New products development and digital solutions at HELI-EXPO 2023: Leonardo exhibits the latest in commercial helicopter developments and flight and mission simulation and digital capabilities.

07 March 2023

Heli-Expo, the world’s largest rotorcraft industryt trade show, opens in Atlanta, Georgia on 7 March and participating willbe the industry’s most prominent helicopter manufacturers, professionals, and service providers.  The event will see the participation of the globe’s most prominent helicopter manufacturers, professionals, and service providers. Leonardo will be presenting new developments and digital solutions at HAI Heli-Expo 2023, together with a special focus on the EMS market, which is experiencing a strong worldwide expansion and an interesting potential on North American market.

For the first time in public, Leonardo will present a mockup of the AW09, the next generation single-engine helicopter in final configuration with its Safran Helicopter Engines, with the Arriel 2K engine mock-up beside it, an AW169  in Emergency Medical Services configuration and an AW139 for VIP/Corporate transportation displayed in a special area dedicated to the Agusta VIP helicopters brand. Also on display the latest digital solutions in simulations and services, including the new Virtual and Extended Reality Simulator (VxR) and the Modular Interactive Trainer for Helicopter Operators (MITHOS), both displayed in a demo version to be tested at Leonardo stand. Additionally, there is a special corner dedicated to the Customer Experience and improvingthe customer’s journey through Leonardo’s digital services.

North America is the world’s biggest market for civilian and public services helicopters, representing over 30% of the entire global fleet (more than 8,000 helicopters). In North America, Leonardo has a fleet of over 300 civil/parapublic helicopters used by more than 140 operators to carry out a wide range of missions including emergency medical services, public transport, offshore duties, civil utility operations and public services. 2022 was a highly successful year in terms of sales in the commercial and parapublic market in North America; the number of aircraft sold rose by almost 40% vs last year and the value almost tripled, compared to the two prior years.). Most of the new orders last year were from new customers or established customers who are replacing ageing, competing models with Leonardo products. The AW139 experienced an increase in sales, especially in the offshore and VIP transport markets.

The company also plays an important role in two major US Department of Defense programmes. Leonardo is a prime contractor responsible for the production and supply of TH-73A training aircraft for naval aviators in the US Navy. Leonardo was recently awarded the last and final lot of the total TH-73A helicopters order, 120 total, while the first students have started their training. Moreover, Leonardo partners with prime contractor Boeing on the US Air Force’s MH-139A helicopter, based on the AW139 platform.  The first four MH-139 from Leonardo and Boeing were accepted by the USAF in August of 2022 and military testing on those aircraft commenced soon after.


The solutions on show

Three years after announcing at HAI the acquisition of Kopter, for the first time, Leonardo will publicly exhibit a mockup of the AW09, the most modern single-engine helicopter for the commercial market, now in its final configuration. The AW09 offers increased modularity, modern electronic systems, high digitalization and the largest cabin and cargo hold in its category. Its superior characteristics, including fast cruise speeds and hot-and-high capabilities, are combined with a low noise signature resulting from the newly developed dynamic assembly and shrouded tail-rotor.

The new Arriel 2K engine mockup will be displayed beside the AW09 helicopter mock-up. This engine will power the AW09 production configuration, and it is the newest generation of the Arriel family, produced by Safran Helicopter Engines. The Arriel 2K version offers new and specific features as well as advanced support and maintenance solutions, leveraging on new technologies and low cost of operations, building upon a long-term partnership between Leonardo and Safran The new engine is already installed onto the PS4 prototype.



Specifically, for the EMS market that is gaining momentum In North America and worldwide, Leonardo is presenting the ideal solution for US emergency services, the AW169 light intermediate twin engine helicopter in Emergency Medical Services configuration.

Important features of the AW169 include the largest cabin in its category that can be fitted with stretchers, either longitudinally or horizontally, in a space that allows medical staff to work on patients more conveniently while transporting them to the a hospital. The helicopter has a useful feature for emergency services workers, which is not available on other light and intermediate models:  the principal on-board systems (electromedical, radio, climate control) can be powered while on the ground, using one of the two engines as an auxiliary power unit (a capability which is therefore called APU mode). This guarantees on-board systems run even when the rotor is stationary, ensuring greater safety, reduced environmental impact, and greater speed and versatility responding to emergency calls.

The AW169 helicopter’s operational capabilities and configuration options have grown further with the recent EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certification of askid undercarriage and unique IFR, single pilot, Advanced Search and Rescue (SAR) Modes. These latest achievements follow additional enhancements, such as the introduction of the Phase 8 core avionics software release combined with performance increase packages already available.

The Agusta VIP brand, representing Leonardo's philosophy and distinctive values in terms of design, technology, and services in the executive transport rotorcraft market, will be presented in a special area at the Atlanta event, along with an AW139 intermediate twin-engine helicopter in VIP/ corporate configuration. The aircraft is a bestseller in its category, with nearly 1,300 units ordered in less than 20 years and for a wide range of applications across the world. Moreover, it is the best solution for passenger transportation on the US market, in terms of performance, technologies, available cabin space and range.



Additional areas of focus include improved digital solutions in simulation services, with demos of the new Virtual and Extended Reality Simulator (VxR) and of the Modular Interactive Trainer for Helicopter Operators (MITHOS) both displayed at Leonardo stand.

The VxR is a disruptive solution based on state-of-the-art Virtual Reality with a dedicated headset, designed and built with helicopter OEM-level data, leveraging superior design and certification capabilities and genuine flight test data. Based on Leonardo’s previously certified Level D Full Flight Simulator data and with super short-throw motion without a visual dome, it allows installation with reduced space enabling, transport and reconfiguration among many helicopter models namely the AW119, AW109 and, in the future, the AW09.

Leonardo will also present MITHOS, afully immersive and interactive simulated operational training environment in both rescue and wind farm support duties for Hoist Operators. In a special corner dedicated to the customer experience, Leonardo will also feature some of the latest immersive digital services to enhance the digital experience.


Leonardo in the US helicopter market

Leonardo has been working in Philadelphia since the early 1980s, originally in a plant set up to oversee maintenance of the Agusta A109. Over the years, the Philadelphia site has become a center of production plant in its own right and employs more than 1000 people this year and has facilities in four states.  The Philadelphia site has assembled more than 650 helicopters over the years, where production of the AW119, AW139 and AW609 occurs. The site also supplies assistance services to customers throughout North and South America. In 2021 Leonardo inaugurated one of the most advanced Training Academies in the field, training pilots and maintenance technicians on the ground, in flight and in an entirely virtual environment. The helicopter fleet covered by the general assistance services coordinated out of the American industrial site includes about 1,000 aircraft, out of a total fleet of 4,500 Leonardo helicopters all over the world.   Leonardo also has a Blade Repair Center in Broussard, Louisiana, a Customer Support Center in Milton, FL, and a US Government Sales Office in Alexandria, Virginia.