PICTURE: Fourth AW169 takes to the skies

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The fourth and final AgustaWestland AW169 helicopter prototype made its maiden flight on 31 January at the airframer's facility in Vergiate, Italy. The production-conforming intermediate twin - built in just 71 days - performed general handling and basic systems testing.

The three other test aircraft have already chalked up over 150 flight hours since they took to the skies in May, July and November 2012 respectively, says the Anglo-Italian airframer, adding that the 4.5t AW169 is "on schedule" for certification and service entry in 2014.

fourth aw169 prototype agustawestland

 AgustaWestland    

The fourth AW169 prototype made its maiden flight on 31 January at the airframer's facility in Vergiate

The 10-passenger helicopter was launched in July 2010 to fill a gap in AgustaWestland's product line between the AW109 light twin and the AW139 medium twin. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210-powered aircraft is also positioned as a challenger to Eurocopter's Dauphin and EC145 lines.

"The fourth prototype is fully representative of the production configuration of the multirole aircraft, designed for emergency medical services, search and rescue, law enforcement, passenger and offshore transport and utility missions," says AgustaWestland.

"The AW169 incorporates several new technologies in the rotor system, engines, avionics, transmission and electric power generation and distribution systems," it adds.

A key feature of the new helicopter is a turbine engine with a mode to operate also as an auxiliary power unit, removing the requirement for a separate APU, something a component seldom seen in this weight-class of helicopter.

Since its launch in July 2010, AgustaWestland has secured more than 70 orders for the AW169.