Medium-Lift Utility Helicopter
AgustaWestland introduced their AW139 medium-lift product in 2003 with production totaling over 700 units since.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The AgustaWestland model AW139 is a modern medium-lift, multi-purpose/multi-role rotary-wing product offered for both military and civilian service by the Italian-based concern. The product was originally born through a joint Italian-American venture as AgustaWestland and Bell joined to form the Bell/Agusta Aerospace Company and offer the "AB139" as a replacement for Bell's venerable - though aging - family of UH-1 "Huey" related transports. When Bell pulled from the program, the product was redesignated as the AW139 and went on to achieve considerable market success with over 700 units sold into 2013. First flight of a prototype was on February 3rd, 2001 and the AW139 was officially introduced in the AgustaWestland product line in 2003.
With its military-/civilian-minded design approach, the AW139 has proven useful in a variety of roles - having been configured for Search and Rescue (SAR), VIP transport, general passenger transport, offshore rig personnel transport, border patrolling, maritime support, police, firefighting and coast guard duties. Military operators include Cyprus, Egypt, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Nigeria, Panama, Qatar, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Civilian operators include Australia, Canada, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United States.
The AB139/AW139 program received its start in 1997 and this evolved into the joint partnership with Bell the following year. The initiative also produced the developmental BA609, a tilt-rotor, civilian-minded passenger transport concept.
Outwardly, the AW139 is a decidedly AgustaWestland design with its low-set nose assembly, large window panes and high-mounted tail stem. Two engines are housed in compartments fitted above the passenger cabin with the two-person cockpit conventionally at the front. Sliding doors allow for passengers to embark/disembark as needed while hinged automobile-style doors manage entry/exit for the pilots. The main rotor is sat upon a low mast and consists of a five-bladed composite design. The tail rotor is of a four-bladed design and faces starboard. The undercarriage is wholly-retractable and includes pair of single-wheeled main legs along with a two-wheeled nose leg.
Internally, the pilot positions feature dual controls and the instrument panel is dominated by four large, full-colored customizable information screens split by a fifth management screen at center. The seats are themselves divided by a center console containing additional controls. Vision out of the cockpit is excellent due to the largely windowed natured of the AW139's design. The passenger cabin can be arranged to seat up to 15 people while the internal arrangement can be set up to accept medical litters, rescue hoist equipment o r other mission-related systems depending on customer requirements.
The AW139 is powered by 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turboshaft engines developing 1,530 horsepower each while driving the five-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor. Maximum listed speed is 193 miles per hour with a range out to 570 miles. The helicopter supports a service ceiling up to 20,000 feet and features a rate-of-climb of 2,140 feet per minute.
The AW139 has since been offered in a few major notable variants beginning with the original AB139 model of which 54 units were manufactured under the joint AgustaWestlant/Bell label. Following Bell's departure from the 55th airframe onwards, the product fell under the revised designation of "AW139". A subvariant of this mark became a new "long nose" form featuring a lengthened nose assembly to house additional avionics equipment. The AW139, in its fully-militarized form, then became the "AW138M" and this model was adopted by the Italian Air Force as the SAR-minded HH-139A. VIP marks are designated as VH-139A. Further production of AW139s will now stem from the joint Italian-Russian venture out of Tomilino in Russia (under license).
The successful AW139 has gone on to influence two other notable AgustaWestland products - the AW149 and AW189. The AW149 is marketed as a medium-lift helicopter for military customers (no customers as of October 2013) and the AW189 is a similar medium-lift class system though intended for the civilian passenger market (in development as of October 2013). AgustaWestland is also working on the smaller AW169 passenger model and supports it definitive military attack platform - the A129 "Mangusta" for the Italian Army.
Qatar fields a fleet of 21 AW139s through its Emiri Air Force branch making it one of the largest foreign operators of the type.