Leonardo Helicopters is certain it will secure a launch customer for the K-model variant of the AW189 super-medium-twin to enable service entry in 2020.
The Anglo-Italian airframer launched the upgraded model at least year's Helitech event, but is yet to confirm any customers for the AW189K, which gains more powerful Safran Helicopter Engines Aneto-1K powerplants to replace the baseline aircraft's GE Aviation CT7s.
Roberto Garavaglia, senior vice-president of competitive analysis and strategy at Leonardo Helicopters, speaking at Helitech in Amsterdam on 16 October, said he was "fairly confident" of achieving a sale, in order to permit service entry in 2020.
Discussions with "several" potential customers are ongoing, he says, noting that the airframer has "roughly two years" in which to make a sale.
So far, the single test article has accumulated 105h across 90 flights and is on track to gain certification in late 2019.
Safran Helicopter Engines anticipates handing the required documentation for the Aneto to the European Aviation Safety Agency in early 2019, leading to certification for the new turboshaft in the second quarter.
Specific fuel consumption from the Aneto powerplants is likely to be around 10% higher than the CT7s they replace, says Garavaglia, adding that the additional 500shp (370kW) per engine would be invaluable for operations in hot and high conditions.
Leonardo Helicopters has also yet to determine a list price for the AW189K. Garavaglia says it will "not necessarily" be more than the baseline model, but does not rule this out.
Garavaglia stresses that the Aneto-powered variant is not designed to replace the existing AW189, but simply to offer operators another option.
The extra power offered could also spur orders for the slow-selling AW149 – essentially a military troop transport variant of the AW189. So far, the only customer for the model is the Royal Thai Army, which has taken five examples.
Since the AW149 was originally envisaged in 2006, its maximum take-off weight has increased from 7.5t to 8.6t.
"If you have 1t more you need the right amount of power," says Garavaglia. He says that feedback from the Italian air force, which had previously tested the AW149, revealed a requirement for more power. "Hence the idea for the Aneto-1K."