One of the highlights of our presence at this year’s Heli-Expo in Atlanta was the full-scale mock-up of the AW09 single-engine helicopter in its final configuration. Over the past three years, since our acquisition of Kopter and integration of the AW09 into the product range, the programme has made enormous strides and we were delighted to share the latest developments.
The AW09 is the first all-new design in its weight class for more than 30 years, combining unrivalled versatility and safety in its category. The helicopter features an outstandingly flexible cabin layout that equips it to perform multiple missions across different applications. For example, the clamshell doors and spacious cabin make the helicopter ideally suited to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) missions.
It is also the only single-engine helicopter to feature a native ‘connected aircraft’ concept that enables seamless and automatic download of data at the end of each flight together with enhanced flight tracking capability.
The AW09 has matured significantly over recent months culminating in this advanced configuration with enhancements that give it the competitive edge that the market expects.
In January this year we announced a partnership with Safran that will see the AW09 powered by the Arriel 2K engine, the latest version of the proven Arriel family. The new 1,000 shp-class propulsion system will ensure that the AW09 has the highest levels of capability, reliability and ease of operations.
Other important milestones achieved by the AW09 programme team in 2022 included reaching agreement with EASA on the type of certification basis, covering not only the crash resistance of the helicopter’s fuel tank and seats but also the newly-added requirements for resistance to bird strikes – the AW09 will be the only helicopter in the long light single class to meet this requirement.
On March 16th, the PS4 pre-serial aircraft completed its maiden flight with the Arriel 2K engine in Mollis, Switzerland. The flight lasted around 20 minutes and included low-altitude hovers, spot turns, forward and sideways flight at up to 20kt as well as multiple take-offs and landings. The focus will now switch to expanding the flight envelope during upcoming testing.
Contracts announced at Heli-Expo
During Heli-Expo we confirmed preliminary sales contracts for more than 50 AW09 helicopters from customers worldwide including Aero Service Representação in Brazil; Synerjet Latina SA in Colombia, Peru and Chile; Helitech Asia in South East Asia; Safomar in South Africa; Diskopsa for Panama and Guatemala; Heliflite in Oceania; and Aero Facility in Japan.
These contracts are further evidence of the growing maturity of the programme and the very positive response from the market considering that the helicopter is still in the development phase.
Agreement with Metro Aviation
We were also pleased to announce an agreement with Metro Aviation, one of the largest privately-owned HEMS operators and service providers in the US. The company has renowned expertise in developing both aircraft interiors and Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) as well as service and training. We will be collaborating to support the introduction and positioning of the AW09 in the US market.
Commenting on the significant announcements at Heli-Expo, Leonardo Helicopters Managing Director Gian Piero Cutillo said: “Rotorcraft companies highly welcome the AW09 for its outstanding features and multi-role capabilities that represent a significant evolution compared to existing products in this category.
“The preliminary sales contracts signed provide clear evidence of it. Also, combining our industrial capabilities with Metro Aviation’s extensive and recognised experience in operations and support enhances the AW09 value proposition, providing superior mission capabilities to the operators of this platform in a prime single engine market like the USA.”
Looking ahead, the AW09 will continue its development path at Kopter in Switzerland supported by joint Leonardo-Kopter teams. Flight test activities will ramp up over the rest of 2023 with the pre-series aircraft (PS4) to be joined later this year by the fifth and final one (PS5) to complete certification.
Kopter is set to become a Centre of Competence for new light helicopters and an incubator of new technologies for vertical flight. It will therefore play an important role in the development of new hybrid and electrical propulsion systems which form part of the Be Tomorrow – Leonardo 2030 strategic plan, strengthening Leonardo’s position in the civil rotorcraft market and as a leader in modern air mobility.