AgustaWestland has officially opened a new 10,220m2 (110,000ft2) AW139 medium twin helicopter assembly line in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, upping its US-built production of the AW119 Ke and AW139 to as many as 70 helicopters a year in a combined 27,870m2 facility.

In 2004 the company opened an AW119 light single helicopter assembly plant at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, where an existing 6,970m2 facility had been a used as completion centre for helicopters made in Europe but destined for customers in the Americas.

Since then, AgustaWestland has increased production from as few as five AW119s a year there to as many as 25 and continues completions on AW109 Power and Grand light twin helicopters for customers in the Americas, currently home to 360 AgustaWestland helicopters.

AW139 production started in 2006 in a temporary building at the airport, with the first US-made version delivered in December that year.

AgustaWestland chief executive Giuseppe Orsi says "market response" from the USA, as well as the weak dollar, played a role in the timing of the move. He points out that 2007 was a record year for the company, with 110 civil helicopter models delivered out of a total of about 180 civilian and military machines, an increase of 12% over 2006, with a three-year backlog of orders. By 2010, AgustaWestland plans to up its total output to 260 helicopters a year.

Philadelphia will play a role in the growth, producing 30-35 AW139s this year as well as 25 AW119s. Orsi says the facility can produce a maximum of 70 helicopters a year. AgustaWestland plans to compete for about $13 billion in new contracts over the next five years, he adds. "We plan to win at least some of them."

Source: Flight International