Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lynx Wildcat helicopter makes first flight :Dubai Air Show

By Craig Hoyle

The UK armed forces' new Lynx Wildcat helicopter made its first flight on 12 November, with the programme milestone to boost AgustaWestland's marketing efforts for the internationally branded AW159 during the Dubai air show.The AW149 multi-role military medium twin helicopter meanwhile completed its maiden flight the following day, at AgustaWestland's Vergiate plant in Italy.

The AW159's flight debut at the company's Yeovil, UK site included "a range of general handling checks", says AgustaWestland. Flown by chief test pilot Donald Maclaine, "the aircraft performed as expected", it adds. Carrying the military registration ZZ400, the helicopter was painted in British Army markings for its debut.

A new-generation development of the ubiquitous Lynx light transport and maritime helicopter flown by 14 nations, the AW159 is powered by two Honeywell/Rolls-Royce LHTEC CTS800-4N engines. These can produce a combined 2,560shp (1,910kW), and give the roughly 6t aircraft "exceptional hot and high performance", its manufacturer says.

The UK Ministry of Defence signed a contract for the then-named Future Lynx aircraft in June 2006, with AgustaWestland to deliver 34 to the British Army and 28 to the UK Royal Navy under the deal. The company says its development programme "continues to be on time and on budget", with a further two aircraft to enter flight-testing next year.

The first Lynx Wildcat will be handed over in 2011, and the type will enter full service with the army in 2014 and navy in 2015. Their two variants will be around 98% common in airframe and system design.

AgustaWestland began its international marketing efforts with the AW159 earlier this year. The type will "continue the remarkable success the Lynx has achieved in service worldwide", it says. "The AW159 will be the most cost-effective, capable and advanced helicopter in its class," claims AgustaWestland chief executive Giuseppe Orsi.

"We believe there is good potential for the aircraft in the Middle East and North Africa," says a company source. Existing regional operators of its legacy Lynx and Super Lynx designs include Nigeria and Oman, while Algeria is awaiting delivery of its first example.The AW149 is on offer for Ankara's Turkish utility helicopter programme requirement, where it faces competition from Sikorsky's T-70 Black Hawk.

Flown by AgustaWestland chief test pilot Giuseppe Lo Coco, the aircraft made a 20min flight that included an assessment of the helicopter's general handling and basic systems. The first helicopter will be followed by a second prototype in 2010 with the aim of achieving initial operational capability in 2014.


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