The first production example of AgustaWestland's new 8t-class AW189 helicopter performed its maiden sortie on 10 October ahead of year-end delivery to Bristow Helicopters. Two further AW189s are under assembly at the airframer's plant in Vergiate, Milan.
Certification is still on track, says AgustaWestland. Key meetings with approvals body EASA were held at the end of September, it says. Some further administrative issues are still outstanding, says chief project engineer Luca Medici, but these "will be closed off by the end of the month".
"After October we are in the hands of EASA," he says. "But there are no big issues; the helicopters we are producing in Vergiate are fully representative of the final configuration."
Two flight-test prototypes will remain at the company's Cascina Costa facility to advance further certification efforts around specific mission equipment. A further pre-production aircraft is at its Yeovil site in the UK, where approvals work is being conducted on a search and rescue variant.
Yeovil will be the lead facility for all SAR-configured AW189s as part of the company's success in the UK's Long SAR contest. The first fuselage for the 11-helicopter contract is already under production at Vergiate.
Also, initial support services have just been made available to operators, with an AW189 Flight Training Device (FTD) recently qualified by a joint EASA and ENAC team.