The AgustaWestland AW109 is a light-weight, twin-engine, eight-seat multi-purpose helicopter built by the Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland. First flown as the Agusta A109 in 1971, the craft has been used in light transport, medevac, search-and-rescue, and military roles.
In the late 1960s, Agusta designed the A109 as a single-engine commercial helicopter. It was soon realised that a twin-engine design was needed and it was re-designed in 1969 with two Allison 250-C14 turboshaft engines. A projected military version (the A109B) was not developed and the company concentrated on the eight-seat A109C version. The first of three prototypes made its maiden flight on 4 August 1971. A protracted development then followed and the first production aircraft was not completed until April 1975. Delivery of production machines started in early 1976. The aircraft soon became a success and began to be used for roles other than as a light transport including as an air ambulance and search-and-rescue. In 1975, Agusta returned again to the possibility of a military version and trials were carried out between 1976 and 1977 with five A109As fitted with Hughes AircraftTOW missiles. Two military versions were then developed, one for light attack or close support and another for naval operations.
Fuselages of AW109 are made by PZL-Świdnik. In June 2006 the 500th fuselage was delivered by this manufacturer, marking 10 years of co-operation between the two companies.
In August 2008, Scott Kasprowicz and Steve Sheik broke the round-the-world speed record using a factory-standard AgustaWestland Grand, with a time of 11 days, 7 hours and 2 minutes. The A109S Grand is also the fastest helicopter from New York to Los Angeles.
In July 2013, the South African Air Force reported that 18 AW109s had effectively been grounded due to lack of money to keep them flying. They were occasionally activated but did not fly. The SAAF cited a slash in helicopter funds as the reason, with only 71 flight hours allocated to an operational fleet of about 20 AW109s. The helicopters may be reduced to flying VIPs rather than being operationally capable. South Africa is considering selling a number of AW109s, and may cease helicopter operations.
Dyfed-Powys Police Air Support Unit Helicopter (X-Ray 99) demonstration at police HQ Open Day 2008
The first production model, powered by two Allison Model 250-C20 turboshaft engines. It made its first flight on 4 August 1971. Initially, the A109 was marketed under the name of "Hirundo" (Latin for the swallow), but this was dropped within a few years.
Aeromedical evacuation version based on A109A Mk.II with extra wide cabin and access doors hinged top and bottom, rather than to one side.
Unbuilt military version.
Eight-seat civil version, powered by two Allison Model 250-C20R-1 turboshaft engines.
Aeromedical evacuation version based on A109C with extra-wide cabin and access doors hinged top and bottom, rather than to one side
One prototype only
Upgraded civilian version, initially powered by two TurbomecaArrius 2K1 engines. Later the manufacturer introduced an option for two Pratt & Whitney PW206C engines to be used – both versions remain known as the A109E. Marketed as the AW109E and Power.
A109E Power Elite
stretched cabin version of A109E Power. This variant, which is operated by the RAF, has a glass cockpit with two complete sets of pilot instruments and navigation systems, including a three-axis autopilot, an auto-coupled Instrument Landing System and GPS. There is also a Moving Map Display, weather radar and a Traffic Alerting System.
Eight A109E Power aircraft were used by the United States Coast GuardHelicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville (HITRON Jacksonville) as short-range armed interdiction helicopters from 2000 until 2008, when they were replaced with MH-65C Dolphins. Agusta designated these armed interdiction aircraft as "Mako" until the U.S. Coast Guard officially named it the MH-68A Stingray in 2003. The HITRON configuration included a rescue hoist, emergency floats, FLIR, Spectrolab NightSun search light, a 7.62 mm M240D machine gun and a Barrett M107 semi-automatic .50 caliber sniper rifle with laser sight.
High-altitude and high-temperature operations with fixed wheels rather than the retractable wheels of most A109 variants. Typically used by police, search and rescue, and air ambulance operators.
Military version for high altitude and high temperature operations.
Version created for the Belgian Army. Based on the A109C with fixed landing gear.
Marketed as the AW109 Grand, has a lengthened cabin-upgraded civilian version with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207 engines and lengthened main rotor blades with different tip design from the Power version.
In 1997, Malaysian businessman Yahaya Ahmad, his wife Rohana Othman and Pilot Major (R) Azlizan Abdul Manas were killed in a crash following a mid-air explosion near Kuala Lipis, Pahang.
On 15 December 2012, a Nigerian Navy AgustaWestland helicopter crashed in Bayelsa State while conveying VIPs to Port Harcourt from Okoroba Village in Bayelsa state, the crash claimed the lives of six people, including Kaduna state Governor Patrick Yakowa. The investigation stated the cause could have either been human error, material failure or a combination of both. Turbomeca were closely examining the engine.