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Heli-Expo 2017: Leonardo looks to the future

14th March 2017 - 16:27 GMT | by Beth Maundrill in Dallas

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While Bell rolled out its stylish new concept helicopter and MD Helicopters unveiled its new 6XX, Leonardo used Heli-Expo to quietly drop hints about a new aircraft design, referred to as the AW209.

Speaking to journalists during the event, Leonardo Helicopters managing director Daniele Romiti suggested that the AW209 would be a new light twin helicopter, although this could be some way off as he noted that the aircraft was 'not a dimension we are working on at the moment'.

Additionally, following its development of the AW609 tiltrotor, the company continues to invest research and development funds into a next generation civil tiltrotor. According to Romiti, we could see the aircraft as soon as 2023.

The new design will be a test bed based on the AW609 equipped with a fly-by-wire system, new avionics and new wings. The company will also explore how to tilt just the gearbox and not the entire engine.

'It will be a spiral development of these technologies,' said Romiti.

At Heli-Expo in 2016, the company showcased its revamped SW-4, dubbed the AW009. Leonardo is now considering a new engine for the aircraft, replacing the current Rolls Royce M250-C20R, as well as the option of installing a Genesys avionics suite.

The company is expecting certification of the aircraft in 2018 and is aiming to fly the first prototype in the second half of 2017. Leonardo is looking to the law enforcement market as one of its potential customers for the AW009 and Romiti said they had done demonstrations of the aircraft to law enforcement.

While the oil and gas situation has clearly hit every rotorcraft OEM, Romiti said that Leonardo has been able to compliment its market share with increased sales in other sectors such as EMS, which he highlighted had allowed the company to sell 20-25 AW119 Koalas to China for EMS operations.

The company is also growing in the US with an increased ability to maintain its fleet at its Philadelphia site with its maintenance outlet, which now can support all of Leonardo's aircraft at component level.

Romiti said the manufacturer was continuing to work on its flagship family of aircraft, the AW139, AW169 and AW189, and was planning on entering the AW139 into new markets as its conducts high altitude capability demonstrations.

The Elbit Systems Heli-ClearVision enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) will also be equipped on the aircraft family, beginning with the AW139.

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