Leonardo’s helicopter division has finally received long-awaited certification for the full icing protection system (FIPS) on its AgustaWestland AW189, allowing the super-medium twin to begin search and rescue operations in the UK.

Operator Bristow Group – whose UK subsidiary Bristow Helicopters has a 10-year contract to run SAR services in the country – says approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency for the FIPS was granted on 29 June.

Bristow began SAR operations in April 2015 with the intention of progressively introducing fleets of 11 AW189s and 11 Sikorsky S-92s.

A total of nine AW189s should have been in service by 1 January 2016, with two more to be added to the operational fleet on 1 April 2017, according to Bristow.

But the late arrival of the AgustaWestland type forced it to initiate a contingency plan, instead using additional S-92s and smaller AW139s.

The operator says it expects it “will be able to deliver the contracted solution” using the proposed AgustaWestland and Sikorsky fleets “following a transition period and subject to standard delivery and acceptance inspections” to confirm the AW189 meets its criteria.

Bristow has so far taken delivery of three SAR-roled AW189s, and according to its most recent financial filings it anticipates receiving an additional four aircraft this year – two each in June and September.

However, the remaining deliveries, each in batches of two, are scheduled for September 2017 and March 2018. The last base to operate the AW189 – Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire – is due to go live on 1 April 2017.

Bristow has so far not clarified the reason for the protracted delivery schedule.

Source: FlightGlobal.com