The AgustaWestland AW109 is a lightweight, twin-engine, eight-seat multi-purpose helicopter built by the Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland. Developed as the Agusta A109, the rotorcraft originally entered service in 1976 and has since been used in various roles, including light transport, medevac, search-and-rescue, and military roles. The AW109 has been in continuous production for 40 years. The AgustaWestland AW119 is a derivative of the AW109, the main difference being that it is powered only by a single engine instead.
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 considered early on but Agusta initially chose not to pursue development, instead concentrating on the eight-seat A109C version. The first of three prototypes made its maiden flight on 4 August 1971. The flight testing phase of development was prolonged, leading to the first production aircraft being completed almost four years later in April 1975. The delivery of production A109s started in early 1976.
Once released, the aircraft shortly became a commercial success, being often used for roles other than as a light transport; these included the air ambulance and search-and-rescue roles. In 1975, Agusta returned again to the possibility of a military version, thus trials were carried out between 1976 and 1977 using a total of five A109As fitted with Hughes AircraftTOW missiles. Two military versions emerged from this program, one was intended for light attack/close support missions and the other for shipboard operations.
The Agusta A109 was renamed the AW109 following the July 2000 merger of Finmeccanica S.p.A. and GKN plc's respective helicopter subsidiaries Agusta and Westland Helicopters to form AgustaWestland. For numerous years, fuselages for the AW109 have been manufactured by PZL-Świdnik, which later became a subsidiary company of AgustaWestland in 2010. In June 2006, the 500th fuselage was delivered by PZL-Świdnik, marking 10 years of co-operation on the AW109 between the two companies.
In 1982 Argentinian Army deployed three A109As to the Falklands Islands. They operated with the Argentinian Helicopter Fleet (9 UH-1H, 2 CH-47C and 2 pumas) in reconnaissance and liaison roles. One of the helicopters was destroyed on the ground by a British Harrier attack. The two others were captured and sent to Europe in HMS Fearless. The British Army Air Corps decided to use those helicopters in Domestic Operations (this is, 8 AAC flight used them to support SAS regiment deployments in the UK) and was so satisfied that bought two additional A109s that were retired in 2009.
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 funding, only occasionally being activated but not conducting flights. The SAAF cited a funding cutback for helicopter operations as the grounding's reason, in 2013, only 71 flight hours were allocated to the whole AW109 fleet. The type may be reduced to flying VIPs rather than being operationally capable; South Africa is also 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 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.
On 17 July 2014, a Tri-State Careflight AgustaWestland AW109E helicopter (N507CF) crashed in New Mexico with 1 pilot and two crew members on board. There were no survivors. The cause of this crash is pending an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
On 5 July 2015, an Agusta A109E with Philippine registry number RP-C2726 crashed in Cuenca, Batangas province while flying in heavy rainfall. The incident killed the pilot and passenger Archimedes King, the founder of Victoria Court motel chain in the Philippines. 6 other passengers were injured.
On 17 July 2015, an Agusta A109K-2 of the Slovak rescue services, Air Transport Europe s.r.o., with the registry number OM-ATB crashed in the "Slovensky Raj" national park near the village of Hrabusice in north Slovakia while responding to rescue a ten year old German boy who suffered a leg injury. The helicopter hit unmarked high voltage power lines in a rocky valley and subsequently crashed into a river, killing four men (pilot, doctor, paramedic and a mountain rescuer).