AgustaWestland touts single-engined trainer savings

Nashville
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

Helicopter manufacturers continue to say the US Army could save a significant amount of money if it sticks with a single-engined helicopter trainer, rather than transitioning to a dual-engined type as planned.

As part of its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, the army says it will save money by grounding its entire fleet of single-engined Bell Helicopter OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scouts, and its related TH-67 Creek trainers. The service plans to purchase 100 new twin-engined Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakotas over two years – at a cost of $804 million – and use these as trainers.

Robert LaBelle, chief executive of AgustaWestland North America, told Flightglobal on 5 May that an aircraft like his company's single-engined AW119Kx costs one-half as much to buy as a twin-engined model like the Lakota – and one-third to one-quarter as much to operate.

The army could save $3 billion over 20 years with a fleet of some 200 single-engined trainers, adds LaBelle, speaking during the Army Aviation Association of America's Mission Solutions Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

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AgustaWestland

The numbers show that the idea of saving money by eliminating the entire TH-67 fleet and its related infrastructure is a "myth", according to LaBelle.

AgustaWestland is pitching its civilian AW119Kx – known as the Koala – as an ideal military trainer, noting that it has redundant hydraulic systems and a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit that is night vision compatible. No modifications would be needed, he adds.

LaBelle says the company will bid on an army contract if the service opens a competition.

In addition, the company is pursuing a deal to sell or potentially lease AW119Kxs to the US Navy.

Meanwhile, Bell Helicopter has made similar arguments about cost, telling Flightglobal last week that training in TH-67s, which have an average age of 16 years, is "better value" for the army.

TH-67s cost $1,000-1,500 less per flight hour to operate than Lakotas, claims Mike Miller, Bell's director of military business development.