European helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland is steadily emerging as a global training provider, expanding offerings at its northern Italy base, extending its footprint to Malaysia, authorizing partners in Switzerland, and examining potential new locales from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to South America.
Collectively, the company has “a pretty good handle on where we want to go in terms of providing the best possible level of training,” said John Ponosby, senior vice president of customer support and training services. When Rotor & Wing spoke with Ponosby, he had just come from meetings with oil and gas operators. “The subject of training kept coming up: how they train and the services and output we need to provide them.”
AgustaWestland recently opened a new building at its campus in Sesto Calende, Italy, which is on the historic SIAI Marchetti aircraft manufacturing site at the foot of the Italian Alps. Building 16 is designed to accommodate up to nine full-flight simulators (FFSs) and five flight training devices (FTDs), as well as dedicated offices for larger operators. There’s even a helipad on the roof, so pilots can shift from a sim session right into a flying lesson with a short climb up a flight of stairs. The building’s initial occupants are a new Level D-qualified FFS for the intermediate twin-turbine AW139 and a mission simulator for the NATO multi-role NH90. Both are part of the Rotorsim joint venture operated by AgustaWestland and Canadian simulation manufacturer CAE.
The AW139 FFS is the first European deployment of the new CAE 3000 Series full-motion helicopter simulator. The 3000 Series features rotorcraft-focused Medallion visual databases depicting highly detailed geo-specific offshore oil and gas fields as well as urban environments for EMS and law enforcement/paramilitary training scenarios. The visual display is a 10-foot diameter direct-view dome with a 210-degree horizontal by 80-degree vertical field of view, including extension of the out-the-window scene to the “chin window” beneath the rudder pedals.
CAE’s 3000 Series can also use a 12-foot dome for heavier helicopter types, increasing the field of view to 220 x 95.
The NH90 trainer is a more involved setup, including the mission simulator (co-produced by CAE and Thales via their joint venture, Helicopter Training Media International), a four-person instructor station, mission planning and lesson planning stations, and a briefing room which can display cockpit video, selected avionics, and control inputs from the sim session, as well as a stealth view animation of the aircraft. The network includes 184 computers – 60 to drive the simulation for the flight deck and 124 for the sensor operators tracking submarines and extracting special ops teams.
The NH90 training program’s premier operator is the Dutch Ministry of Defence, with which Rotorsim has a long-term partnership. Rotorsim is also currently training Belgian and Italian pilots and tactical officers, New Zealand Air Force crews, and hopefully soon the Italian Army. The simulator cockpit can handle either the N2 Netherlands or T1 Germany Army TGEA aircraft types. Before the end of the decade, the simulator will be re-located to the Netherlands; Rotorsim will continue to manage the training.
Pilot, maintenance technician and operations training are offered at the Sesto Calende campus for variants of the AW109 (civil E and military/paramilitary LUHS and N types) and AW139/139M. A CAE 3000 Series FFS will join them late this year for the new 8-ton-class AW189 for the offshore market, and in 2014 by the first simulator for the 4-ton AW169.
At Rotorsim USA near New York City, AW139 training has been available for several years within a CAE facility. In Philadelphia, type-rating training is offered on the AW119 and AW139 models produced there, as well as the AW109. The company announced plans in April to open an AW169 production line in Pennsylvania.
In May, AW109 Power, GrandNew and AW139 training courses were initiated at an AgustaWestland Malaysia maintenance and repair facility in Kuala Lumpur. The company is also promoting its turnkey solutions to partners who can become authorized training centers. Rega air ambulance in Switzerland not only acquired the unique high-altitude “Da Vinci” version of the AW109SP, they’ve installed an AgustaWestland-built Level B FFS in Zurich to train their own pilots and other operators. Training commenced in May. With AW139s now being built near Moscow in partnership with Russian Helicopters, Ponosby sees not only in-country training requirements but delivered in the local language too. “As the footprint in Russia develops, support and training will emerge.” Other possible training locations are South America, where sales are gaining traction in Chile and Peru, and Abu Dhabi.
On the military side, UK Royal Navy and Army AW159 Wildcat training, managed by AgustaWestland, has been operational since late 2012 at RNAS Yeovilton. Suppliers for the simulator project are Spain’s Indra for the FFS and Pennant Training Systems in the UK for maintenance training aids.