AgustaWestland may be poised to emerge from the shadow of Eurocopter as the best-known European producer of civil helicopters and technology.

The company's standings as presented at the Heli-Expo show and a glimpse at the few technologies made public for its newly launched AW169 medium twin reveal an airframer that is quietly laying the foundations to take on Eurocopter head-to-head in the near future.

Largely due to the offshore oil and gas industry and parapublic sector, AgustaWestland has been growing at three times the average market rate of 7% since 2004 in terms of civil helicopter sales revenue, increasing its share from 11% to 29% over the seven years, ending with $1 billion in civil sales in 2010. Eurocopter lost ground over the same period, declining from 53% to 45%.

Why the fast rise? Chief executive Giuseppe Orsi credits the success to the all-weather AW139 medium twin, which itself accounted for 42% of the 56% uptake in the civil helicopter orders from 2009.

AgustaWestland is poised to continue the winning streak of the 6.5t AW139 medium twin with the multi-role AW169, a 4.5t twin scheduled for first deliveries in 2014. The company remains tight-lipped about the technologies to be included, other than revealing the two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210A engines and three 8 x 10in (205 x 255mm) Rockwell Collins displays in the cockpit.

AgustaWestland is developing the integrated avionics suite in-house development and is promising "next generation" technologies embedded in the rotors, along with "wide use" of composites. First flight is scheduled for 2012.

Source: Flight International