GKN Westland flew the first fully mission-equipped Westland/Agusta EH101 Merlin anti-submarine-warfare helicopter, RN02, on 14 January, providing a welcome fillip to the considerably delayed project. The flight-test programme has been severely curtailed over the past six months because of an incident with prototype number seven (PP07) in August 1996. Westland says that, while the six-month hiatus has added to its costs, it will still be able to meet the 1999 in-service date for the Royal Navy. Prototypes number three and number five are described as being "close to flight", as is RN03. The incident with PP07, which resulted in a loss of pitch control, is thought to have been caused by a component failure, rather than being a design problem. PP01 is about to be used for at-sea deck-handling trials with the RN. EH101 prototypes PP02 and PP04 have already been lost.


Source: Flight International