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Leonardo AW101 search and rescue helicopter completes high altitude trials stateside

The Norwegian AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue helicopter, built by Leonardo, undertook high altitude trials in the United States to demonstrate an increase engine power and raise the Main Gear Box torque rating.

A cross-departmental team from Leonardo in Yeovil has successfully undertaken high altitude trials, which were completed on schedule with the Norwegian AW101 helicopter in the US. The aircraft completed its 21-day trial plan in just 16 days.

The AW101 Performance Improvement Programme certifies increased engine power and raises the Main Gear Box (MGB) torque rating to 117%. The aircraft was put through its paces in Colorado at Buena Vista and Leadville, which is 1 mile above sea level, to expand the high altitude element of the take-off and landing envelope that will contribute to the overall 117% capability.

The testing at the high altitude locations demonstrated safe landing and recovery techniques in the event of an engine failure, which pushed the aircraft’s capabilities to a certifiable-solution status. Power consumption testing future-proofed the aircraft for impending certification requirements.

Leonardo customer engineers, known as Field Service Representatives (FSR) – led by Mark Davies, rebuilt the Norwegian AW101-612 All-Weather Search and Rescue (AWSAR) helicopter on the East coast of America, in Baltimore, after it was shipped to the US by sea.

The Leonardo aircrew, comprised of Richard Parkes Flight Test Engineer, and Test Pilots Matt Grindon and Nick Wharmby, then flew 1,600 miles West across the US to the world’s highest airports for the handling, performance, and certification testing in Buena Vista and Leadville.

The aircrew then optimised the test scope and sequencing against the weather to exceed the plan. Nick Wharmby, Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters UK, commented, “the aircraft’s inherent capability and equipment fit, coupled with superb work from the FSR team meant the transit went exactly as planned.”

Leonardo aircraft performance and handling engineers, Jonathan Lane, Jennifer Miles, and Harry Thompson supported the data capture of all test points. Demonstrations to team members from the Italian Secretariat General of Defence and National Armaments Directorate validated the aircraft’s expanded capabilities.

Material, logistical, and shipping support from Leonardo in Yeovil, including hand-carry volunteers, like Sophie Furniss, avoided losing a single day’s flying, and ensured an exceptional 100% aircraft availability.

Kristian Daines, AW101 Performance Improvement Programme Manager at Leonardo Helicopters UK,  said, “The testing ran to plan from day one, an astounding success for the teams in Colorado and Yeovil, and a phenomenal execution by all who made it happen.”

The aircraft is now on a self-ferry back to Leonardo in Yeovil, UK, via Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland, arriving into Somerset by mid-October. The Norwegian AW101 NAWSAR helicopter will then continue its journey at the end of year for delivery to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security.