The Leonardo TH-119 IFR training helicopter completed its first test flight at the company’s Philadelphia plant on 20 December.

The TH-119, based on the single-engine AW119 utility helicopter, is Leonardo’s offer to replace the US Navy’s TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopter fleet. The USN released a draft request for proposals on 31 October, with the winner of the competition promised a contract to produce 125 trainers.

Leonardo says the TH-119 is scheduled to achieve full Federal Aviation Administration instrument flight rules (IFR) certification in early 2019. The helicopter’s first flight test included an assessment of general handling and avionics systems, says Leonardo.

Leonardo TH-119 first flight resized

Leonardo TH-119 first flight in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


“Already made in USA, the TH-119 is an affordable, off-the-shelf teaching helicopter that combines proven performance, flexibility and safety,” says Andrew Gappy, Leonardo director of US government sales. “It is built to accomplish every current Navy undergraduate training mission and flight skill manoeuvre with plenty of room to grow over the venerable TH-57.”

Leonardo argues that the TH-119 has a wide range of capabilities which would allow the USN to train pilots without relying on a simulator. For example, the company says the helicopter is capable of training manoeuvres such as sliding landings, hovering, and full autorotation.

The civilian Leonardo AW119, upon which the TH-119 is based, is produced in Philadelphia and flown by 153 different operators around the world, according to Flight Fleets Analyzer. There are 273 examples of the helicopter in service.

The TH-119’s likely competition for the USN’s trainer helicopter contract includes the single-engine Bell 407GXi and Airbus Helicopters’ twin-engine H135.