Leonardo is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the AW139 helicopter's maiden flight. The first aircraft took to the skies from the company's facility in Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy on 3 February 2001. It flew for 45 minutes, checking initial airworthiness tests, hovering, lateral and forward flight, handling qualities and subsystems. This soon confirmed the characteristics and the smoothness of the new model, and its performance and capabilities were to become highly sought after.
The seven tonne AW139 intermediate-twin engine boasts orders of almost 1,200 units from more than 280 customers in over 70 countries on all continents. The aircraft has shown reliability and proven operational capabilities with more than three million flight hours recorded since the first delivery took place at the beginning of 2004. Data of use testifies to the versatility of the type, which satisfies approximately half the world's fleet for public utility tasks, such as SAR and air ambulance, law enforcement, fire-fighting, disaster relief and military duties. The rest account for a leading position in its class in the offshore transport sector, plus VIP, institutional and corporate transport as well as other civil missions.
The AW139 fleet has a global presence with around 30 per cent in Europe, almost as much in Asia and Australasia, 15 per cent in the Americas, followed by the Middle East. The international success of the AW139 is so important that to meet market demands the helicopter is produced on different assembly lines both in Italy at the Vergiate plant and in the United States in Philadelphia, which has delivered around 30 per cent of all units to date.
The AW139 has grown significantly over the years, adapting to the changing needs of customers. The MTOW has increased from 6.4 to seven tonnes. Almost 1,000 mission kits and equipment have been certified. With advanced protection systems against icing, the AW139 can fly in all-weather conditions. This model is also the only one in the world capable of continuing to fly for over 60 minutes without oil in the transmission system, twice as much as the 30 minutes set by certification authorities. In 2020 new distinguished features for the avionics suite were introduced including synthetic vision, an enhanced ground proximity warning system with offshore modes, improved 2D maps and wireless data loading, increasing crew situational awareness and reducing workload for operations at night or in marginal weather.
Despite the experience and maturity achieved in almost 17 years of operational activity, the AW139 remains a young and modern programme, destined to play a leading role into the future. The AW139 truly embeds all areas of excellence and leadership in its field at Leonardo such as transmissions and dynamics, system integration and customisation, best in class performance, mission versatility, latest safety standards and a comprehensive range of increasingly localised customer support and training services and solutions, developed and grown to allow customers worldwide to maximise the capabilities of the type.