Friday, March 1, 2013

Looking At AugustaWestland

Growing up making model aircraft and learning about all kinds of craft, I bought a book on helicopters.  It documented all the helicopters up to that time, 1980's.  The designs were interesting and varied.  I did notice a brand of helicopter that seemed pretty fancy and yet I hadn't heard of.  It was the Augusta helicopters.  They seem to rival high end VIP helicopters of Bell.  Recently I was saddened to hear that AugustaWestland had some serious allegations against them in their deal with selling some helicopters to India.  Westland was a British aircraft firm.  Augusta and Westland were merged in 2000.  Both companies have a good history in making high quality helicopters.  Let's check out a couple of these beauties.

Westland Lynx
The Lynx was originally developed by Westland for the British military.  Westland shared its production with the french company Aerospatiale, now a part of Eurocopter.  This helicopter has had long history with British, French, and many other countries' military.  Whether with wheels or skids it has had a lot of different configurations for multiple roles.  It's popularity is not surprising, since it set the speed record for helicopters in 1986.  I've seen footage where this very capable craft has even done the unimaginable for rotary wing, barrel roles.  It's a great air platform.  The updated version of the Lynx is called the AugustaWestland AW159 Wildcat.  It made an appearance in the movie Skyfall.  The Wildcat has a max speed of 296 kph (183.9 mph), and a range of 787.3 km (489.2 mi).  It can take 2 crew and 6 passengers.

The AW101 was originally a joint effort by Westland and Augusta under the name of EH101.  They call it Merlin.  It's a medium lift craft that replaces the S-61's role with many modern features.  Troop carrier, sub hunter, search and rescue, this craft can do it all and in all weather conditions.  Looking at the specs, it can hold 2 crew members and 30 passengers.  It has a range of 1058 km (657.4 mi).  It has a cruising speed of 278 kph (172.7 mph). 

AW 609
The AW609 was developed by Augusta and Bell and it's being produced by AugustaWestland.  The tiltrotor technology was developed by Bell in a project called XV-15.  Out of it came V-22 Osprey.  You can say that the AW609 is the civilian version of the tiltrotor tech.  It has a cruise speed of 465 kph (299 mph).  It has a range of 1390 km (852 mi).  It up to 9 passengers with a crew of 2.  This exceeds the speed and range of the AW101 and the Wildcat.  This is the purpose of the tiltrotor, to have a VTOL aircraft that can fly longer and faster than a helicopter.  Sikorsky's X-2 and Carter Copter's Slowed Rotor techs are competing for similar markets as the tiltrotor tech.

If you haven't heard of AugustaWestland before, now you have.  It happens to be a mainstay company in the rotary wing craft business just like Boeing, Sikorsky, and others.  They have an impressive presence in Europe but do business world-wide.  They are bold enough to try to market the tiltrotor in the commercial markets when no other company will.  I'd keep an eye on these guys see what they will do next.