PAST & PRESENT
AgustaWestland makes its mark with technology and innovation
Count Giovanni Agusta's efforts are paying off with helo, tiltrotor and V/STOL machines for today and the future.
Personalities and innovation
Count Giovanni Agusta's passion for aviation launched Agusta Aviation's early success in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, initially doing maintenance work for the Italian military and then producing several fixed-wing aircraft models after WWII. It was the company's involvement in building helicopters, however, that led Agusta to become one of the most important aviation companies in Europe.
Count Giovanni died in 1927 and his sons—Vincenzo and Count Domenico Agusta—branched out into the motorcycle business in 1945. MV Agusta, the motorcycle side of the operation, was initially created to keep employees at then-shuttered Agusta Aviation working and to fill a need for cheap and reliable transportation in post-war Italy.
First MV Agusta product was a 98-cc MV98 that "buzzed like a wasp." Both brothers loved motorcycles, aviation and machinery. Through the 1950s and 60s MV Agusta built Café racer style motorcycles (mostly 125–150 cc) but began producing larger displacement motorcycles in the late 1960s.
On the VTOL side of the house Agusta Aviation began building the A102 (similar to a Bell 47) in 1959 and introduced the A102 Helicar in 1960—an 8-seater piston-powered helicopter deployed in regular air service between Turin and Milan during the 1960s. A large 35-passenger helicopter, the A101G was powered by 3 Bristol Siddeley 1250-hp engines. It flew in 1964 as a competitor to the Boeing CH47 Chinook, but only 3 copies were built.
Design of the current twin-turbine A109 began in 1967 with first flight in 1971. The 8-seat single-turbine A119 Koala was introduced in 1994, the Bell/Agusta BA609 Tiltrotor became a reality in 2002 while the AW139 made first flight in 2001.
The 1980s saw the start of several collaborative projects for Agusta, including joint ventures to produce the large medium lift EH101 (now the AW101). 1990s projects included the A109 Power (an improved version of the A109) and A119 (a single-engine design based on the A109).
Part of the magic of AgustaWestland's ongoing success has been effectively parlaying its commercial and military experience in both small single-engine products and large medium helicopters. Today, the company provides viable options in meeting operators' performance and efficiency needs in the demanding and price sensitive corporate, offshore transport and military markets.
AW109 LUH light utility helicopter carries the genetics of the long-lived A109, which has been a consistent seller since entering service in 1975.
Westland Aircraft came into being in 1915 and built several successful fixed-wing military aircraft up through the mid-1940s. The high-wing Westland Lysander, built for the Royal Air Force, was produced immediately before and during WWII. Its exceptional short field capabilities made it an ideal vehicle for clandestine operations into unprepared strips in occupied France to recover British agents.
After WWII the company elected to get out of fixed-wing aircraft and concentrate on helicopters under licensing agreements with Sikorsky. First production helicopter was the Westland WS51 Dragonfly, a version of the American Sikorsky S51. Similar licensed production agreements led to the Whirlwind (based on the S55) and Wessex (based on the S58).
Company name was changed to Westland Helicopters in 1961. Later generation, and highly successful, VTOL products included the Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx. In the late 1970s the company developed a larger version of the Lynx for the civil and military market. It was not a commercial success, and Westland returned to its traditional market, developing and building aircraft for the armed forces.
Agusta A109 evolution
AW119—a nimble single-engine variant of the 109—is perfect for airborne law enforcement and special mission applications.
Agusta initially conceived of the A109 in the late 1960s as a single-engine commercial helicopter. It was redesigned as a twin in 1969 with a pair of Allison 250-C14 turboshafts. A protracted development period followed first flight in Aug 1971, and initial production aircraft were not completed until Apr 1975.
An immediate market success, the 8-seat A109 soon captured markets beyond corporate transport, including medevac and search-and-rescue (SAR). This capable VTOL platform featured 5732-lb MTOW, max speed of 150 kts and 512-nm range.
Two military versions—one for light attack/close support (with Hughes TOW missiles) and another for naval operations—were developed in the late 70s. The A109 became the AW109 following the Jul 2000 merger of Finmeccanica's helicopter subsidiary Agusta and GKN-owned Westland Helicopters.
In 2008 an around-the-world speed record was set with a factory standard AgustaWestland Grand (11 days, 7 hrs and 2 min). Another Grand entered the record books as the fastest helicopter to fly between New York and Los Angeles.
Evolution of the original A109 created the A109E Power—an upgraded civilian version with choice of Turbomeca Arrius 2K1s or Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206Cs.
The Grand offers a lengthened cabin and PW207 engines. Unveiled at the 2004 Farnborough Air Show the GrandNew—a top-of-the-line light twin intended to fill the gap between the AW109 Power and AW139—comes complete with IFR capability, Chelton SVS, helicopter terrain awareness system (HTAWS), EVS and 5 or 6-place VIP interiors.
Current examples of A109 series special mission applications include medevac, SAR and military VIP roles across the world from Nigeria to Peru, New Zealand, Sweden and Venezuela.
The AW609 (formerly BA609) is the world's first civilian tiltrotor, combining speed, altitude and comfort of a turboprop with landing capabilities of a helicopter. Proposed AW609 missions include executive transport, offshore ops, SAR, medical transport and law enforcement. Pressurized and IFR capable, AW609s fly at speeds up to 275 kts with service ceiling of 25,000 ft and 750 nm range.
Originally developed by Bell/ Boeing in 1996, based on experience of the experimental Bell XV15, Agusta replaced Boeing as development partner in 1998. First flight of the BA609 tiltrotor took place in Mar 2003. In Nov 2011 AgustaWestland took over ownership of former Bell/Agusta BA609 program (with Bell remaining as a subcontractor) and redesignated the aircraft AW609. As of early 2012, AgustaWestland had 70 tiltrotor orders on the books.
A totally new approach to executive transport, the AW609 features FBW digital flight controls, integrated Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics, and liberal application of composite material in the structure. AW609 flight testing remains in progress in the US and northern Italy with civilian certification expected by mid-2016.