Nakanihon Air Service and Leonardo sign MOU to study Japanese market for AW609

By Frank Wolfe | March 6, 2019
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Leonardo said that two AW609s will enter service next year for Era Group, the launch customer for the civil tiltrotor

ATLANTA--Leonardo and Japan-based Nakanihon Air Service on March 6 inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a study of the operational capabilities that the AW609 tilrotor could provide in the Japanese market.

Hajime Futagami, the executive director of Nakanihon Air Service, said in response to a question on the $25 million to $30 million price tag cited by Leonardo officials for the AW609 that the MOU does not involve a promised future sale of the aircraft; Nakanihon wants to get a better appreciation of the primary benefits it could provide in areas like emergency medical services and electronic news gathering.


Futagami said that the AW609's speed would be one prime advantage over traditional helicopters in transporting EMS patients. The AW609 is to have a top speed of 316 mph.

Leonardo said that the MOU will allow Leonardo and Nakanihon to develop a market in Japan for the world's first civil tiltrotor, which Leonardo has said will likely be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration this year.

Nakanhihon operates Leonardo AW139s and fixed-wing aircraft and is a certified service center for Leonardo rotor craft, and thus Leonardo said that it believes Nakanihon is well-positioned to help develop the market for the AW609 in Japan.

“At Nakanihon Air Service we operate about 80 aircraft, both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and we are very interested in the new tiltrotor category,” Nakanihon said in a statement. “Through this joint working group with Leonardo, we would like to explore the applications of the AW609 to future aeromedical services, disaster emergency response and news coverage as well as new areas of business.”

Leonardo has said that the Era Group will be the launch customer for the AW609 and that Era has ordered two 609s for entry to service next year.

Last year, Leonardo said it has received interest from operators for 50 609s.

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