|An Italian Air Force HH-139 at Trident Juncture 15|
|Role||Medium-lift SAR/utility helicopter|
|First flight||3 February 2001|
|Primary users||Italian Air Force|
CHC Helicopter, Irish Air Corps
UAE Air Force
|Number built||900+ as of 2018|
$12 million (2013)
|Developed into||AgustaWestland AW149|
The AgustaWestland AW139 is a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined helicopter developed and produced principally by AgustaWestland. It is marketed at several different roles, including VIP/corporate transport, offshore transport, fire fighting, law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical service, disaster relief, and maritime patrol. In addition to AgustaWestland's own manufacturing facilities in Italy and the United States, the AW139 is produced in Russia by HeliVert, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Russian Helicopters.
The AW139 was originally designed and developed jointly by Agusta and Bell Helicopters and marketed as the Agusta-Bell AB139, being redesignated AW139 when Bell withdrew from the project. Since entering service in 2003, the AW139 has become one of AgustaWestland's most influential products; it has been subsequently developed into two enlarged medium-lift helicopters, the military-orientated AW149 and the AW189 for the civil market.
Development[edit | edit source]
Origins[edit | edit source]
In 1997, the Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta launched a programme to develop a replacement for the Bell Huey family of helicopters (which had been built in very large numbers by Bell Helicopter and under license by Agusta) with a potential market of 900 aircraft being predicted. In 1998, Bell and Agusta entered into an agreement, setting up a joint venture, Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company (BAAC), to develop two aircraft: a conventional helicopter and a tiltrotor aircraft. These became the Bell/Agusta AB139 and Bell/Agusta BA609 respectively. Bell was to be the leading partner for the development of the BA609 while Agusta would be the lead partner for the AB139; it was intended for production, sales, and support to be shared.
On 26 September 2000, the first order for the type was placed by Bristow Helicopters. The first preproduction helicopter flew on 3 February 2001 at Vergiate in Italy, with two further AW139s also participating in flying trials. The first production AW139 made its first flight on 24 June 2002. European JAA certification was received in June 2003, and its FAA type certificate followed in December 2004. By May 2005, the AW139 had received in excess of 100 orders worldwide. In the US, the type was marketed under the designation US139, and was entered into the US Army's Light Utility Helicopter competition. One key market for the AW139 was the oil & gas industry, which required helicopters of increased endurance for offshore operations. In 2005, AgustaWestland bought out Bell's 25% share in the program and all of its rights to the AW139 for $95 million.
In April 2008, AgustaWestland revealed that it was in the process of certifying an increase in the AW139's max gross weight to 14,991 lb (6,800 kg) to better compete in long-range markets served by helicopters such as the larger Sikorsky S-92 and Eurocopter EC225. In 2007, a second production line at the AgustaWestland Aerospace plant in Philadelphia, United States was established; the Philadelphia plant produced its 200th AW139 in September 2014, at which point U.S. production was intended to reach 40 units per year in the near future. By 2011, AgustaWestland was producing 90 AW139s a year; 9.5% of the company's overall revenue in 2010 was attributed to the type. By 2013, a combined total of 720 AW139s had been sold to over 200 operators in 60 different countries.
Further development[edit | edit source]
In 2011, a military-configured variant, the AW139M, was revealed by AgustaWestland. It was promoted at the US market, including for the U.S. Air Force's Common Vertical Lift Support Program. The AW139M is equipped with a high definition forward-looking infrared (FLIR), self-protection system, heavy-duty landing gear, and has low thermal and acoustic signatures; a significant proportion of the equipment is sourced from American manufacturers. Options offered include an external stores system including various armaments, armored seats, self-sealing fuel tanks, and a full ice-protection system for all-weather operations.
The AW139 serves as the basis for AgustaWestland's wider business strategy, under which it aims to produce a standardised family of helicopters with common design features. The sharing of components and design philosophies is intended to simplify maintenance and training for operators; commonality also lowers the production costs. The AW139 was the first of this group, and as of 2014, it was to be joined by the larger AW149 and AW189, aimed at military and civilian customers respectively. Advances made in the development of new models are intended to be transferrable onto existing family members, decreasing the cost of future upgrades for the AW139.
In June 2010, it was announced that AgustaWestland and Rostvertol would build a manufacturing plant in Tomilino, Moscow Region, where it was initially planned to produce AW139s by 2012. HeliVert, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Rostvertol, commenced domestic production of the AW139 in 2012, at which point it was planned that between 15 and 20 helicopters would be produced per year. The first AW139 to be assembled in Russia made its first flight in December 2012. In January 2013, the Russian Defense Ministry was reportedly considering placing an order for seven AW139s. In January 2014, HeliVert received a Certificate of Approval from the Aviation Register of the Interstate Aviation Committee to commence production of commercial AW139s. In September 2014, a certificate was granted to perform comprehensive maintenance and servicing of the type at the Tomilino facility.
In 2015, AgustaWestland unveiled an AW139 variant with an increased gross weight of 7 tonnes, enabling a range of 305 km while carrying 12 passengers; existing AW139s can also be rebuilt to the newer heavy-weight model. The heavier airframe comes at the expense of decreased hot and high performance. In November 2015, AgustaWestland demonstrated a 60-minute "run-dry" test (no oil) of an AW139's main gearbox, 30 minutes greater than any other certified rotorcraft at the time.
Design[edit | edit source]
The AW139 is a conventional twin-engine multi-role helicopter. It has a five-bladed fully articulated main rotor with a titanium hub and composite blades and a four-bladed articulated tail rotor. It is fitted with retractable tricycle landing gear, the two aft wheels retracting into external sponsons which are also used to house emergency equipment. It is flown by a crew of two pilots, with up to 15 passengers accommodated in three rows of five. The AW139 had been aimed at a vacant niche in the market, sitting below larger types such as the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma and Sikorsky S-92, and above smaller ones like the Bell 412 and Eurocopter EC155. Rotor & Wing has described the AW139's flying attitude as 'docile and predictable'.
The AW139 is powered by two FADEC-controlled Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C turboshaft engines; the FADEC system seamlessly adjusts the engines for pilot convenience and passenger comfort, and can automatically handle a single-engine failure without noticeable deviation. It was constructed with maintenance requirements in mind; critical systems can be readily accessed, where possible the number of parts has been reduced, and many components have been designed for an extended lifecycle; a Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) is also equipped. In excess of a thousand customizable items of equipment can be configured per customer demand, including auxiliary fuel tanks, rescue hoists, cargo hooks, search and weather radar, ice protection systems, external cameras and search lights, and seating arrangements.
The AW139 features a modular glass cockpit, a commonly-installed feature being the four-axis autopilot, which enables functions such as auto-hover capability. The cockpit has been designed to enable single-pilot flight operations under instrument flight rules conditions, and it is also compatible with the use of night vision goggles. Pilot training for the type is available via advanced Level D Full Flight Simulators. According to Shipping & Marine, the AW139 has "the largest cabin in its class"; containing up to 15 passengers or four litters and accompanying medics, an additional baggage compartment is used to stow equipment to keep the main cabin clear for use.
Large sections of the AW139 have been developed and produced by a range of different companies. Airframes are typically produced by PZL-Świdnik, who delivered their 200th airframe in April 2014. Pratt & Whitney Canada produce the type's PT6C turboshaft engines, while the primary and secondary transmissions were developed by Westland GKN and Kawasaki Heavy Industries respectively. A significant portion of the avionics are sourced from Honeywell. Turkish Aerospace Industries has been subcontracted to manufacture various elements of the AW139, including the fuselage, canopy, and radome. Final assembly of most AW139s is performed at AgustaWestland's facilities in Philadelphia, United States, and Vergiate, Italy; those destined for customers within the Commonwealth of Independent States are typically assembled by a third final manufacturing plant in Tomilino, Moscow operated by HeliVert.
Operational history[edit | edit source]
The Irish Air Corps was the first military operator of the type, having taken delivery of its first AW139, of a batch of six, in August 2006. The United Arab Emirates Air Force and the Qatar Air Force became the second and third military operators of the AW139, having ordered 9 and 18 of the type respectively. A specialised military variant, the AW139M, was later launched, for which the Italian Air Force was the launch customer. Designated as HH-139A in Italian service, they are used for combat search and rescue (CSAR) operations. In October 2012, the Royal Thai Army ordered a pair of AW139s; a further eight were produced in October 2015.
In February 2006, Mitsui Bussan Aerospace signed a $100 million contract for 12 AW139s and an exclusive distribution agreement for the AW139 in Japan. In October 2006, the Japan Coast Guard announced its selection of the AW139 as the replacement for its Bell 212 search and rescue fleet; by early 2011, 18 AW139s were on order by the Japan Coast Guard through Mitsui Bussan as the distributor, a total of 24 are expected to be ordered. The Japanese National Police Agency placed multiple orders for the AW139; other organisations in the nation have used the type for firefighting and disaster relief operations. In the North American market, CHC Helicopter was the first operator of the type. In 2012, CHC became the largest operator of the AW139 in the world, at that point operating a fleet of 44 in search and rescue, emergency medical service and offshore transport missions. In 2015, responsibility for the maintenance of CHC's AW139 fleet was reorganized under their helicopter support division, Heli-One; activities include post-delivery modifications and engine overhauls.
Qatar-based firm Gulf Helicopters has emerged as one of the largest AW139 operators worldwide, first ordering the type in 2007 for offshore transport duties; it has since become an authorized service center and training center for the AW139. Malaysian operator Weststar Aviation has the distinction of being the biggest operator of the AW139 in the Asia Pacific; as of February 2014, the company has ordered a total of 34 helicopters. Since taking delivery of their first AW139 in December 2010, Weststar has typically employed the type in support of offshore oil and gas operations.
In July 2014, AgustaWestland announce that the global fleet had accumulated in excess of one million flight hours; by this milestone, a total of 770 AW139s had been produced.
On 24 May 2016, AugustaWestland parent Leonardo-Finmeccanica announced that Pakistan had signed a contract for an undisclosed number of AW139s as part of a fleet renewal programme spread over several batches, including a logistic support and training package. The AW139s, deliveries of which are expected in 2017, will be used to perform search-and-rescue (SAR) operations across the country. A total of 11 AW139s are already in service in Pakistan, with five aircraft operated for government relief and transportation duties.
Variants[edit | edit source]
- Original Italian-built production aircraft, 54 built.
- Designation change from 55th aircraft onwards, built in Italy.
- AW139 (long nose configuration)
- Long nose variant with increased room for avionics built in Italy and the United States.
- Militarised variant, capable of carrying various weapons payloads.
- Italian Air Force designation for ten search-and rescue configured AW139Ms.
- Italian Air Force designation for two VIP configured AW139s.
- Boeing MH-139
- Military variant based on the American-built AW139, a contender as a replacement for the United States Air Force UH-1N fleet.
Operators[edit | edit source]
The AW139 is popular for all types of operators both commercial and private.
Military operators[edit | edit source]
Government operators[edit | edit source]
- Brazilian Federal Police
- Los Angeles City Fire Department
- Maryland State Police
- New Jersey State Police
- United States Border Patrol
|AW139 performing an sea rescue exercise in Valencia, 2013|
|Documentary - Megafactories AgustaWestland AW139 Manufacturing|
|AW139 lifting a sports car|
Notable accidents[edit | edit source]
- On 21 January 2010, Spanish Maritime Safety Agency AW-139SAR (registration EC-KYR), crashed into the sea close to Almeria. Three people died.
- On 23 February 2011, South Korean Coast Guard AW139 went missing off the southern island of Jeju. Five people died.
- On 13 March 2014, Haughey Air AW139 (registration G-LBAL) crashed shortly after takeoff from Gillingham, Norfolk, United Kingdom, killing all four people on board.
- On 26 December 2015, Société Beninoise des Hydrocarbures AW139 (registration: TY-ABC) hit a wall during a forced landing, with the Beninese Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou on board. Everyone walked away from the incident.
- On 8 September 2016, a Kenya Police helicopter (registration 5Y-NPS) crashed while on patrol in Mathare North area of Nairobi. All three pilots on board, including an AgustaWestland instructor, escaped with injuries.
- On 24 January 2017, an AW139 HEMS helicopter (registration EC-KJT) crashed on a mountain ridge in adverse weather conditions with poor visibility near Campo Felice (province of L’Aquila, central Italy). The rescue helicopter recovered an injured skier in the nearby ski resort and crashed shortly after takeoff; after inadvertent entry into IMC, the pilot's loss of situational awareness resulted in a partially-controlled flight into terrain. All 6 people on board (pilot, HEMS crewmember/hoist operator, medic, flight nurse, rescuer and patient) died in the crash.
Specifications (AW139)[edit | edit source]
- Crew: one or two
- Capacity: 15 passengers
- Length: 16.66 m (54 ft 8 in)
- Main rotor diameter: × 13.80 m (45 ft 3 in)
- Width: 2.26 m (10 ft 0 in)
- Height: 4.98 m (16 ft 4 in)
- Gross weight: 6,400 (7,000kg for 7t version) kg (14,110 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turboshaft engine, 1,142 kW (1,531 hp) each
- Maximum speed: 310 km/h (193 mph)
- Cruising speed: 306 km/h (191 mph)
- Range: 1,061 km ( miles)
- Endurance: 5 hours 13 min
- Service ceiling: 6,096 m (20,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 10.9 m/s (2,140 ft/min)
See also[edit | edit source]
- AgustaWestland AW109
- Agusta A129 Mangusta
- AgustaWestland AW149
- AgustaWestland AW169
- AgustaWestland AW189
- Airbus Helicopters H160
- List of helicopters
References[edit | edit source]
Citations[edit | edit source]
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- "5Y-NPS AgustaWestland AW139 C/N 31717" (in en). Helis.com. https://www.helis.com/database/cn/44283/.
- "Passengers in chopper crash in stable condition - VIDEO" (in en-UK). http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Passengers-in-chopper-crash-in-stable-condition/1056-3373936-bb3ap6/index.html. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
- "Monte Cefalone, Lucoli (AQ), AW139 marche EC-KJT" (in Italian). http://www.ansv.it/It/detail_Relazioni.asp?ID=2111.
- "AW139 Technical Data". AgustaWestland. http://www.leonardocompany.com/en/-/aw139. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- Gajetti and Maggiore 2013, pp. 35–37.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Gajetti, Marco and Paolo Maggiore. "Route Profitability for Helicopters." Società Editrice Esculapio, 2013. ISBN 88-7488-609-8.
- Hoyle, Craig. "World Air Forces Directory". Flight International, Vol. 182, No. 5370, 11–17 December 2012. pp. 40–64. ISSN 0015-3710.
- Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Defence Data, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5.
- Niccoli, Riccardo. "The Bell Agusta AB 139". Air International, September 2001, Vol 61 No 3. ISSN 0306-5634. pp. 158–163.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:AgustaWestland AW139.|
- AW139 page on Leonardo
- AW139 Specs & Photo on flugzeuginfo.net
- European Aviation Safety Agency Type Certificate Data Sheet
- Federal Aviation Authority Type Certificate Data Sheet
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