AW169 Demo Tour in Japan

Highlights from the demo tour

An EMS-configured AW169 is about to begin a month-long demo tour across Japan, confirming Leonardo’s commitment to partnerships with local players. Its rich heritage in the country, dating back to the mid-1980s, has witnessed Leonardo’s helicopter fleet grow rapidly in recent years, with around 160 rotorcraft now in service. Ca. 80% of these helicopters are deployed for life-saving missions in roles such as search and rescue (SAR), law enforcement, firefighting and disaster relief as well as primary and secondary EMS missions. 

The featured AW169 is operated by Alidaunia, a prominent Italian EMS operator, and a certified Leonardo Service Center with a broad international experience in air transport and  maintenance services. Its fleet includes the AW109, AW139 and AW169.

Leonardo will be supported by Alidaunia’s flight crew, composed of a pilot, technical personnel, and a hoist operator, in conducting this tour and illustrating the rotorcraft’s advantages from an operator’s perspective.


In early October, the AW169 arrived at Yao (Osaka prefecture), one of the bases of Aero Asahi Corp., a major Japanese aviation company that will provide Leonardo with support services throughout the demo tour. At Yao, the aircraft has been ground- and flight-tested in preparation for this journey.

The AW169’s tour will take place throughout November, stretching from the northernmost Hokkaido Island and returning to the south of the country. During its numerous stops, the helicopter will be presented to EMS operators, search and rescue organizations, law enforcement agencies, and firefighting aviation units. 

JSAS Annual EMS Congress

In early November, the AW169 started its tour from Yao and headed towards the north of Japan, making seven stops along the way: Toyama, Niigata, Akita, Aomori, Shikabe, Okadama and Kushiro. At its last destination, the helicopter was exhibited at the 30th edition of the Japanese Society for Aeromedical Services (JSAS) Annual Congress.

At the JSAS Annual Congress, the national emergency medical and critical care industry conference, the AW169 was displayed in the Congress Centre’s external area, allowing participants to see the helicopter up close. 

During the event, Leonardo’s delegation had the opportunity to speak with medical subject matter experts, including Dr. Takeyama Yoshihiro, MD, (Director of Hakodate Municipal Hospital’s Emergency and Critical Care Center in Hakodate, Hokkaido), and Dr. Simone Bazurro, MD (PHD Physician specialist in Anaesthetics, Resuscitation and Intensive Care, ASL 2 Savonese, Hems 118 Liguria Soccorso), who explained how the AW169 fully meets medical emergency requirements.

In Japan, the EMS operators require to store on board of the helicopter an ever-increasing amount of specialty medical equipment and need to have full access to the patient. The rescue missions operators often carry out multiple duties, from EMS/SAR and disaster relief to firefighting, surveillance and passenger transport, having to reach remote locations, such as small islands or mountain sites.

The AW169, fully meets all these aforementioned requirements, due to its high reconfigurability on a mission-by-mission basis and compact footprint. Moreover, benefitting from the latest available technologies, it ensures the highest safety level for rescue operations.

Landing in Tokyo

In early November, the AW169 left Kushiro and continued its journey towards the south of Japan. The helicopter made several stops, passing through Okadama, Hanamaki and Sendai, before arriving in Tokyo at the Aero Ashai’s heliport hangar, to engage with firefighting aviation units, law enforcement agencies and wind energy operators.

In Tokyo, Leonardo’s delegation had the opportunity to speak with Captain Georges Prentzas, AW169 Captain Type Rating Instructor, and Mr. Goda, Maintenance Technician, Yokohama Fire Department, about their flight experiences with the AW169.

The pilots who performed demo flights in Tokyo appreciated the AW169’s advanced avionics suite and cockpit design, as they improve visibility, minimise pilot workload - allowing the crew to concentrate on the mission - and increase operational safety.

Representatives of law enforcement agencies required to perform multi-role missions in the most demanding environments, positively reviewed the AW169 for its exceptional cabin flexibility, the APU mode and the myriad of AW169 technologies, such as the touch screen display in the cockpit, Synthetic Vision, Helicopter Terrain Warning System, ADSB-Out, TCAS II, HUMS, CVR/FDR, that are part of the helicopter’s baseline. In some cases, these features are unique to the AW169 or optional on competitor’s aircraft. In addition, firefighting aviation units were impressed by the AW169’s handling qualities, high-power reserve, as well as outstanding external visibility.

Wind energy industry representatives also experienced the AW169 and shared with Leonardo’s delegation that the rotorcraft is perfectly suited to transporting people, even during an emergency, especially when it is necessary to rely on the aircraft’s immediate availability. They also found it extremely well-suited for operating from / to ships when it is necessary to pick up people during offshore missions, and valued the very high stability in flight. According to them, the future further developments in the Japanese energy industry will increase the AW169’s chances of being included in their operations.

EMS Simulation in Kagoshima

After flying over the capital city of Tokyo, the AW169 took off again and flew to Gunma, Nagoya, Takamatsu, Kounan, Okayama, Hiroshima and Matsuyama reaching Kagoshima City Hospital, one of the Japan’s major medical hubs, where an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) simulation was performed.

Specialised doctors and nurses actively participated in the exercise, which involved the loading and unloading of a stretcher system specially designed for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Their positive feedback highlighted the AW169’s cabin width, which provides convenient and prompt access to the incubator and easy on-board accommodation for technical personnel, patients, and family members. The AW169's cabin capacity makes it possible to carry out rescue activities with agility, allowing for the transportation of all the necessary medical equipment, such as the ventilator. 

The EMS simulation was held with the support of Dr. Hideaki Yoshihara, Director of the Emergency and Critical Care Centers of Kagoshima City Hospital, as well as Dr. Andrea Caglià, PHD HEMS and Head of Valle d’Aosta’s HEMS base. They both shared their respective experiences with the AW169, emphasising the helicopter's ability to perform rescue missions even in the most hostile environments, a capability that Michele Cucchi, Rescue Instructor for Leonardo’s Training Academy, also highlighted during the tour’s stop in Tokyo (watch the video interview).

The EMS simulation marked the conclusion of the AW169 demo tour in Japan. 

The AW169 returns home

The AW169 has officially concluded its demo tour across Japan. The journey covered 23 locations, spanning from north to south, and allowed the Leonardo team to meet hundreds of stakeholders from 70 organisations such as police departments, firefighting aerial units, electronic news gathering (ENG) companies, wind energy operators and corporations.

The comprehensive tour was a valuable opportunity to demonstrate Leonardo's commitment to delivering world-class solutions to the Japanese market.

Thanks to Alidaunia's support and the collaboration between the teams, the demo tour allowed stakeholders to experience in-person the AW169 and to learn more about its unique capabilities.