RID talks about Cascina Costa, Leonardo’s centre of excellence for helicopter transmissions

We are entering the centre of excellence for helicopter transmissions in Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy, along with RID Editor Pietro Batacchi. The transmission – the mechanical “heart” of the aircraft – is the component that ensures that the power generated by the engine is transferred to the rotors and blades.


Leonardo helicopters are the result of the Company’s total control over the development of essential vertical flight technologies.

The helicopter is a highly complex machine in terms of both the on-board avionic systems and the overall mechanics. When we talk about mechanics in a helicopter, we are above all talking about transmissions, that is to say, the elements that ensure that power is transferred from the engine to the rotor disc and to the rotary movement of the blades.  The transmission, therefore, is a critical part of a helicopter. Through its transmission Centre of Excellence in Cascina Costa di Samarate, Leonardo is one of the few aeronautical companies in the world in the helicopter field capable of developing the entire power transmission system in-house.

The transmission centre of excellence is an outright production system concentrating all the skills, industrial assets, production processes, control and simulation capabilities necessary for the development, validation and production of helicopter transmissions, as well as inspection and overhaul activities. It is basically a company within the company, covering 21,000 sq.m of floor space, where about 370 employees in the engineering, assembly and quality control areas work on the entire production cycle of this essential component for the entire range of Leonardo helicopters. This production cycle also involves other centres of excellence: components produced in the plants of Frosinone (hub and drive shaft machining processes) and Benevento (casting processes) converge on Cascina Costa.

Going into greater detail, different types of activities are carried out at the Cascina Costa plant. The path starts from the rough piece to arrive at key machining processes that include turnery, gear cutting, dimensional checks, welding, heat treatments, grinding, finishing and lapping. Finishing and lapping are a type of machining that reduces the friction between gear surfaces touching one another, thus slowing down wear and extending the life cycle of the product. As a result, cost also drops, while reliability over time improves and comfort too, since less vibration is perceived, and noise is lowered.

Another fundamental activity is quality control, which is carried out with maniacal precision and attention, to the full benefit of reliability, safety and survivability in the theatre of operations. From this viewpoint, it is interesting to note that the AW139 was the first helicopter to enter service with a transmission dry operation capacity of as many as 60 minutes. This achievement allowed Leonardo to be the first and only company in the world to greatly surpass the minimum certification standards demanded by the aeronautical authorities.