19-Oct-2020 Source: HeliHub.com
Leonardo have confirmed to HeliHub.com that FIPS (Full Ice Protection System) clearance for the AW169 has been delayed by COVID19.
The original order from Rega (Swiss Air Rescue) was announced in December 2015, and consists of three AW169 helicopters. The organisation provides emergency medical service and search and rescue missions (EMS/SAR) all over Switzerland, from the lowlands to the high mountains of the Alps.
In the original press release, delivery was targeted as 2020, and Rega were saying they would put them in service in 2021. However, the Coronavirus pandemic caused Leonardo to prematurely curtail the first series of test flights in North America under the program name of “Project Icebird” in February 2020. Due to the nature of the work, these flights cannot be resumed until the coming winter, which means that the additional test flights, certification and thus also the delivery of the first helicopter, will also be delayed. Once cleared, AW169 will be the lightest helicopter ever built with FIPS for operations in known icing conditions.
At best, EASA certification will be confirmed in 2021, and once there is a definite timeline towards that being in place, it is unlikely that the three orders will be given slots on the Vergiate production line. A representative from Rega recently told HeliHub.com that they were expecting delivery in 2021 (already a delay from the 2020 date Leonardo advised), but added “against the background of the corona pandemic, we are currently unable to make any statement about delivery“.
HeliHub.com does not expect the first AW169 to enter service with Rega before at least 2022.
The AW169s will bring Rega into a new era in terms of technology and mission capability. Rega AW169s will feature a jointly developed EMS/SAR configuration to meet their future all-weather requirements. Aside from FIPS, the three aircraft will feature advanced next-generation satellite navigation capabilities, Synthetic Vision System (SVS), Enhanced Vision System (EVS), and Selex ES’ Laser Obstacle Avoidance and Monitoring (LOAM) system for enhanced safety and situational awareness.
The relationship between Leonardo and Rega dates back to 1991 when the Swiss operator took delivery of their first of 15 A109K2 helicopters, and since 2009 they have been operating 11 AgustaWestland AW109SP Da Vincis.
FIPS was a problem to Leonardo with the AW189 program. Having committed to Bristow Helicopters that the aircraft would have FIPS clearance for the UK coastguard contract, the operator took additional S92s (later converted for offshore use) and Leonardo supplied stand-in AW139 aircraft.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com