AB139 Wins FAA Ticket, Finally
After a protracted re-design, testing and paperwork process, Bell/Agusta Aerospace Co. on Dec. 20 received an FAA type certificate for its new AB139 medium twin-engine helicopter.
The aircraft was certificated by Italy's ENAC airworthiness authority in June 2003, but that was for a configuration with three main displays for its Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite. U.S. officials insisted each pilot have two main displays, instead of having their own primary flight display and sharing the third multi-function unit. That required a rework of the cockpit and additional testing to satisfy the FAA. Italy's ENAC and the European Aviation Safety Agency approved the four-display configuration in November 2004.
The new certifications cover full day and night IFR operation using a four-screen Primus Epic electronic flight instrumentation system. AB139s currently are built solely at Agusta's plant in Vergiate, Italy. Later this year an assembly line is to be opened at Bell Helicopter Textron's production facility in Amarillo, Texas. The first U.S.-built AB139 is scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2006. Bell/Agusta said that it has more than 80 orders for the AB139 from 40 customers worldwide.