while the two AW139s are for the Al-Khafji Joint Operations contract in Saudi Arabia, which is a joint venture between Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (KGOC) and Aramco Gulf Operations. “This procurement further strengthens the partnership between Weststar Aviation Services and Leonardo and is a key factor in Weststar’s overseas business expansion. The AW169 and the AW139 twin-engine helicopters are the most successful new generation models in their class worldwide, and the most demanded helicopter types in the Oil and Gas industry. We are pleased to purchase yet more helicopters from Leonardo to support our offshore helicopter operations and we will use the newly purchased helicopters for our operations in West Africa and the Middle East.“ said Tan Sri Dr. Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, Group Managing Director of The Weststar Group.
Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, said: “Weststar is one of our most important helicopter customers worldwide and we are happy to confirm our leading position in the offshore market in the region. There are now over 60 Leonardo helicopters in Malaysia, where we have our regional Customer Support and Training hub, and we plan to increase our presence even further in the future by expanding the services we offer.”
Since commencing its operations in 2003, Weststar Aviation Services has grown to become one of the global key players in the offshore helicopter industry. To date, Weststar Aviation Services operates a total of 33 AW139, AW169 and AW189 helicopters out of its bases in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
The AW139 and AW169 are part of Leonardo’s Family of new generation helicopters that also includes the AW189. These models are ideal for passenger transport, EMS and SAR missions. Leonardo has a long-standing presence in Malaysia with a large fleet of helicopters – both commercial and military – defence, security and airport systems.