By By Andrew Drwiega, International Bureau Chief | February 25, 2014
AgustaWestland (Booth 6937) CEO Danielle Romiti revealed several surprises pre-Heli Expo. They included the presence of the AW609 tiltrotor that had journeyed to Los Angeles from its base in Arlington, Texas, where it is being readied for Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) certification. The transit, said a well-briefed Roberto Garavaglia, senior vice president for strategy and business, had taken six hours including four stops for refueling. This is not a finished product, he reminded, but added that the aircraft had flown at 20,000 feet fully pressurized, was burning around 1,000 lbs of fuel per hour and averaged 220 knots airspeed.
Romiti added that it would be flying demonstrations and the first-ever customer demonstration flights between Long Beach and the Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Whether that meant customers would be allowed to fly inside or just view the aircraft was unclear, but it was generally thought to mean the latter due to FAA requirements.
But that was only part of the first surprise. The second involved the announcement that the company was studying a multi-role Next Generation Civil Tilt Rotor (NGCTR) that would have a pressurized cabin up to 25,000 feet. A flying demonstrator was promised on or before 2020.
Slide at the AgustaWestland press conference. Photo by Andrew Drwiega
Romiti also revealed that a new model would be uncovered at the stand on the opening day of the show, likely to be a AgustaWestland-styled version of Polish owned company PZL’s SW4.
The third surprise was the increased focus on rotary unmanned aerial vehicles. This is a direction that the company looks set to travel in. Garavaglia included rotary UAVs as one of three product strategy pillars, the first time that UAVs have been given such public prominence. The other pillars were of course helicopters and tiltrotors.
Garavaglia said that while RUAVs are only expected to account for between 15-20 percent of the overall UAV market, it was a market that AgustaWestland was eager to explore. He said that around €130 million of helicopter orders had been received at last week’s Singapore Airshow. but that would be nearly doubled with an already established €240 million to be announced at this week’s Heli-Expo.
The AW189 was also at Heli-Expo and upon the end of the event would embark on a demonstration tour of oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico (from March 4-7, 2014). The AW189 was only awarded its European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certificate a couple of weeks ago, so this will again be a first demonstration flight.
Romiti restated AgustaWestland’s view that the United States market was key to the company’s strategy both for civil and military sales. He said that 70 aircraft had been delivered into North America from the company’s Philadelphia facility in 2013 and that a total of 500 AgustaWestland helicopters were now in service in north and Central America.
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