AgustaWestland will shortly begin a year-long certification campaign for the search and rescue variant of its developmental AW189 super-medium helicopter, based at its Yeovil, UK site.
The Anglo-Italian manufacturer will utilise one of its prototype aircraft for the effort, which will arrive in Yeovil later in August, said Ray Edwards, managing director of AgustaWestland UK, speaking at an event at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.
Yeovil has been handed the lead role for the certification push, as it will provide 11 AW189s for Bristow Helicopters, which was victorious in the UK's £1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) Long SAR contest in March.
Bristow will use the AgustaWestland aircraft and 11 Sikorsky S-92s to replace the Westland Sea Kings currently operated by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force units from 2015.
Bristow confirmed its SAR order with the manufacturer on 18 July, and the first aircraft from the commitment will begin final assembly at Yeovil in January. Edwards says the initial example will take 4,000-5,000h to build - a figure that will fall to 3,500h for the final delivery.
Aircraft will be handed over to Bristow at a rate of one every two months, he adds.
Yeovil is intended to be the assembly facility for all SAR-roled AW189s, although Bristow is the only customer for the variant so far.
Edwards suggests that "10 per year" would be the "minimum" number required to support the activity at the site.
"We want to start well and demonstrate our competitiveness on those initial AW189s," he says.
Certification of the offshore transportation-configured AW189 is due towards the end of the third quarter this year, with service entry - again with Bristow Group - pegged for November.
Source: Flight International