July 02, 2013
AgustaWestland is exploring the potential of recertifying its AW101 three-engine, 15-ton helicopter for civil use.
The company believes a new civil certification with the European Aviation Safety Agency could raise interest from operators for long-range oil and gas operations as well as VIP missions. The aircraft achieved civil certification in 1994 as the EH101, but only managed to land one sale from a civil customer, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.
Since then AgustaWestland, which now markets the aircraft as the AW101, has made a range of avionics and performance changes, radically altering its capability and reliability.
In recent years, AgustaWestland has enjoyed a flurry of new orders for AW101s in a VIP configuration, with two helicopters each for the governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan. The company is also currently building two aircraft for the Algerian government and delivering 12 for use by the Indian air force for VVIP missions. The aircraft is also being offered jointly by AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Navy’s VXX program to replace the “Marine One” helicopters that carry the president and other senior members of the U.S. government.
However, work on the IAF helicopters has slowed to a trickle while Indian and Italian investigators continue to look into whether AgustaWestland paid kickbacks worth around €50 million to secure the sale of 12 AW101 VIP helicopters to the IAF in 2010, when former CEO Giuseppe Orsi was in charge.
Several of the first batch of six AW101s for the IAF have already been delivered, while some were kept in the U.K. for crew training. In the meantime, AgustaWestland is preparing to start work on an Italian air force order for up to 12 AW101s for use in the combat search-and-rescue role. These will replace Italy’s fleet of aging Agusta-built HH-3F Pelican helicopters.
[Editor’s Note: This story was amended to correct the current designation of the AW101.]