AgustaWestland AW189: the ultimate multirole player

AgustaWestland AW189: the ultimate multirole player

The Leonardo 8-ton class twin has been deployed succesfully in O&G and SAR market: here's its story from the maiden flight in 2011 to EASA certification in early 2014

A new deal for the helicopter industry, the first of supermediums, a ultimate player for O&g and SAR markets: that's what AgustaWestland AW189 has been designed for. The 8.3-8.6 ton class helicopter entered service with Bristow in middle 2014, starting a new chapter for the industry: the supermedium era

The AW189 development followed the path of Oil and Gas market history. Back in 2014, offshore transportation was the most prominent industry segment: operators like CHC and Bristow started choosing bigger and bigger machines in order to get even more people onboard North Sea platforms at a lower cost, while international leasing companies started buying supermediums in a unprecedent rush.

Airbus Helicopters chose the H175 helicopter as its supermediums champion, Bell Helicopter spent a lot in terms of technology, money and time trying to get the 525 Relentless in the air before it was too late for the market, a move that maybe saved the project for the VIP market. Sikorsky did not take the supermediums rush: at the time the now Lockheed Martin Company already had in service the heavier S92, which proved to be an efficient platform.

Leonardo (in 2014 knonw as Finmeccanica) followed a different approach and started from a military helicopter, the AW149, which is in fact the platform which the AW189 is based on. Starting from being an offshore market gamechanger, the AW189 gradually became a sort of global representative for AgustaWestland technology, industrial capability and reputation, as the UK SAR contract shared with the S92s certifies. 


The story of the AW189 officially began during the 2011 Paris Air Show. The maiden flight followed later that year. The AW189 was meant to be the heavier helicopter of the AgustaWestland Family: it was designed to ensure higher range and great efficiency at cheaper prices.

In other words, the AW189 was meant to be the perfect machine for Oil &Ggas. 

Somewhat, the AW189 became a challenge for the entire industry, starting a rush to the offshore market in a global economic recession environment. 

In the video: AW189 - King of the Skies


The real breakthrough of the AW189 helicopter came during the 2012 Farnborough Airshow, when the AgustaWestland Family of next generation helicopter was officially presented to the helicopter industry. The new family of the Anglo-Italian company aimed at covering several market segments with a limted number of helicopters: the 7-ton AW139, the 4.5 ton AW169, and the 8-ton AW189.

Engineers and designer at AgustaWestland Italy's plant chose a classic approach for the design: it doesn't take an expert to get the AW189 strictly resemblance to the iconic AW139 shape.

But underneath the skin, the AW189 is a brand new helicopter.

In the photogallery: AW189 in pictures

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The AW189 features a low workload fully integrated glass cockpit, spacious constant section cabin equipped with a wide range of mission equipment, and comprehensive sensor options, providing operators with versatile SAR capability. The AW189 is powered by two GE CT7-2E1 engines, delivering high speed for rapid response and superior hover performance for safety.

The AW189 is waiting for EASA FIPS approval (which is incumbent), while is now equipped with a limited ice protection system for SAR operations.

Avionics is complete with NVG compatible integrated glass cockpit with 4 axis AFCS, dual Flight Management System (FMS), while latest generation modular open systems architecture enables integration of wide range of mission equipment including multi-band radios, radar, Electro-Optic / Infra-Red (EO/IR) device, mission console, video down-link, searchlight, loudspeakers, rescue hoist and cargo hook

The AW189 features the largest cabin in its class (11.2 m3 / 395.5 ft3), with a large flat floor space with accommodation for seats, at least 2 stretchers, mission console; wide doors provide exceptional accessibility both when the helicopter is on ground or during winching operations.

Safety is guaranteed by a  main gearbox with the AgustaWestland trademark 50 minute ‘dry-run’ capability; damage tolerance, redundant systems, energy-absorbing landing gear, fuselage and seats for safety and survivability. An Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) provides air conditioning whilst rotors are not turning, ensuring consistent cabin conditions in hot weather, on the ground. 

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