Leonardo’s TH-119, the company’s entry in the competition to replace the U.S. Navy’s legacy training helicopter fleet, made its maiden flight Dec. 20.
It was the first time the aircraft flew complete with its dual-display Genesys Aerosystems advanced glass cockpit, which allows instruction from either pilot seat with full IFR capabilities including flight director and 3-axis full autopilot.
Having begun flight test of the fully configured TH-119, based on the company’s commercial AW119, the aircraft is on track for FAA certification early next year, according to the company. If all goes as planned, it will be the first single-engine aircraft certified to fly under instrument flight rules (IFR) in decades.
The TH-119 was flown by Leonardo pilot Patrick McKernan at the company’s Philadelphia plant where all variants of AW119s are built.
The helicopter performed “excellently” during the flight, which included an assessment of general handling and avionics systems, Leonardo said in a statement.
Competing to replace the Navy’s fleet of legacy TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters are the twin-engine Airbus H135 and the Bell 407GXi, an evolutionary descendant of the TH-57. The Navy is on an abbreviated timeline to purchase as many as 125 IFR certified, commercially available aircraft within five years.
“Already made in USA, the TH-119 is an affordable, off-the-shelf teaching helicopter that combines proven performance, flexibility and safety. It is built to accomplish every current Navy undergraduate training mission and flight skill maneuver with plenty of room to grow over the venerable TH-57,” said Andrew Gappy, Leonardo’s director of U.S. government sales.
A variant of the AW119 specifically configured for military training, the TH-119 is the only modern single engine helicopter certified to operate in actual instrument conditions (IMC), resulting in more available training days that limit “VFR only” aircraft and add to overall time to train, he said.
The TH-119 is a full-spectrum training helicopter, meaning that with a single variant configuration the Navy can accomplish fundamental training flights like sliding landings, hovering, and full autorotations — without offloading any of them to simulation — equally as well as advanced training flights including NVG, instruments, navigation, tactics, hoist, external cargo, and search and rescue.