AgustaWestland will set up a final assembly line for its 4.5t AW169 helicopter at its facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The company's plant in Vergiate, Italy, will continue operating as the primary assembly site for the light twin-engined type, however.

William Hunt, chief executive of AgustaWestland Philadelphia, says the first AW169 built at the new plant will be inducted into final assembly in May 2014 and should be delivered early in 2015. The factory is expected to ramp up to produce about 20 aircraft per year by 2017, Hunt says.

The 10-seat AW169 has already secured more than 80 orders for missions ranging from corporate transportation to law enforcement, Hunt adds. Those aircraft will produced both in Philadelphia and in Vergiate. First deliveries from the latter site are scheduled for the second half of 2014.

The aircraft is due to receive its civil certification in 2014 following testing on its four flying prototypes.

AgustaWestland had previously suggested that assembly work on the type might be given to its Yeovil, UK plant. And although Yeovil remains heavily involved in the programme - producing transmissions, tail rotors and main rotor blades - the first civil helicopter to be assembled at the site will be the larger AW189.

The airframer has operated from Philadelphia since 1981 and assembles the AW139 medium twin and the single-engined AW119Kx - scheduled for US certification this month - at the 275,000ft² (25,500m²) facility.

Source: Flight International