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Dubai Airshow 2021: Leonardo puts AW609 in the spotlight

17th November 2021 - 10:45 GMT | by Leonid Nersisyan in Dubai

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AW609 on display at the Dubai Airshow 2021. (Photo: Leonardo)

A prototype AW609 performed its debut trade show demonstration flight and there is a hint of Saudi interest — but what about the potential sale of tiltrotors to the UAE?

Leonardo has been actively promoting its AW609 twin-engine tiltrotor VTOL aircraft at the Dubai Airshow 2021, both in the static display and demonstration flights for the first time at a trade show.

The AW609 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A engines that allow it to fly at over 500km/h, with a range of almost 1,400km that increases to beyond 2,000km with auxiliary tanks.

For specific missions, to increase range and load capacity, the AW609 can also take off in conventional mode.

Leonardo announced a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries on 14 November to strengthen maintenance services for the growing fleet of AW139 helicopters in Saudi Arabia.

The MoA also incorporates the AW169 helicopter and the AW609 tiltrotor in the future — indicating interest on the part of Riyadh in procuring these aircraft.

If Saudi Arabia does procure the AW609, it would not be the first Middle Eastern country to order the aircraft. During the Dubai Airshow 2015, UAE Joint Aviation Command (JAC) emerged as the potential AW609 launch customer for search and rescue missions, after signing an MoU with Leonardo predecessor company AgustaWestland.

The MoU called for three aircraft with an option for three more, with initial deliveries targeted in 2019 — but that date came and went without the arrival of the AW609 in the UAE.

Leonardo and UAE officials remain tight-lipped on the status of the potential JAC deal, but other sources indicate there were complications over certification of the aircraft.

There is some cause for optimism: the first production-standard AW609 recently rolled out from the Leonardo factory in Philadelphia and Leonardo officials have stated that they expect FAA certification in the US to be granted soon.

Leonardo also announced at the Dubai Airshow 2021 an MoU with French aircraft MRO service provider Sabena Technics, which will offer the Leonardo Miysis Directional Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) system to customers looking to modify and equip their aircraft with protection against IR-guided missiles.

Miysis DIRCM works by shining a high-powered laser onto a missile’s targeting system, dazzling it and forcing it away from its intended target.

Leonardo hopes that the MoU would help to generate business for Miysis in the European, Middle Eastern and African markets, where the French company has strong relationships with aircraft operators.

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