Safety, high performance, comfort, elegance, operational flexibility, customisation options, reliability and exceptional aftersales support are among the more important qualities private and VVIP owners require of a modern helicopter. They expect operational capabilities rather than just an aircraft, an efficient tool that’s always ready when they need it, helping save time and maximise resources.
Among the world’s leading rotorcraft manufacturers, Leonardo is confident that its latest products not only meet, but exceed the most demanding customer expectations thanks, the company reckons, “…to an unequalled combination of Italian style and technological innovation. Combined, these factors have made Leonardo helicopters the rotary-wing benchmark in the worldwide executive/corporate sector.” There’s no arguing that many heads of state and senior corporate and government leaders employ Leonardo’s products, and its latest civilian offering, the AW169, reinforces the Italian airframer’s reputation for delivering the highest levels of excellence in the global VIP/corporate helicopter market, where it boasted a 50% share for multi-engine types in 2017.
In creating the AW169, Leonardo responded to market demand for a new-generation, versatile, light-intermediate twin-engined helicopter that meets the most stringent operational and safety requirements of the certification authorities and operators. The type was EASA certified in July 2015, to the latest EASA CS-29/FAR Part 29 standards, and FAA certified in February 2017.
The 4.8-tonne AW169 was the first all-new aircraft in its weight category in more than 30 years, setting new certification and safety standards as it came to market. It is the lightest machine in a family of new-technology helicopters that also includes the 7-tonne AW139 and 8.6-tonne AW189. All possess similar high-performance flight characteristics and safety features, while sharing a common cockpit concept and design philosophy.
It’s an approach that facilitates training, flight operations, maintenance and support synergies for fleet operators working across the 4- to 9-tonne categories, some customers having decided to adopt a mix of two or all three types; the so-called AWFamily helicopters are well placed to deliver VIP transport regardless of aircraft size.
The AW169 has been delivered off the Vergiate final assembly line in Italy since the end of 2015 and more than 60 are in service today, having accumulated in excess of
17,000 flight hours between them. More than 180 AW169s have been ordered for a variety of missions, including executive/corporate transport.
New technology features in the AW169’s rotor system, engines, avionics, transmission and electrical power generation and distribution systems. Comfortably seating up to ten passengers in its large, unobstructed cabin, in VIP configuration the aircraft includes a range of wireless cabin control and streaming options, the finest Italian craftsmanship and air conditioning. Executive and VIP flying seldom involves a capacity passenger load and as such, customers may specify reduced seat numbers while revising seat position, creating an even more comfortable and spacious environment.
Power comes from a pair of Pratt & Whitney PW210A turboshafts in the 1,000shp class. The powerplant includes an auxiliary power unit (APU) mode for continued operation of the environmental control system, radios and other systems when the rotors are stopped. A potentially important safety feature, APU mode also ensures maximum passenger comfort, ensuring the cabin remains air conditioned while awaiting passengers in high ambient temperatures.
Leonardo offers a variety of customer options and solutions across its helicopter range, enabling a degree of individual customisation, and the AW169 is no exception. Helicopters purchased as Leonardo executive/corporate products, however, attract a much greater degree of personalisation. A wide variety of AW169 interior layouts and styles, crafted in the most refined materials, is available, complementing the machine’s fundamental versatility.
The AW169 delivers operational flexibility through a modular cabin equipment principle centred on optimised passenger cabin functionality within the available space. Various combinations of seat number, position and direction are possible, while a quick conversion from transport to mobile office or flying conference room and back may also be accomplished. In addition, the comprehensive equipment list includes a range of modern entertainment solutions.
Flying the AW169
The aircraft’s state-of-the-art avionics suite includes a fully digital night-vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit with three 8×10in large-area, active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCDs) featuring touchscreen technology with enhanced 3D graphics for maximum situational awareness. A four-axis digital automatic flight control system (DAFCS) with dual flight management system (FMS) minimises crew workload, enabling single/dual-pilot VFR/IFR operations.
The avionics suite also satisfies satellite-based navigation, communication and surveillance requirements, and has the capability for satellite-based IFR localiser performance with vertical guidance (LPV) approaches to maximise round-the-clock helicopter availability. Safety enhancing avionics, including terrain awareness warning and airborne collision avoidance systems, can be added to the standard avionics configuration as customer options.
The AW169’s advanced variable-speed main rotor improves efficiency and reduces the helicopter’s external noise footprint, while it is also the first helicopter in its category with electrical landing gear retraction, reducing complexity and easing maintenance requirements compared to conventional retraction mechanisms.
Furthermore, the AW169 embodies several advanced aerodynamic solutions identified under the European Clean Sky Green Rotorcraft (GRC) 2 drag reduction programme. Together, these main rotor, undercarriage and airframe drag-reduction features combine to make the AW169 an extremely environmentally friendly helicopter that also causes minimal noise disturbance during urban operations. It will also become the first light helicopter to include a full ice protection system (FIPS) for flight into known icing conditions, providing true all-weather capabilities for safe operations when other types are confined to their hangars.
The AW169 has been designed to deliver reliable service under intensive use in the most demanding conditions, with high time between overhaul (TBO), minimal life-limited parts and inherent ease of maintenance. Time between successive inspections has been optimised to maximise aircraft availability and reduce maintenance man hours per flight hour, adopting the MSG-3 (Maintenance Steering Group-3) approach to maintenance processes. At the same time, maintenance programmes may be tailored to an operator’s specific requirements, helping maximise aircraft utilisation regardless of mission type.
Complementing the AW169’s mission capability, a full flight simulator (FFS), flight training device (FTD) and maintenance training simulator are available at Leonardo’s Sesto Calende Training Academy in Italy.